Monday 11 December 2017

Foreign shores: Bright and beautiful

Antonella on the roof terrace
Antonella on the roof terrace
Each room is picked out in one of the vivid shades typical of old Sardinian houses
Glowing orange door and windows stand out against the turquoise facade
The 400-year-old beams and plaster have been preserved
An old stone oven remains
Acid green in the bedroom has become a favourite colour

David Robbins

Antonella Scanu first visited the Sardinian fishing village of Bosa 15 years ago and immediately fell in love with the place, especially the old quarter, draped over a steep hill leading up to a castle.

“There was just something about the place. The green of the mountains, the river running through the village, the moonscape of the rocky shoreline.

It is very beautiful but it has a lovely human  dimension too,” says Antonella.

Although she has lived in Ireland for 19 years, Antonella (46) knew she wanted to put down roots in Bosa on Sardinia’s west coast, to create a little retreat from her life as the owner of a multi-purpose artistic space in Dublin.

“I knew I really wanted to belong to that place, with its architecture, its atmosphere, the people. I’m originally from Sardinia — from Ittiri, about an hour north — but I knew this was the place I wanted to settle in during my time there.”

She was drawn to the old quarter, which had been gradually hollowed out since the 1960s, partly due to the closure of the town’s leather tanneries.

“I have a massive passion for old buildings. I wanted to inspire people to adopt old houses that otherwise might be knocked down or ruined by bad taste,” she says.

A visit to an estate agent followed, and in 2005, Antonella found herself the owner of a dilapidated, 400-year-old, four-storey worker’s house.

Nowadays, a run-down house such as this would sell for a minimum of €60,000, but 10 years ago it was possible to pick one up more cheaply.

The house had been lived in by a 90-year-old local woman who used only the ground floor. “It was quite neglected,” recalls Antonella, “but I took an approach of minimal intervention. I did put in some new things — a new roof, a shower carved into the rock, a new façade — but mostly I just tried to reinstate the beauty of the building.”

The house has one room per floor. The original beams were all retained and the walls were re-plastered. Antonella kept as much as she could, including old furniture and a stone oven.

The colours, which at first sight seem quite bold, are actually authentic. “Old, working-class houses in Sardinia were very colourful,” says Antonella, who took old pieces of plaster to a paint specialist so she could match the colours. The effect looks quite Mexican — an impression enhanced by a portrait of Frida Kahlo on the wall. “That’s actually a portrait of me,” she laughs.

The only change Antonella made — apart from rewiring and installing new drainage — was to change the pitch of the roof to create a roof

terrace. Otherwise the house is much as it would have been in the 1600s. “It is very basic really. There is no internet, no telephone, no television.”

And no heating. “The walls are very thick, so it stays cool in summer and warm in winter. It is a constant 18 degrees, with maybe a one-degree difference in winter. It’s like a wine cellar,” she says.

Antonella laughs at the question as to when the restoration of the house was finished. She has owned it for 10 years now, but “it is never finished,” she says. “It is a labour of love.”

Three things I love about my home

1. I love to sit on the roof terrace and admire the view.

2. The traditional wicker baskets that I have hanging on the walls are my favourite things. Some came with the house, and others were gifts. I think they are very beautiful.

3. My favourite colour in the house is the green in the bedroom. It was originally painted that colour, with the beams purple. It’s a bizarre combination but I like it now. It’s very fresh.

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