Founded by Dutch design/property duo Rob Landeweerd and Jeroen Macco, Special Umbria are experts at Italian villa design to help you find a piece of real Italy. Whether you are looking for a holiday villa or a second home, they make exquisite living in the heart of Italy a dream come true. Rob and Jeroen have travelled extensively around Italy since the 1990s and thanks to a close friend, had the pleasure of visiting Città della Pieve in the Umbrian hills sparking off the desire to have their own ‘casale’ (house). In 2007, they decided to repatriate from Holland to Italy leaving their careers in executive search and business management behind to buy a property in the ‘green heart’ landlocked Italian region of Umbria – a treasure trove for old stone farmhouses.
Rob and Jeroen consulted local property agents and visited many houses in the area before choosing to buy a plot of land up in Piegaro near Lake Trasimeno and build their dream home. The combination of project management and designing their dream home with their love for Italy led to Special Umbria being born. Rob and Jeroen started off managing and renovating clients’ second homes in Umbria which led to renting out exclusive villas and apartments and subsequently started acting as property finders.
Special Umbria has 100 properties on its books. The interiors are a mix of traditional Umbrian style and 21st century living. Rob likes to mix things up a bit sourcing from high-street brands such as Zara Home with high-end designers such as Missoni Home with a touch of the unexpected finds at antique markets (Arezzo) and working with local craftsmen to create colourful and comfortable interiors. Rob and Jeroen, together with their team, pride themselves on the level of attention to detail each property is given, overseeing every step of the journey. In the medieval hilltop villages and Apennine peaks mixed among the vines and the olives, there are abandoned stone houses waiting to be renovated with the ‘Special Umbria’ stamp.
Project name: Podere Posabile
Floor Area: 450 sqm
Project time taken: 1 year
Completion of Project: 2015
During their honeymoon in Umbria, Italy, a couple from London fell in love with a derelict farmhouse in the hills near Città della Pieve. On a sudden whim they made an offer and before they knew it, this historical farmhouse, Podere Posabile was brought back to life and became their new family home in Italy.
By the time Special Umbria started working on the property, their Client had grown into a family with 3 young children. The brief was to renovate this derelict 16th century farmhouse into a child friendly family villa with keeping as much of the original features of the property as possible. Together with a good local architect, Special Umbria started the restoration works in March 2014 and in April 2015 Podere Posabile was ready for its first guests. The property sleeps up to 14 where people can enjoy the beautifully restored (in local stone) Umbrian farmhouse mixed with modern design in a child-friendly setting – a soft playroom was put in as well as a separate toddler pool next to the large outdoor heated pool – perfect for a family holiday!
What was the creation / planning process?
Traditionally the Umbrian farmhouses had outside stairs leading up to the first floor where the farmers lived and the cattle were kept on the ground floor – Podere Posabile had internal stairs to the first floor with no outside stairs. In the Gregorian Land Register in Perugia, drawings of the property were found dating back to 1750 but the style of the building, with the big corner stones and the stone architraves above the windows meant that this farm had been built in the 16th century around 1560.
One major change in the restoration process was the opening on the ground floor (there was a big floor level difference between the two closed off stables) allowing space for a big open plan kitchen/dining area connecting to a living space. The old internal stairs where taken out and a new 7m high staircase was added on the other end of the house. This staircase was erected over the old bread oven so a glass floor was put in as one of the staircase landings. On the first floor the old living room with fireplace became an open plan master bedroom with sitting area, huge bed (250×210 cm) and an en suite with copper bath tub.
All the old materials which were found in and around the house where reused in the restoration. The kitchen cupboard doors were made from the old window shutters as well as the bedside tables and coffee tables and old doors became bed heads. The old front door became the front side of the linen cupboard at the end of the hall way on the first floor! Special Umbria worked with a local carpenter from Piegaro on all the wood work in the house.
The floors in the house became a mix of modern and classic. Traditional handmade Cotto floors on the upper floor and living areas; the kitchen and hall floors are made of Resin, together with the bathroom floors and walls. The ceilings and beams of the house where almost untouched keeping the colourful scheme from the old ceiling tiles – almost like a mosaic design!
How did the project go?
The project went rather smoothly. Special Umbria had a very motivated and creative team together with engaged owners so the process went well. There was a particular point during the project when there were some budget issues and as a result, the design team had to be even more creative to make sure that they finished the project on time. We hardly touched the ceilings and left the beams how we found them. The walls where not plastered, as planned but we just repaired and cleaned them up – in fact, these decisions created the final interior style.
What was your favourite room or part of the project and why?
The kitchen on the ground floor – especially the opening we created in the former stable (now the kitchen) towards the lower stable which became the living room. The house had no connection between the upper and the lower part on ground floor level so by creating this opening, the house attained a central hearth.
Were there any issues or problems you encountered during the project?
Yes, as expected restoring a 16th century farmhouse will always have its surprises for you. We discovered that there were no foundations under one part of the house and these had to be put in. The other half was positioned on a rocky part so we thought this would be the case for the entire building…which was not, thankfully. But all resolved in time!