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January 26, 2010

Preserving the entrance luster

The entrance luster - Part I



The only "interior" that came with the purchase of the house is a small old luster. As you can see in the pictures above and below it consists of a simple yellowish glass sphere and a wrought iron fitting. Nothing precious. Probably not even 'antique'. But special to me.



The small old luster is hanging in the entrance of our house. Althoug the house is called 'palazzo' in Italian, the entrance of the house is not an 'entrance hall' - it is a fair small entrance and this small luster fits perfectly here.





During the renovation work in the house last year, someone took the luster down. And as you can see it did not become prettier over the past three years. It became more rusty, got some paint on it and a lot of dust.

During our summer holidays we never really can go ahead with remodelling or renovation work, not even with much planning or choosing material as everything closes down in the South of Italy in the month of August.

But this rusty luster was in the storage room where we stayed. And one day I decided to not go to the beach and instead to do a tiny tiny restoration project : "preserving the entrance luster".



I cleaned the glass sphere and the wrought iron fitting and bought paint suitable for iron. The name of the paint was 'ferro battuto' (wrought iron) and looked almost black. However, it turned out a bit too grey. But I decided to leave it this way for now and to put it away, back into storage.


 

The entrance luster - Part II

This winter in Venice, my parents-in-law had a surprise for us: A luster !  Antique for sure and nicely elaborated. A flea market find from an antique market in the Veneto region. For the palazzo in Pizzo.

"But not for the entrance" I heard myself, the ungrateful daughter-in-law, saying.
"Molto bello, grazie , maybe for the dining area" I tried.

They were quiet disappointed. I gave up - with a smile - knowing my father-in-law, who probably will install this luster before our arrival in summer ...


flea market find -  to hang in our house, somewhere

Luster no. 2  is about 3 x bigger than luster no. 1. - Probably it would suit the entrance of a palazzo better than the small luster (although the entrance is small). But still I am attached to the first, the original one. It was the only interior object we got with the purchase of the house. And as we do a lot of remodelling I thought to at least preserve the entrance luster at its original spot, in the entrance. - What do you think ? Should I give the second luster a try ? And find another place for the 'original' luster ? Or vice versa ?

January 18, 2010

Guest Blog: brighten up a rental with paint

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Welcome to the very first guest blog on 'Palazzo Pizzo':
Text and pics are by Yvalie who has moved with her family of four from the US to Germany just recently.  I have met her through my blog as a dear reader and commentator. Over the time we became friends and each other's "interior coach" (amazing blogging!)
Here is Yvalie with her before and after story of her rented house :

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AFTER: the Art Nouveau Style entry after painting


BEFORE: the entry before moving in

Touching up a rental is not always easy if the landlord's answer to all your begging is "no". Well, I guess we were really lucky and were able to do some major changes just with some paint (and some flooring).

The house was built in 1905 featuring the Art Nouveau Style that was so popular in Europe at the turn of the 20th century.

The city of Dresden, located in the very East of Germany was heavily bombed during WW II. Those houses which still existed after the huge destruction had usually been neglected during the socialist reign of East Germany. After the German reunification in 1989 the real estate market boomed and everyone wanted to wake a sleeping beauty for a dime. Well, a lot of people were lured into investing and lost huge amounts of money. Others were more succesful and scored some fantastic architecture.


The authorities placed a lot of those old house under preservation order to protect what was still there. Until today you have to be in line with their rules for renovation. As annoying as this might seem, it does make sense though.

Since our paint color was not the original one we had no problem changing it.

We wanted to apply the same color scheme thru the whole house and started to settle on two different colors to paint the wooden trim and doors. So many people were helpful and offered tours thru their (similar) houses to help us make up our mind how to approach this kind of house.

We achieved another big impact by changing the lighting.

In Germany houses do not come with light fixtures. As a renter you can either bring your own or might be able to snatch a good deal from the previous tenants who don't want to bother taking all their fixtures down. We started our project with bare bulbs in every single room, bath, kitchen, basement, you name it.

Well, and then finally the biggest change was to bring in our furniture we have been collecting over the years and spruce it up with some IKEA and flea market finds.


When entering the house before it felt like entering a cave - so dark (see above 2nd pic). And I also did not like the busy tiles. They were not original anyway so we opted to cover them with a custom seagrass rug to match the one on the stairs. The Chinese console table is from a fleamarket. A guy travels to China three times a year and brings back those treasures to sell at various outdoor markets.


The dining room - before & after:


BEFORE Yvalie's changes


AFTER brighten up with colour


AFTER adding fresh colour

I tried to be very brave here and opted for a floral wallpaper in beige. Once up - I hated it! So after a few weeks we decided to just paint over it, since our budget did not allow to change it yet again. I have to say it turned out fine now. The wooden figures are from the artist Ingrid Wild www.ingridwild.com and represent our family.


