ITALY’S laid-back ambience had a magical, enchanting charm that Federica Cortezzi and Dean Lapthorne couldn’t resist.
After living for more than a decade in Shanghai, the couple decided to return to Italy. They purchased a house in the country surrounded by a vineyard to start a new chapter in their lives with their young sons and reconnect with nature.
“After many months of searching we found our ideal house in the hills of Cesena, 20 minutes from the beach and less than one hour to the mountains for skiing. A strategic position but even more important, we are in the heart of the food and wine capital of the country: the Emilia Romagna region,” said Cortezzi, who works as project leader of the Emilia Romagna region’s tourist board for the Asian market.
Her husband Dean, who has worked in the wine industry and is now export manager for Ferrari Trento, always wanted to own a vineyard and they thought the terroir here was ideal. They own 20 acres of land with an olive grove, along with cherry and persimmon trees.
“Down the track it could represent a future business, together with a B&B with farmhouse accommodation,” she said.
After acquiring the land, it took around seven months to renovate the house and it wasn’t easy, according to Cortezzi. Being in the countryside made it a little more difficult during the winter and the rainy season due to the dirt roads.
“We had to completely renovate the inside to make it 100 percent livable to cater to our family,” Cortezzi said. “Having a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old at the time, coming almost every day to check the progress of workers was the toughest part, but it paid off in the end. We ended up with a brand new house inside.”
The couple once had a lane house apartment in the former French concession area of Shanghai. They blended Chinese and Southeast Asian elements with an Italian style to create something unique in the Emilia Romagna region.
“We loved our flat in Shanghai, very 1920s style when Wukang Road was part of a foreign concession, but we had decided to go with a completely different style here back in Italy,” Cortezzi said. “Surrounded by nature we chose to stay subtle and let the interior design objects along with the structure of the house stand out.”
“Most of the time you find houses like this having a traditional Italian interior design, more rustic and country, but we thought of combining the rustic feeling of the exterior with the modern flavor inside,” Cortezzi said.
Natural colors and materials like stone, steel, cement and wood have been used to recreate a modern style where white and grey are the predominant colors while wood stands out to add a warmer ambience. Many elements are also stainless steel to give a modern touch in the traditional country house.
All the ceiling beams have been painted white to make the space brighter; a glass sliding door was made so the family could enjoy the view from the living room, particularly in winter when snow blankets the area.
Their design was based on respecting nature while providing a pleasant place to live for the family of four.
“We went for pure white so our furniture from China creates the ambience,” Cortezzi said.
The kitchen has a stainless steel island with white cabinets and Chinese style wooden dining table.
The dining lights were made from jam jars by a friend who is an architect. They also love the fireplace, which revolves 360 degrees, making for a cozy feeling, particularly in winter, that can be enjoyed everywhere in the room.
The family loves to spend most of the time between the open kitchen and living room.
“We have also a puppy Labrador who loves to go outside and play in the open and down in the vineyard. Being completely open we have a 360 degree view of nature that is refreshing and recharging, considering our busy schedules,” Cortezzi said.
Turning outdoors, the couple opted to have a gazebo and wood-burning barbecue to entertain friends during the warmer months.
“As we are in the heart of nature, we only needed to do minimal landscaping but we will add some personal touches such as old wine barrels around the gravel courtyard to brighten up the outdoor space,” added Cortezzi.