My Life in Photos, April

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Can you believe that April is almost over? It’s been a busy month, but I’ve loved every second of it. April has been full of wrapping-up phase one of our Italian renovation, whipping-up spring recipes using veggies from my garden, and putting the finishing touches on book two.

I’m both exhausted and excited thinking about it all.

As most of you know, I adore Instagram. It’s truly a place where I can share all of my goings on with you. However, I know some of you like to visit the blog instead, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite photos from April with you here. There’s so much color, beauty, and of course, memories in these photos. Enjoy!

xx Annette

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Our master bath door waiting to be installed at our renovation.

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Many people ask me how long it takes to put a book together. When I hand in the final manuscript plus all the photos, it will be 3 years.

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How cute was Vivi as a puppy? We brought her home 5 years ago.

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This torta pasqualina was featured on City Sage a few weeks ago.

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Props, props, and more props for Cocktail Italiano.

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That’s a wrap on photographing book 2! Love this mash-up of the wrap party for Picture Perfect Parties 5 years ago.


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The Fortress:: a renovation update from Italy

Ciao! As many of you know, I have been hopping back and forth from the US to Italy while we are closing in on our deadline for our renovation.

This renovation has been in over drive since November 14, 2016. It’s completion date is April 30th. Whatever you have heard about building and renovating in Italy, in this case I would throw it out the window. Our team in Italy has been amazing…no really really amazing. I am gobsmacked how quickly and efficiently this mammoth project is coming along. Granted we still have phase 2 which will commence in May.

I will say, we could not have done it without our designer/project manager extraordinaire Forrest and our Geometra Marco.

I have been hopping back and forth from the US to Italy while we are closing in on our renovation deadline, and today I have a renovation update for you. *Pictured here is the Terracotta finished, and the hand-painted vintage tiles from the 70s will be placed on the banquette as the kick-plate all the way around.

Last week: The new terrace tiles were laid, and I met with the blacksmith to design custom railings and a gate. We also met with a stone mason about marble counters, and stone seating for the wrap around banquette. I can hardly wait to enjoy aperitivo on the terrace with family and friends.

The terracotta tiles will be laid on all the walkways and in the studio space, as well as in the guest quarters’ out building.

Renovation update: our kitchen This is where the Lacanche stove will be, I adore the vintage pale red and greyish creamy checked tiles.

We observed the completion of the bones of the new kitchen. We took out a tiny pantry and bathroom to expand the kitchen, and when finished it will have 2 refrigerators, 2 dishwashers, 1 Lacanche stove and 2 vintage marble sinks. It will also feature vintage tiles, an antique larder, handmade lighting and plumbing fixtures, metal shelves, Carrara marble counters and back splashes, and plenty of copper. Not to mention nonstop sunlight with 3 windows covering all exposures. Needless to say, I am thrilled and excited to start cooking in my new kitchen.

kitchen before Kitchen Before kitchen after Kitchen expanded (hint: the sink is still in the same place)

It was a crazy week, and it went by in the blink of an eye. I’m back for the summer May 4th, so be sure check out my instagram stories; it is going to be a crazy ride to the completion and the finished styling of our spaces.

Grazie tutti xx

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Shopping for upcycled tile in Italy

Shopping for upcycled tile in Italy.

Ciao everyone! As you might know, I am busy outfitting our new home and big renovation project in Tuscany. Last week we were busy flea-marketing, antiquing, and browsing junk stores for goodies for the Fortress. Frank and I were gobsmacked at the progress that has been made on the house thus far.

Phase one should be completed on schedule. Phase one includes: our residence, the photo studio, and wrap-around terrace, and all walkways, a hand cobbled driveway, and parking lot. This will also include refinishing all the stone facing and replacing all the mortar, 3 new roofs, new windows, HVAC, and plumbing for the entire compound.

Phase two will start May 1st and will include all guest rooms including the outbuilding. The rooms will be newly appointed and the commercial kitchen and lounge area will also be built out. We will be enlarging the vineyard, and fingers crossed, putting up our first vintage of Rose this fall. So as you can see, it’s a very all encompassing project.

Tile shopping was such fun. We looked for upcycled tiles. In other words, tiles that have come from vintage Italian homes, mostly in southern Italy.

Tile shopping was such fun. We looked for upcycled tiles. In other words, tiles that have come from vintage Italian homes, mostly in southern Italy. I particularly am in love with cement tiles. We are going to try to use and reuse as much material as we can. It’s the Italian way and honestly, it makes the most sense. All the furniture, with the exception of our bed and the sofa in our living room, are all vintage, antiques, and upcycled. I feel it’s an important mission and something that we believe in strongly.

Tile shopping was such fun. We looked for upcycled tiles. In other words, tiles that have come from vintage Italian homes, mostly in southern Italy.

I selected a red and white cement tile to surround our new Lacanche French blue range.

Up-Cycled Tiles

These super cool tailored stripes will surround the upcycled trough in the studio.

Tile shopping was such fun. We looked for upcycled tiles. In other words, tiles that have come from vintage Italian homes, mostly in southern Italy.

So many beautiful tile combinations! I can hardly wait to use these as photo backdrops for our workshops this summer. It’s going to be a beautiful location to create and enjoy. If you’re interested in seeing the Fortress, in person make sure to sign up to join us. Sign up here.

