Steve McKenzie’s Abstract Painting Workshop at La Fortezza + Artist in residence announcement.

567F7AB6-8841-48B2-B15C-B6FE204B368F IMG_2712 IMG_2788 Ciao all!  by now you know we have been trying out a few different workshops and retreats here at La Fortezza. A few weeks ago, I had my dear friend and amazing artist Steve McKenzie here with students painting all over the place. Of course like with all workshops, we served local food and our own wine. It was 5 days of pure creative bliss. Our newly renovated out building, known as the “dependence,” worked perfectly and all guests were comfy and cozy.

Our farewell pizza party was a huge hit and visiting a local castle owned by artists was a big thrill. Thank you to Steve for making every minute count and every lesson so valuable. I even stopped my duties here to paint one morning, and it was divine. Steve is an amazing teacher. Oh and we picked a few grapes with our handsome vintner Manolo since our grape harvest was in full swing! The looks on their faces tells the story. They were all so happy!

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We also had a cooking lesson, as we do with every workshop, with retreat chef, Teri. Homemade pasta was so fun to make.

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This season we have been thinking about how to come up with a way to offer a more flexible workshop experience to folks. I have people that email us all the time asking if they can come during a visit to Italy, but we were bound to our workshop calendar. I think we have come up with the perfect solution. We have a new and exciting addition to our 2019 summer retreat roster. We will be starting a new creatives program, an “Artist in Residence” program here at La Fortezza the entire month of July.

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Steve will be the very first artist to spend a month here creating under the Tuscan sun. He will be starting here the 1st of July. If you are in Italy during the month of July, or planning a trip here in July, here’s how it will work:

You will be able to book as many days as you like based availability to assist or create art with Steve. He will be working on a collection that will be hung here end of July. He will have an opening exhibition party here at La Fortezza which will be another opportunity for you to come join us at his opening the last weekend of July. More details about Steve’s art opening to come.

Your stay at La Fortezza will include:

  • Accommodations
  • All Breakfasts
  • Some Lunches
  • Some Dinners
  • Aperitivo-( Italian Cocktail hour) with me, author of Cocktail Italiano
  • Excursions with Steve
  • Lessons with Steve
  • All Art Supplies

If you’re not a painter but want a creative experience, you will be able to assist and apprentice with Steve. This retreat is open to all levels. The rate will be $500 per day. We have 5 rooms available, so if you are coming to Italy in July, please sign up early as this experience will be first come, first serve.

There will be more information on the website mid-November when we plan to announce all the spring and summer creative workshops. So if you’ve always wanted to live in the Italian countryside, paint and co create with other artists, this opportunity might just be for you. As always feel free to email me at annette@annettejosephstyle.com for more information about July’s Artist in Residence Program with Steve McKenzie.

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Have a peek at Steve’s instagram to see the whole story of his week here teaching abstract painting to our great group!

xx Annette

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How to Style Bookshelves


Staring at rows of bookshelves can be daunting which I’m sure is why people are always asking me questions about styling them. Where do you put the books? Where do you put the knickknacks? How much is too much? How little is too little? Do you layer items? Organize by height? By color? A few years ago, I teamed up with Ballard Designs to break it down to 7 golden rules, and that interview still holds true today.


You can head over there for the full story, but if you just want the quick and dirty details, here are the 7 Golden Rules of Bookshelf Styling:

  1. Think about storage: a bookshelf is an awesome place to disguise items that you might need to store. Use cute, function baskets to add texture and function.
  2. Incorporate artwork: layer artwork to add depth and create interest. Small art that you pick-up from markets, travels, and antique stores are perfect.
  3. Stack books: create vignettes by using books with bindings in similar colors and styles. Stack them horizontally for some unexpected height.
  4. Add collections: bookshelves are the perfect place to showcase any collections you might have. Think an arrangement of fun jars or a bowl of seashells.
  5. Use repetition: odd numbers are you friend. Organize like items in a row (3, 5, or 7) to bring a shelf together.
  6. Think creatively: tear off book covers from flea market books and bind them together with twine for texture.
  7. Don’t forget pops of color: throw in a few colorful items that complement the other colors in the room.

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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

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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

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

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The artists that live in a Castle

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When you live in Italy in an ancient place, you never know what is around the corner. There are always surprises. However, quite honestly, sometimes the surprises are not that hot. Like your kitchen is flooded because of a faulty part, or bees have decided to build their nest on your window sill (twice).

