Online | Interiors

Fade In

Puglia, Italy

Grandly baroque from the outside but earthy and natural within, Puglia’s Casa Soleto, restored by Studio Andrew Trotter, has had a modern-rustic renaissance

Barcelona-based Studio Andrew Trotter first worked in Puglia a decade ago, when the design and architecture practice reimagined how a traditional masseria (farmhouse) could be seen through the lens of contemporary architecture; Masseria Moroseta, the resulting white-rendered guesthouse with its own olive grove and vegetable garden, has become one of the region’s most sought-after stays, and a blueprint for Puglia’s renaissance as a holiday destination.

Now, following a ten-year love affair with the region and several more projects based there, Trotter and his partner (and also the studio’s manager) Marcelo Martínez have bought their own Puglian property, a 17th-century palazzotto in Salento that has been lovingly restored after two decades laying empty. Casa Soleto, a second home as well as a holiday rental, delivers a relaxed slice of Italian life amid grand surroundings.

Trotter and Martínez co-designed the project together. “The rooms were majestic, with beautiful details that had been left to fade. We wanted to bring all this back, with a touch of modernity,” says Trotter. “It had a beautiful energy,” recalls Martínez of first seeing the place.

The pair decided to retain as much as possible of the original fabric: “There were so many items that related to the identity of the property that had to be kept,” continues Martinez, “most floors, internal doors  – some dating from the 16th century century – the nonna’s kitchen and some furniture elements among them.”

While the structure has remained unchanged, a few rooms have been give new uses, with dining and living spaces swapped over, and some rooms turned into additional bathrooms to suit modern tastes. A local artisan made new windows and doors based on the design of the original, which were then hand-painted and given a modern-rustic finishing touch with the addition of rusted-iron hardware from Belgium.

With walls up to 5m high and majestic vaulted ceilings, the house’s lime plaster interior finish (with plaster supplied by Domingue Finishes) have become the distinguishing feature of the renovated rooms, providing a soft, matte backdrop and handmade feel. Trotter and Martínez have taken a largely tonal approach, matching furniture and furnishings to the colour of the walls, from the nude coloured kitchen (original to the house) to a moodier grey-brown in the media room, which once served as a chapel.

“We always tried to use natural materials; we believe it provides a soothing and real feeling to the spaces,” says Martinez. This extends to the rugs, which are made from jute and come courtesy of Australian brand Armadillo: the thickly woven River rug has bands of indigo stripes alternating with natural jute, while Terra’s mossy hue tones with the colour of the walls. “You see quality that only comes from the hand,” says Trotter. “The rugs are the perfect unison of new and old. They are modern, yet the same as rugs of the past hundreds of years.”

From the rumpled linen on the beds to the rustic furniture, Casa Soleto has a beautifully “undone” quality throughout that chimes with the interior architecture, which is much simpler that its baroque exterior would suggest. Martinez says that the pair’s aim was “to create a comfortable house with all the characteristics of a 21st-century home without losing the charm of the place” – and in that, they have undoubtedly succeeded.