Renovation at the Fortress :: Where are we now?

Commercial kitchen view from the dining room, you can see the configuration and where the student lounge is located on the left

Commercial kitchen view from the dining room, you can see the configuration and where the student lounge is located on the left

Hi Guys, time for another update about our renovation in Italy before I head over in mid May. Here’s where we left off in case you need to catch up.

We had specific areas of the fortress we wanted to focus on this winter.

  • the fortress guest quarters
  • the commercial kitchen
  • the student lounge which also serves as an extra bedroom that sleeps 3 people
  • outdoor oven, the forno
  • kitchen garden patio under the pergola

The guest quarters are almost finished. We will have 3 bedrooms and one with a fireplace. All of the bedrooms will have bathrooms with soft comfy towels and a custom natural soap collection. Our beds will be very comfortable with 100% cotton sheets bedding from Merci in Paris. We will make sure everyone has a stellar experience during our workshops; luxurious monastic rooms are our credo. I had so much great feedback from our attendees last year about their expectations and desires as far as housing goes. We listened, and we hope that our guest rooms will meet your expectations. Our goal is to make you feel super comfortable.

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We found a great checked concrete vintage tile to use in the kitchenette in the guest quarters.

We found a great checked concrete vintage tile to use in the kitchenette in the guest quarters.

As you know, we live in a defensive tower from the 12th century. It has 4 floors. The main house is located on the 3rd and 4th floors, the guest quarters is located on the 2nd floor under the main house, and the cantina (storage room) is located on the ground floor.

pictured the defensive tower the guest quarters on he 2nd floor

pictured the defensive tower the guest quarters on the 2nd floor

We finished the main house project last May 2017, moved in, and then used the main house kitchen for our workshop cooking lessons and photo lessons last summer and to prep all meals for our attendees and guests. Full disclosure, having lots of people cooking in your own kitchen is challenging; we all had a great time but at times it was a bit out of control. Teri, our private chef, really cranked out some incredible meals for a large crowd during our workshops from our smallish narrow kitchen.

Teri working her magic

Teri working her magic

Commercial Kitchen

entrance from the student lounge to the commercial kitchen dining room

entrance from the student lounge to the commercial kitchen dining room

As you can imagine, it was so exciting once we pulled the trigger on completing the commercial kitchen located under the studio. Of course, Teri was also excited. The studio is a separate building from the tower, a space we teach and work in all year long. Our styling and photography lessons happen in the studio. It’s where we store props as well.

We have most meals outside the studio on our expansive terrace. However now with the commercial kitchen, we will have another gorgeous dining space where we can all gather for breakfast and some dinners and use for photos and extra prep space.

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The kitchen has Cararra marble countertops all around to allow everyone cooking to have their own prep area. Watching the delivery complete with a crane was so exciting. Of course the highlight of the kitchen will be the Lacanche stove. It’s a biggie, and I am excited to welcome my second baby to the family. The floor is terracotta tile which was installed in the last few weeks. The decorative tiles behind the counters are coming soon.

Next to the kitchen will be a full pantry, and full bath complete with shower. The student lounge is next to the kitchen as is the entrance to the kitchen and dining room. Double metal doors with glass panes will lead you to the kitchen garden from the student lounge area where we have built a patio area that will be under a wisteria covered pergola. Here breakfast or drinks can be enjoyed while taking in the kitchen garden and rose garden view. It will have large pots surrounding the vintage tables and chairs, planted with herbs and eatable flowers.

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The most exciting addition this year is the outdoor oven. I can hardly wait to stoke the fire and make homemade pizzas, focaccia, flat breads, and slow cooked Tuscan beans. I am jazzed!!!

I can’t wait until mid-May to share the progress with you all. Our summer workshops are full, and I can’t wait to meet everyone! x

Photo credit: Forrest Spears

 

 

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Italy renovation:: where are we now?

As you know, Frank and I have been renovating La Fortezza our, 12th century fortress in the countryside for over a year. With the studio and main house complete, we have turned our attention to the guest quarters and commercial kitchen and lounge. The guest quarters are almost complete, and when they are finished, we will have 3 bedrooms in the guest quarters, all with their own bathrooms, a small kitchenette, and a lounge area for guests to enjoy snacks, coffee and wine.

The most exciting area is the commercial kitchen where we will teach cooking classes, and hold our Preserving Italy Workshop with Domenica Marchetti in the fall. We will also be hosting Canadian foodstylist, Marisa Curatolo in our kitchen. The decor will be practical and dynamic. The lighting is gorgeous as it has the exact same orientation as the studio upstairs. The giant Lacanche stove will settle into its new home, and we will prepare all of our workshop meals from the kitchen. To say I am super excited would be an understatement. Where are we now?

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The guest quarters are almost complete; windows are in, floors are set, and paint is done. We now will be placing the lighting, and the last steps will be the state of the art resin showers (as we have to wait for temperatures to rise for a proper set).

When I return in May, I will hit the ground running to finish furnishing the guest quarters with all the decor I have been collecting of the past year. Beds, lighting, cool rugs, and custom chairs from Marrakech. I can’t wait to see it all come together. Yes, I swear, it will all come together in May…

You can follow along on the progress report on my instagram. Once these projects are finished, then we will move on to the last project: the out building which will have 3 more bedrooms and bathrooms. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and believe me, it’s been a long time coming.

xx Annette

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Dispatch from the Parma Antique Fair

I have always wanted to attend the Parma Antique Fair because I have bought many things from the fair thanks to my pickers in Italy. Since we have been working on La Fortezza, I have woken up on Saturdays to tons of pics and choices sent to me by my designer Forrest and his partner Roberto from the Parma Fair. They both have an amazing eye. I am blessed to have them in my world, and the objects they have found for me over the past 2 years are astounding. This year I wanted to go along and see what all the fuss was about.