The dressing room - before & after:


BEFORE : a bedroom before renting


AFTER: carpet and curtains out - wooden floor in and showing beautiful old windows

Due to it's northern exposure this room is quite dark, so we decided to use it as a dressing room. You usually will not find built in closets in German houses. We were lucky enough to have one spare room, so we would not end up with a huge cupboard in the bedroom. The white cupboards are PAX from Ikea, so is the rug. The sofa is an ebay find that originates from the same period the house was built in. The reindeer is from Pottery Barn Kids and I can not part with him after xmas. So he can hang out there for a while.

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Thank you so much to Yvalie for that great before & after presentation as well as for the short introduction to Dresden and the style of your house !
 
It is amazing what a difference some paint makes!
 
Talking so much about paint, Yvalie also has a good solution for keeping leftover paint:
 
Her metallic cans (Hornbach) neatly labeled with paint and location data were featured over at Lauren's Pure Style organization project (photo left).
 
More before and after pics by Yvalie can be seen today at Pure Style where she takes part in the 'coat closet - reader project'
   
 




photo source & guest blog : Yvalie
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-->> For BEFORE and AFTER posts of our Italian remodelling project go here. <<--

January 15, 2010

Remodelling of a textile factory







A former textile factory has been transformed into a bright stunning loft of 170 sqm. with atrium in Lille, northern France. The owner, a French collector of modern art, lives and exhibits in modern classic style.

photo by Christine Besson/Photofoyer
via AT Casa

January 13, 2010

What about the palazzo ?

"What about your palazzo?"
"Is your house in Italy done?"
"When can we come to visit you?"

These are the questions that friends, family and neighbours and everybody who knows about our crazy Italian acqusition ask us whenever we meet them.

In case you want to know but have not dared to ask yet:
The renovation of the exterior is done and finished. The palazzo looks ready from the outside.

However, the inside is far from ready - and at the moment we are not working on it. The piping for water and heat is done. Electricity is all installed. The flooring is not done yet (only outside, for the balcony and terrace) But this should be the next step. Preserving some old tiles and choosing the right wood for wooden floors. Making one floor liveable for next summer is the goal.

Why we are not working on it right now?
Two reasons that go hand in hand: 
time & money

There must be someone of the family on site, at least for some initial and major supervision. My little family has moved from China to Germany, so although we are closer to Italy right now, we are not living close enough to just travel to Calabria for a few days and back. There are no direct flys during winter time, and during spring they are too expensive still. My father-in-law who officially is retired is involved in some important consulting projects, at the moment in La Spezia (Liguria, Italy). This is a bit closer to the South of Italy, but still he has little time to go back and forward. He might be ready to spent time in Pizzo from this April on.

And the second bottle neck is money. A subject one do not like to talk about. But in an economic crisis like this one, everyone has to calculate harder, some more, some less. And I do not want to lament here - don't get me wrong - as this would be on a high level ... but selling the palazzo is not an option! We just take it easy. One step at a time - with the help of the family.

Therefore I cannot report any progress and post pretty pictures from Italy for the moment. I only can offer to review the before and after posts.

view from my "office", Germany

I am writing this post from Germany, from a flat, that has less than half the space of our Italian home. Of course it would make more sense to have a house with a garden here in Germany - but we are global nomads, have been living 8 years in Asia, my husband is Italian and has never lived more than five years on a spot. The last time we settled in Germany was for two years. It was not planned, but happened. Now we are here again, since 1 1/2 years, and do not know for how long. While we were living in China, we have been looking for a home base in Italy, where we could go for holidays when living abroad and gather with family and friends - like the large French families do in their maison de campagne. And that's the plan we have with the palazzo in Pizzo.

Meanwhile I cannot do anything about the palazzo - I have another subject for my German home: there is an urgent need to de-clutter everywhere ! I always smiled when decluttering was mentioned in connection with feng shui, modern feng shui. But there is something about it. I feel totally blocked with all the mess around ! I even do not know where to start and where to drop all the things I need to throw out / give away. My problem are a bit my 'collector' genes, I cannot separate from things, I hesitate to throw away things - and I have mover's boxes in the basement I do not even know what is in it. I could throw them away without looking inside. But I am lost, when I do look inside....

I have to start decluttering. NOW. One of the targets is our bookshelf. Do I really need all these paperback bestsellers that no one reads twice? And dictionaries when you can google?

