Proving that dreams really can come true, Giovanni and Janine have completely restored this ruined 14th century monastery to create a bright and colourful family home. From the new terrace the views sweep across vineyards, olive groves and lemon trees, across Naples to Vesuvius, and even as far as the island of Capri.
Even as a teenager, Giovanni knew that one day he wanted to live with his family, right beside his parents’ home on Vormero Hill. Vormero is the 13th district of Naples and is known as the “upper town”. The houses stand on a green hill and can only be reached by cable car and, in part, only via steep stairs. This is where Giovanni grew up, and this area is still home to three generations of his family. “La famiglia” was also the reason why, after studying and working abroad, he returned to Italy. He and his wife, whom he met on a trip to Rio de Janeiro, began with renting a small house next door to his parents’ home. When the hunt for a suitable property, for his own growing family produced no results, he decided to buy a ruined monastery nearby and rebuild it as a family home.
The restoration of this ancient building presented the young couple with many challenges. The strict provisions of the preservation order, for instance, specified that the same materials used to build the monastery around 700 years ago. Materials such as chalk and regional sandstone, also had to be used for the restoration. No cement was used at all. In addition, the hilltop location, surrounded by vineyards, called for some special logistical solutions. 150 steps had to be scaled when transporting the required building materials and products. As a result, throughout the entire construction period of 15 months, one person was solely employed to constantly drive up and down the hill with a tracked vehicle.
Giovanni gave up his job and devoted himself to managing the building site for a year. To help them implement their ideas, the couple called in the architect Antonio Gravagnuolo, who specialises in listed projects, and the German interior designer Stephan Poeppelmann. Together, they created a unique house that skilfully blends the past and the present. Today it is fitted it out with a stylish mix of modern and timeless design.
“We wanted to retain the character of the ruined monastery. That’s why it was particularly important for us to use traditional materials as much as possible both for the building and the internal restoration and to work with suppliers from the local region,” Janine says.
Designer Stephan Poeppelmann says: “In keeping with the building’s past life as a monastery which was now to be restored as a home and be a part of the landscape, we didn’t remove corners and niches in existing walls. Instead we used them as spaces to integrate shelves or seating. The colours are restrained and are reminiscent of the vineyard landscape. The main colours are a delicate pastel green and warm shades of brown.”
Ancient floor tiles which were salvaged, during the building work were also used in the interior design concept. As were lots of little apothecary bottles made of coloured glass, some of which have been integrated into the walls, or serve as decorative elements and vases around the house.
In fitting out the spacious bathroom, the designer was inspired by the former monastery’s distinctive vaulting. Since it had a round-arched ceiling, he wanted to pick up on that shape with the bath and the washbasin.
So, for the bathroom and guest WC, the couple chose Kaldewei’s steel enamel bathroom solutions that connect the historical and modern in a very unique way. With its seamless panelling, the bath, made of elegant Kaldewei steel enamel, is the classic archetype of the freestanding bath. The Centro countertop washbasin with its spacious surround, designed by Anke Salomon, also exudes a sense of purity and simple elegance.