…leaving Italy 2018

 

2018 has been the year of renovation. We switched into full gear this year, renovating the rest of our fortress. We added a kitchen, a lounge area next to the kitchen, 6 guest rooms, a kitchenette and a new outdoor seating area outside the dependence (the out building that serves as 3 guest rooms).

It was challenging in a way I have never been challenged. That is saying a lot as I have built and renovated many residential and commercial spaces, but this one was a beast. It was challenging but not why you think. Our contractor, project manager and geometra (the architect/engineer, that is required for any construction in Italy) were incredible. The electrician, painter, plumber and marble guy were top notch. Mostly, everyone working on the project was really efficient. However, the mere  scope of the project was daunting. Resurrecting a medieval fortress is not for the faint of heart.

I am happy to say that it’s all behind us. It is finished. We still have many projects ahead, but the idea that the majority of the renovation is history is quite frankly the best feeling in the world.

I loved all the workshops this year. The privates were fulfilling, and everyone who attended this year had a special point of view. I loved doing our wedding shoot; it was fun to imagine a wedding at La Fortezza. Frank and I really had a blast with all of our guests and loved showing everyone our little part of Italy.

La Fortezza guest rooms were a hit with all of our guests, too which was especially rewarding after all of our hard work. Everyone loved all the special touches, and it was really fun hosting everyone. All the aperitivi and all the suppers and discussions around the table were exactly how I imagined it would be. It warms my heart that I made so many new friends and got visit with old friends as well. I hope everyone comes to visit us again. Such precious memories make all the work the past 2 1/2 years so worth it!

Many ask if I am sad to leave Italy. I am sad, but being back in the US with my family and friends is great. I will be back next spring and in the meantime, I am enjoying all the peace of not making renovation decisions every day, but I will miss all the group dinners under the stars and the moon. Until next year…

xx I will miss you Italy. cin cin

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Private Creative Workshops :: an update

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Ciao all! As I head back to the states, I wanted to reflect on some of the unexpected perks and a few little challenges with my private workshop sessions this year. I came up with the idea of “private styling/branding workshops” when I kept being approached by people that were not interested in a group workshop. Most of the time these were professional folks that were on the crossroads of career paths, or simply wanting to improve their brand and/or styling of photography. People wanting a one on one experience with me – alone – as a moment to pick my brain, be inspired or just chat about their creative path. I would serve as an open ear and mind to help sort out where ever they were on their journey.

I must admit, I was a little taken a back by the overwhelming requests. I get it. Going somewhere to think things through with someone willing to listen, help and discuss seems like a great retreat.

So I posted two private workshops last year, and they were immediately grabbed up. So quickly that I had someone talk me into opening up another date for them. Of course I did.

Privates are funny because you’re never really sure if your students will walk away with enough information and guidance to nourish their career and personal goals. Well at least that is what I thought going in…

To my surprise, the privates were not only productive, creatively fulfilling and fun, but I was able to personally delve into why I am where I am, and what made me walk down this crazy path in the first place. I found out that I am indeed fearless, analytical, and even empathetic (which was something I never regarded myself as to be honest.) I always considered myself a hard ass, but truth be told, I have a very compassionate side that was ultimately explored as I discussed my life through styling photography, art, food, family and my life’s work with my private students.

Full disclosure, my first student this summer, realized early on in the context of the workshop, that a career in styling had passed her by. Having had a full career unrelated to creativity per-se, she wanted to switch to a prop styling career, only to come to the conclusion that it probably was not the perfect fit. She realized through the styling exercises that styling was not natural or fun. She realized it was harder than it looked. She was frustrated and felt defeated before she began. Sometimes these self realizations result in an outcome that was not expected. While she felt a bit unresolved leaving, I told her these experiences are sometimes retrospective, and we were both old enough to know that this was true. I felt fulfilled that we had talked, and that I had challenged her to think about all her other creative options. I loved the experience and felt happy that she had the opportunity to explore her options in a safe place.

My second private was a young woman from a remote part of the world. She had such an interesting story, and she was so ready to explore styling. She came from a similar background of store displays, so we could relate composition wise immediately. She was curious, wise, patient and most of all, showed amazing potential and talent. So we hit the ground running. She took to styling for the camera like a duck to water. We moved quickly though all the styling exercises. She was selective at flea markets and understood the importance of the hunt. All in all she was a natural. I can’t wait to see what she does with her knowledge. She is on a journey that will take her where ever she wants to go. It was so satisfying to be a part of the education process of such a smart and spirited woman. It was a great honor if I am totally honest.

As I await my 3rd and final private workshop this year, I am inspired to inspire others to live their best creative life. I can’t wait.

So as you can see, the private workshops are as much of an exciting journey for me as they are for my students.

My mission in this moment is to mentor and teach as many creatives as possible. After all, what is a life’s work without sharing all this knowledge and inspiring the next generation of inspiration? To know that I am a part of that is a humbling thought indeed. x

Look for more private styling and branding the business of styling workshops posting next month on the workshop site, Grab your spot for a life-altering, uplifting experience. Find your creative self.

photo cred, styling : Rachel Ritchie (one of my private workshop students)

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renovation update: our final phase the dependence, 3 bedrooms 3 bathrooms

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Before of the now main floor bathroom

Photo Oct 07, 10 59 02 AM

The last and final piece of our renovation was an out building, the dependence. It was a very fallen down structure when we bought the Fortress. Forgotten and neglected, I knew it would be make a fun and funky addition to our compound. We brought it back to life last summer by literally rebuilding the structure stone by stone. Reinforcing the structure, tying it together with earthquake bars and creating lofts and doorways. In many ways, it was one of my favorite projects, and the design possibilities were both endless and limited. Endless, because we could put anything into the space, limited because the size was finite, and we needed to house specific features: 3 bedrooms and 3 baths. I love when projects are so precise in nature.