Well…I can tell you that the fair was dizzying. I have been to lots of fairs and antiques shows, like Round Top in Texas and Isle sur la Sorgue, but nothing compares to the beauty and the perfection in selection at Parma; it is like nothing I have every seen. There is row after row of Italian treasures. I was gob-smacked. No words could describe the sheer quantity and quality on sale. Mind you, we attended at the end of the show, but there were still gobs of beautiful objects everywhere. We waited until the end of show on purpose, too. Since I was shopping for basics, I felt that I could miss the crowds and leisurely take advantage of end of show pricing.

With Forrest by my side, we flew up and down the aisles with laser beam focus. I picked up a large dining room table and classic Italian wood chairs for the commercial kitchen as we plan to eat some meals in the commercial kitchen, mostly in the fall and winter if it’s too cold outside. The table will also serve as a beautiful surface for cooking, foodstyling lessons, and photography. The student lounge, located next to the commercial kitchen, now has some wonderful leather club chairs – all worn in, soft and comfy. The club chairs were in the most elegant booth manned by a most elegant vendor. She gave us a great deal, and we bought the last matching set. The guest quarters has a really cool rustic table for the entry, plus I found some wonderful wire chairs and a table for folks to hang out on while enjoying an espresso of a glass of wine with a few nibbles in the guest kitchenette.

We loaded all our finds into the old Range Rover. It’s incredibly roomy, but even I was surprised how much fit into the back, and we headed back home just in time for Aperitivo. It was a super successful trip – efficient and inspiring, just the way I like it. If you’re thinking about attending the Parma Antiques Fair, I highly recommend it. I would definitely schedule at least 2 to 3 days since there is so much to see. Plus Parma is such a wonderful place to visit.

Make sure you check in with the blog over the next months as we will be outfitting the rooms with all of our finds starting in May. I can’t wait to share the end results with you as we get ready for our summer of workshops and retreats.

xx Annette

 

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How to Style a Coffee Table like a Pro

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When I enter a home to style it for a photo-shoot, I always bring accessories for a coffee table. I have a big collection of coffee table books in my studio and tons of bits and bobs in my prop stash for this specific purpose. However, you don’t have to be a stylist to achieve a similar look. In fact, your coffee table can look just as amazing as any magazine with the right tools.

To get you thinking in the right direction, here’s a video I did with Ballard Designs that shows you how to style a coffee table. It breaks down different steps, so you can practice and style until you have the perfect set-up.

Here are a few highlights from the video:

  1. Start with what you have. There’s no need to go out and buy a ton of props. Instead, shop your own home or your own prop closet.
  2. Anchor the corners with large objects. Repeat after me: trays are my BFF. Trays are my BFF. A tray will provide a place to corral smaller objects while creating visual interest and helping you organize.
  3. Repeat shapes and colors. If you add pink flowers, add another pop of pink in a book on a different spot. If you incorporate blue, add a ginger jar, too. Repeating colors helps the eye move seamlessly around the table.
  4. Have fun! Don’t be afraid to change-up your coffee table style season to season. If you find a special object while out antiquing, or “treasure hunting” as I like to call it, add it to your coffee table vignette.

If you’d like even more help styling your home for photographs or for fun, come along on my Strictly Styling Workshop this summer in Italy! I’d love to have you.

Do you have any tried and true coffee table tips? Share them in the comments!

xx Annette

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Italy renovation update

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This will be the guest quarters, under the bridge.

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the commerical kitchen and guest lounge ( bat cave) will be below the terrace. Photos by Sarah Dorio

As you all know by now, we worked at our new workshop location in Italy all summer long, La Fortezza. Some of our attendees witnessed the renovation first hand, and those brave soles that signed up for our first ever Style + Photo Workshop got an eye full of what it looks like to do a large renovation project in Italy. We had scaffolding up as we were in the midst of reappointing the dependance which will serve as 3 bedrooms and baths in this beautiful outbuilding on the side of the main house. It will have a beautiful terrace, be near the outdoor oven and have a super view of the vineyard. The scaffolding came down right before our second workshop. At that time we halted all works for the summer and took a well deserved break from hammers, drills and heavy equipment.

After a quiet summer, we are ready to resume all the noise and changes to the property. Here’s a renovation update and what is on the to-do list for this coming winter:

  1. Finish the outbuilding guest rooms and bath rooms.
  2. Finish the guest quarters in the main building.
  3. Finish the outdoor oven and grill area with seating area.
  4. Finish the commercial demo kitchen
  5. Finish the student lounge area which our son Levi named the bat cave (we may or may not have a bat family living there now; don’t worry we plan to erect a proper bat home for them on the property).
  6. Expand the garden – this includes planting an olive grove. Frank is keen on having our own olive oil.
  7. Large stone wall for the front of the house for privacy.

After the holidays in December, work will commence once more. At this point, we are in the planning and design and budgeting stages with our Italian team. Stay tuned for regular updates. Of course, follow along on my Instagram account.

We are super excited to continue work on this amazing project. Stay tuned…xx

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