Keep watching our progress on instagram.

xx, Annette


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The Fortress: Renovation Update

As you all know, if you follow me on social media, I am currently hip deep in our home renovation project, the house named, La Prugna in Tuscany. The truth be told, I live for this sort of chaos, so what can I say? I am like a pig in sh-t right now. My designer and BFF is as well. We are born one day apart, and if he were not a 6 foot 4 big bear of a Colorado man, you would definitely think we were separated at birth. Forrest and I have always had a special bond and have always both been swept up in the idea of any construction project. But I think we would both agree that for the first time in our lives, this project just feels, well…right.

Italy Reno This is the facade of the house. All the old mortar has been blasted away and replaced with new mortar. Italy Reno They pick out the mortar, Forrest says it looks like rotten teeth… Italy Reno Then they fill it in with the new mortar. If they did not do this tedious process, the wind and weather would infiltrate the building. This is the back of the house; it’s the original fortress. You can see that from the architecture. The same mortar treatment is done here. It’s a thankless job, but I am so thankful that we have such great artisans working on the Fortress.

If you remember, Forrest was my constant companion house hunting, not my husband Frank (who is, as they say, a really good sport), but Forrest is my rock, and our creative director. He and I both fell in love with the Fortress, but since it was so huge we were both a little slow to pull the trigger at first. Three and half years and 45 houses later, we did. You’d never know we were hesitant from the way we have launched into the renovation of La Prugna – full speed ahead. With Forrest at the helm and me as the first mate, this ship is sailing along all sails bellowing with wind. Since I left Italy mid-November, we have managed to gut most of the living quarters, expand our kitchen times four, and started gutting the master bedroom and bathroom upstairs.

Italy Reno We blew away all the walls to make the kitchen much bigger.

We’ve blown-out every window in the house, and are quickly replacing them with beautiful new ones painted a deep graphite.

Italy Reno

In the studio, we put on a much needed roof, and added a WC and a sink. We are in the process of laying a heated floor.

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All the plumbing is being laid, and the electrical is also being added.
The out building has been given new life by demolishing the car park, which was a ram shackled portico, and we are building a parking area and a new driveway to that parking area.

Italy Reno Italy Reno Italy Reno They pulled everything down including the pergola, and then cut down some trees. The really cool thing about construction in Italy is there is no waste. The downed trees and rubble are the start of the retaining wall that will support the new driveway.

Phase one the studio and our living quarters is on track even though the wicked winter keeps rearing its ugly head. When it’s too cold outside, the crew heads inside to work. Our crew is amazing, and I feel blessed to have them working with me. Of course Forrest is a saint and a gentleman, and our savior on the project. Our Geometra Marco is a rock star!

The guest quarters will start construction in May, and our students arrive in June and will be able to see the crew in action, as well as enjoy styling and photography workshops with all of our amazing instructors and my incredible team.

So for now, full steam ahead. Look for lots of updates on my Instagram account and follow along as we make this vision come to life. Ciao tutti. xx

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Flea Marketing in the Lunigiana region of Italy

Flea Market

As many of you already know, we are renovating a medieval fortress in Lunigiana. It’s a region so close to Liguria, but considered Toscana. Close to Carrara, (where the marble is from) and only a few hours north of Florence, 1 hour from Parma; it’s sort of the perfect location. The best part is that it’s not a major tourist destination which makes it authentic and uncrowded. The very best part is that the flea markets and antique vendors have tons of amazing goods not yet picked through like major shopping destinations. You can still find unique items at great prices. Of course, NO English is spoken, you can only bargin in Italian which makes it all that much more fun, and of course lively.

The last couple of weeks, I have been dealing with the start of our BIG fortress renovation, plus purchasing the furnishings and finishes. We took a little break from the nuts and bolts of the reno and headed out for a wonderful roadside adventure: flea marketing along the coastline of Italy.

Only 45 minutes away on side roads (1/2 hour via the autostrada), we wound up at a treasure trove of goodies. I hunt with my BFF Forrest (he’s also part of Style Photo Workshops Team) and his boyfriend who’s the best picker I have ever encountered, and he happens to be an Italian prince, so his taste is off the chain. As we entered the joint, 14 chairs leaned against the wall – metal folding chairs that – I snatched them up for the Workshop Studio.

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Then Forrest headed one way, I headed another, and the Prince headed to the garden. Quickly I heard Roberto call out, “Annette come into the garden” (in Italian of course). In the darkest corner of the garden, I found him pointing at an iron bed. Headboard and footboard with delicate swirls. “The bed is complete,” he said. “All the nuts and bolts and frame are here.” “Fantastic,” I said. “It’s the perfect size for the guest bedroom.”



We found it priced well, too. All we need to do is build a frame for the mattress. Old beds do not have the stability for a mattress since the mattress that most likely fit this bed was made of straw like a giant pillow. Good thing I have a great iron artisan at my disposal here in Italy.

As I get to know my new neighborhood in Italy, these flea markets are the perfect place to take our workshop attendees next summer. I will be continuing my tour of flea markets over the next months with my impeccable tour guides. Indeed I am a lucky girl.

I invite you to follow along on my Italian Renovation adventure on instagram.

Happy hunting xx

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