Umbrian Idyll

June 11, 2009 – 19:56

I spent a week in beautiful Umbria recently in a very special place called the Castello di Casigliano. This castle has a very long history and like many historical properties here in Italy, it has been adapted to function as a contemporary centre for meetings, fine dining and holiday accommodations. It is also the centre of an active farm producing barley, wheat, and olive oil.
In medieval times it stood as a bastion, fortified against the dangers of the outside world. But it was also a meeting place and a point of passage, being very near the famous Roman trade route the Via Flaminia. It is this second aspect of its history that the contemporary owners and management of the castle most identify with and wish to expand upon.

Often what stands out the most and makes a place special is the human element. I have to say the staff and management of the castle with their relaxed and joyful style gave a whole new meaning to the definition of ‘good hosts’. I am afraid I will always be doomed to compare any future hospitality to the very high standard set here.

What was I doing there, you may ask. I was invited to join with my friends and colleagues Melanie Royals and Gary Lord to help facilitate a decorative painting workshop they wished to organize on site at the castle, and to design and teach along with them. Participants came from all over the United States and, though many were professional decorators, others had little or no experience at all with decorating.

view from the castle over the Umbrian hills
view from the castle over the Umbrian hills
courtyard of the castle
courtyard of the castle
a 'before' shot of the room

a 'before' shot of the room

The Project:
The castle itself is a historical site and as such it is protected by the laws governing protected properties in Italy. The interiors are beautiful, and some are currently being restored. One large hall on the property , often used for large wedding banquets, had been renovated, but was in need of some ‘character’. The hall was a large stone structure that had been a grain storage barn, known as the ‘Granaio’. It had been restored from a ruin, given new floors, a new roof and white walls. It was practical and functional, but the owners were looking to make it warm and inviting to better serve its function to house so many special occasions.

The room had 9 columns around it and we decided to accent these with some decorative painting. At the request of the owners I made up a pilaster design that incorporated the products of the surrounding farmland and the crests of the noble families involved in the history of the castle. The choice of colours was soft and neutral, meant to play as a background to the celebrations that would take place in the room. Melanie Royals designed all the stencils for the room. I must say, this part was fun and an eye-opener for me. I can’t wait to design some more things and send them over to her to have stencils made. I am so full of ideas about what could be done with the combination of stencils and hand painting, but anyway, back to the current story! The large wall surfaces were given a textural finish with a warm transparent glaze. There were raised stencils of a wheat sheaf at irregular intervals around the room that caught the soft light coming in from the windows. Now for some pictures:

sketch for the columns
sketch for the columns
deatail of the concept for the columns
detail of the concept for the columns
detail of end result
detail of end result
The wheat sheaf stencil near a window
The wheat sheaf stencil near a window
working_dagmar
groupwork_dagmar talking_dagmar

‘Work Hard Play Hard’:
The whole experience was wonderful. It was a great group, something that you can never predict, but are so thankful to be part of when it just comes together like that. The spirit was great, The amount of work done was surprisingly large, and I renewed my ties of ‘amicizia’ with people I already count as friends and met so many inspiring new comrades. Unforgettable.

Myself and Melanie Royals beside a column
Myself and Melanie Royals beside a column
Gary
Gary
Thanks to Melanie Royals, Dagmar Alexandersson and Jan Moody for the borrowed photos.

For more pictures:

http://gallery.me.com/daxstudio#100110

http://designamour.com/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/designamour/collections/72157618300530436/

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