We came up with a clever design for the smallest room: the bathroom would be on the main floor and the sleeping nook in the loft above. It turned out great with lots of character as I used an antique wooden and zinc tub as the vessel that would be the shower. I found a ready made vintage library staircase that fit perfectly into the space and leads to the sleeping loft. A Moroccan window shutter became the door, and we retrofitted an iron cage as a hanging lamp.

The other 2 bedrooms are situated in the room next door. We decided that the best thing was to make it an a joined room sharing the loft space. Although it is a shared space, there is a sense of privacy because of the half wall. The only shared space is the ceiling. Each room has its own bath and its own entrance.

The dependence has a wonderful outdoor seating area overlooking the vineyard which is a completely different view from the terrace that has mountain views. I am pretty pleased with the outcome.

The proof will be in the next weeks as fall workshops begin. I’ll keep you posted. x

Before

Before

Many thanks to my design partner Forrest. Although it’s come to an end, we will always be collaborating. x

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It’s July so where are we now? Renovation Italy update

IMG_0771 Ciao everyone!

With a couple of workshops under our belts, and a photo shoot with Casa Facile checked off, I am here to give you the update on our La Fortezza renovation. I am happy to report we are heading to the finish line with the building renovations.

The student lounge and commercial kitchen work like a dream. Our attendees are enjoying cooking lessons and hanging out in the student lounge. Our guest rooms are a delight, too. I personally have taken showers in each bathroom in our guest quarters, and they are lovely. The kitchenette is getting plenty of use, and the terrace as always is such a super place to dine and to hang out and read a book or just visit with an aperol spritz in hand. And that view! It takes my breath away every time. We added a seating area in the kitchen garden, and it’s been a great place to have aperitivo as well as breakfast and lunch. I love the idea that we have choices.

Benny the boar greets everyone to the student lounge

Benny the boar greets everyone to the student lounge.

everyone loves cooking on the big beautiful Lacanche

Everyone loves cooking on the big beautiful Lacanche.

We always have plenty of freshly laundered towels for guests and custom biodegradable soaps made just for us.

We always have plenty of freshly laundered towels for guests and custom biodegradable soaps made just for us.

This month we began the renovations to the last building, an out building that will have 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms a big patio, and it will be a fun gathering place overlooking the vineyard. Of course, we are building a big grill right next to the pizza oven.

We call this building the “dependance.” This building was the biggest wreck of all and needed a lot of reinforcement! Forrest and I have come up with a very good plan that will involve a rain shower and antique bathtub in the middle of one of the bathrooms.

We had to be extra clever designing the spaces since it once was a barn like stone building that housed farm equipment.

My intention is to leave it as rustic as possible. Forrest and I have based the design on a 17th century wooden bed we purchase last year for the space, I can’t wait to share it with you since it’s the most awesome piece of furniture on the property. I love this bed. There’s also rustic lighting and modern bathrooms that we are now calling wet rooms since they are completely waterproofed.

Here it’s not odd that there are wet rooms due to the lack of space in these old homes. It’s a great solution. I personally love it. It’s so…well, freeing. So all our guest rooms have this wet room feature. Easy to use easy to clean up.

We are terribly happy with our renovation choices, and our crew is the best. Renovating in Italy is daunting and expensive, but honestly with our team it has been a thrill. Don’t forget to follow along on my instagram for the latest updates. I hope you will consider joining us for one of our many workshops and retreats. We still have a few spots left in our October workshop, but stay tuned for next year’s workshops. They are amazing and varied. There is something for everyone, and a few surprises as well!

 

 

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Greetings from Italy!

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Ciao everybody! Greetings from Italy! If you follow me on my instagram feeds, you know that I have been BUSY!!! Honestly, that’s an understatement. Busy getting everything in ship shape for our upcoming workshops and photoshoots.

It feels like I have been here for 3 months, but it’s only been 2 weeks with all that we have accomplished on getting everything from the new renovation ready for guests and attendees.

The guest quarters are ready to house everyone all comfy and cozy. It’s been a lot of fun pulling all the decor together with a little (a lot) of help from our friends. Steve and Jill McKenzie helped with styling touches and great advice. Look for their guest post coming up soon! Let’s just say we are excited to welcome them back in September for Steve’s abstract painting workshop in the Italian countryside. We had some great brainstorming sessions as we were busy fixing up the guest quarters.

The commercial kitchen is ready for some cooking action. Here’s where we will cook, offer cooking lessons to workshop attendees and of course have breakfast every morning.

Teri Mammini, our private chef, and I worked our tushes off to make sure the kitchen is perfection. We are really going to enjoy working in this beautiful place all season.

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To say that putting all of this together was daunting is an understatement, but it has been worth every bit of sweat every step along the way.

Our Strictly Styling Workshop is underway. Head to my instagram account to check out all the best bits. I will be back with a recap of every adventure and workshop experience soon on the blog.

xx Annette

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