Happy day from my winter wonderland in Germany!


winterwonderland view in Stuttgart, Germany

bookshelf awaiting decluttering, Germany

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PS: Can anyone tell me where to find the spelling check with blogger ? This would be great, I feel like writing blind...
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Update (to PS): I am actually using the updated editor and there is no ABC spelling function. However, when changing back to the old editor with the spelling function, it still does not work for me. Strange because the language is set to English and I have not change anything on the computer (before no problem).
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January 10, 2010

SALDI -% SALE -% has started in Italy

This week the winter sale has started in Italy. In the news on TV the different starting dates by region were announced. In the Veneto the start for the sale (saldi) was January 4th. Of course I went on a little shopping tour with  my mother-in-law. This does not mean that we walked from shop to shop downtown. Italians like bargains (as the rest of us). But they really like to get a good deal and therefor they check out personally and secretly recommended shopping addresses in the darkest corners of industrial zones. They were also my best "customers" when I still lived in China regarding cashmere sweaters and pearl and corall necklaces.

So, first we checked an outlet store in Mestre (near Venice). In Italy outlet stores are very popular. They are selling designer pieces from the last season (and even the second last season) at 30 - 70 % off, while the luxury brands would not have a big sale sign in their shop windows downtown.


I only like shopping during sales (saldi )

The next day we drove from village to village between Venice and Padova and dropped in a few small leather goods producing family businesses. Here in this region many family owned leather factories still hand make shoes and bags for the big design labels in Italy, France, UK and the US.

Many years ago I found Jimmy Choo sandals for 80 Euro. I still love and wear them,  they are comfortable and of great quality. This time I came across some interesting gum boots by Burberry.  Gum boots were on my list as I need them to accompany my son to sometimes muddy playgrounds. Of course I did not entend to buy a brand name, nor I expected to buy some in Italy. In Germany (where I live at the moment) the weather is not that great and even when its rainy we would walk through the city or go on playgrounds (after the rain!) because otherwise we would have to stay home for days or weeks. So gum boots could be quiet practical - and in the last years it became even fashionable to walk around in gum boots, like a British aristocrat does (maybe?) .


My new gum boots, but not for acqua alta !

When I tried the boots on, the last pair, size 41, they fitted perfectly (when wearing thick socks). The price was down to 65 Euro (!). The saleswoman said: "e regalato" - that's nothing! And she also said: "non sono per acqua alta!" - they are not for the high tide in Venice! What a pitty! Because the boots had zips going down very low... Not very practical probably to keep the feet dry - maybe that's why they did not sell - but for that price I could give it a try, I thought.

After all, we bought so many items for "just nothing" that it summed up quiet nicely.
In another shop I found some shoes, and in a third shop a matching purse. The last one is my favorite family business, they do purses in LV Speedy and Hermes Kelly style in any leather and colour.  Please do not ask for the address, only my mother-in-law knows the way ;-).

It really worth shopping in Italy during the sale. This is no secret. Among Asian women especially the Japanese have found out long ago and fly in for the bargain hunt. Many good outlet stores can be found in and around Milano, the fashion capital of Italy, but also near other major cities.

January 07, 2010

What you need to know about Acqua Alta in Venice



The above video by the city of Venice tells tourist that acqua alta, high water or flooding does not make Venice inaccessible. It shows how "effortless" life in the city continues.

These days Venice has acqua alta every day. You can find the forecast here.



It shows you when it reaches the peak, eg. very high tide of 110 cm tomorrow morning at 3.15 am. This does not mean that the water will reach your bellybottom. It is measured from the average sea level.  Shops and bars around St. Mark's square are likely to be flooded at ground floors as well as some alleys. With gum boots you will be able to easily cross San Marcus square - or use the many set up footbridges - if you are already up early in the morning.

Centro Maree forecasts the level day by day - Here is what you need to know:

  •  if the water level in St.Mark's basin is 65-68 cm, expect to find some water on the ground in front of St.Marks' church entrance. Important: do not think you'll see water 65 cm high in St.Mark's square! This measure refers to the sea level.
  • if the level is up to 85, expect some big puddles in St.Mark's square and in some "calli" (streets) in Venice. The middle area of St.Mark's square will be dry, as it is not perfectly flat. Wear water-proof boots!
  • at 90 cm, St.Mark's square will be a lake of salty water. Some vaporettos (public boats) routes will be cancelled and alternative routes will be used. This is because they won't be able to pass under some bridges. Quite a confusion at boat stops. Lower areas in Venice can be accessed via special "walkways"
  • at 110 cm, you'll hear sirens: this informs population to get ready. Most shops and warehouse at ground floors are likely to be flooded.
  • from 120 cm to 140 cm, Venetians will get worried. Important: again, do not think you'll see water 120 cm. high all around in the streets: this measure refers to the sea level. Acqua alta can result in a 50 cms. water in the streets: which is not little anyway.
I have never really seen San Marco flooded. But I saw the water coming up the gully drain on my wedding day and my wedding dress getting wet.
--> matrimonio bagnato matrimonio fortunato ! ;-)


photo by Manuel Silvestr/Reuters via corriere della serra