But sometimes something magical happens that makes up for all the mishaps and unfortunate situations. Last week I had some darling visitors. Full disclosure we have a rating system at La Fortezza: 1-5 (yes, just like Uber, we figure if you’re rating us, we get to rate you). These guests were a 5. Why you might ask? They are pleasant, funny, flexible, and non-complaining. Plus, the reason for a 5 rating is that they were very helpful putting last touches on the new guest rooms. As a special treat, I drove them to a nearby village that features a local specialty restaurant and a beautiful quaint village with a big ass castle perched on top. After a lovely lunch, we decided a stroll was in order. I vaguely remembered that the castle was inhabited, but I did not fully remember by whom, until we swung around the corner after ascending to the top of the village wall.

There stood a middle aged man in a red sweater with droopy shorts and cascading curls on his forehead. He looked a little like a middle aged Little Lord Fauntleroy. He smiled, and then I remembered him: we had met at a local pizzeria. He was with a friend, and my friend Forrest had introduced us. “I remember you,” I said. “You do?” he replied. “Yes, we have met before do you know my friend Forrest,”I responded. “No”, he said. After a rather confusing exchange, I did remember that he lived in the castle; he was an artist, and he lived with his mother. His name was Jacabo. That’s about all I was told. So it did not seem odd when he asked, “Do you want a tour of the castle?” Without hesitation I said “YES”. My friends and I looked at each other, and all said yes again in unison.

We headed through a gate. Off to the right, there was another gate with a barking puppy, and off to the left his Cordelia von den Steinen (his ,other’s) art studio, a sturdy, a low stone building with windows all around. We walked past her studio and up a small ramp to the giant castle doors. Inside the vaulted room seemed to climb up up up. With our mouths agape, we looked all around to find stone sculptures everywhere. It was massive and impressive. We all looked and asked questions. There were studies of what would become huge important sculptures, commissioned from all over the world. Jacabo’s parents were very important artists, highly regarded, and very successful, as was his grandfather. He and his family grew up in the castle. His father had bought is from a wealthy American who had bought it and painstakingly renovated it. They had moved there in the 60s, so this place was his childhood home. We could not get over the ground floor with all the gorgeous pieces displayed. We followed Jacabo, up the massive stone stairs to the 1st floor living space. When we entered the space, it impressed me how massive it was, decorated with modern low slung sofas, draped with Moroccan textiles with all the family artwork on display. It took my breath away, I felt like I had stepped into the pages of World of Interiors magazine. All I could say was “Wow.”

We strolled through the living area like it was a museum – which it was in a way. Jacabo casually told us about his parents and his siblings that lived in Rome. He was the only one living with his mother. He too was an artist, a painter. His work was surreal and impeccably detailed. I must admit, he is quite a character, a little eccentric and little disheveled, his shorts kept falling down to reveal his plumber’s crack. His English was all over the place even though I said to speak in Italian, he continued in his own form of English. The castle was spectacular, impeccable, a dream.

Jacabo was sweet, and he was so pleased we loved his place. After about an hour, the tour was finished. We found out a few things, but Google did a much better job of explaining the history than Jacabo. We thanked him and he asked for a small donation for upkeep etc. When he pocketed the cash I gave him, he stuffed it into his wallet that was literally filled to capacity which made me laugh to myself. As we were walking back to the car, we were struck by how wild it must be to have living in castle be your reality. A fun surprise tour, something that could only happen in Italy. It’s why I love it here so much. People just living and creating in the family castle as they say in Italy “Normale”. x

Read about Jacabo’s Father here

Read about his Mother here

Read about the castle in Veruccola here

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Flea-ing and Finding Workshop with Lisa Burnett

Ciao guys! If you followed my instagram stories, you know that I spent a week last month showing Lisa Burnett from Innerpieces around the Italian countryside and the seaside. Lisa is an antiques dealer in Atlanta. I have been buying from her for almost 20 years, and she has a warehouse and shows at Scotts and Americasmart, as well as Roundtop. She’s the real deal. She has an amazing eye and the best part is the after such a long relationship, I now call her a dear friend. When I proposed doing a flea market tour here in Italy, she jumped at the chance, so here we are planning her workshop for 2019.

We will have her here for 5 days of flea-ing, picking and honing your eye. If you’re interested, email me annette@annettejosephstyle.com. We are almost sold out, and we don’t even have a date yet. We are zeroing in on early September of 2019 because it is the best time of year in this area, the Lunigiana. We will be posting registration in November for 2019 workshops here at La Fortezza , so stay tuned!

Forrest and I showed Lisa so many wonderful places. We will be putting together an amazing list of activities, including a cooking lesson, and of course dinner and a movie on the terrace. Keep an eye on the blog for more information coming your way soon. In the meantime, enjoy a few photos from our excursion last week.

xx Annette

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