Case Study  - Villa Guglielmesca, Tuscany, Italy

Villa Guglielmesca is situated near the town of Cortona, in the province of Arezzo in Tuscany. While the prevailing character of Cortona’s architecture is medieval Renaissance, the villa itself dates back to the beginning of the 1900’s.  Originally a private house, it was transformed into a hotel with 12 bedrooms in the 1950’s before being purchased by the current owner.


Villa Guglielmesca, Cortona, Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy (in 2011 before work started)


The View from the Villa

In 2010, Artichoke was commissioned directly by the owner to reconfigure the Villa and make it function again as a private residence.  This has involved extensive interior architectural design work by Artichoke’s creative team and includes designing the architecture and furniture for the entrance hall, master bedrooms, bespoke kitchen, dining room, butler’s pantry, boot-room, guest and master bathrooms, ballroom, interior architectural joinery, doors, skirting and floors.

Front Entrace Door
The front entrace door was designed taking inspiration from the architecture of local vernacular. Our initial design below proposed the door as European Walnut, althoughthe door is now more likely to be hand painted.  The exterior elevation on the left shows the stone architrave which will be in Pietra Serena to match the the Tuscan columns we designed for the interior.  Pietra Serena is a beautiful grey Tuscan sandstone which was used by Michelangelo in the Medici Chapel Romeare.

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The splayed reveal as it stands in August 2014, ready for plastering.


Entrance Hall Design
Below is the Entrance Hall as it existed while Villa Guglielmesca was a hotel.   As you can see, the existing interior architecture of the Villa required significant design work.  Our initial focus was to research and gain a thorough understanding of local vernacular to create an appropriate space for family living.

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The Villa’s entrance hall when it was a hotel.

The images below show the approved Artichoke re-design of the entrance hall with twinned Etruscan columns supporting the vaulted ceiling and hiding the re-enforced concrete columns. The stone we are using fo the columns are made from Pietra Serena.

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Artichoke’s re-design of the entrance hall

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Plans show Artichoke’s architectural plans for the main hall.

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The Entrance Hall was taken back to brick. The architraves you can see have been installed and are also made from Pietra Serena.

Bespoke Kitchen Interior Design
Artichoke’s design team also introduced the groin vaulted ceiling detail used in the entrance hall to the principal bespoke kitchen as both a device to architecturally tie the two ends of the vast space together and to frame the large open fireplace (also designed by us).

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Inspiration for the bespoke kitchen design in Villa Guglielmesca was taken from typical Tuscan agricultural furniture design.  The primary timber being used for the kitchen is French oak. The oak on the island will be bleached and the oak for the pan-shelves will be fumed to age them. The bread board island tops will be made from wild-grain European Walnut which we will source in Italy. The arched doors on the end of the island, which is plastered, are made from solid oak, and roughly hand planed across the grain with a curved plane blade to create an aged effect. The glazed dresser doors close on traditional espagnoletes.

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The Villa’s kitchen space taken back to brick.
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Image shows the two brick islands finished in rough finish lime render.


Bootroom Interior Design
Artichoke’s design teams have designed numerous bespoke bootrooms for country properties and apart from plenty of storage, a key attribute to most successful bootroom designs is combining practicality with simplicity.  Bootrooms get a lot of wear. They get dirty and are more loved for their practicality than their looks, mainly because most of the fitted furniture becomes draped in coats, hats and scarves, and eventually much of it become invisible. Artichoke designed the Villa’s boot-room with drainage at the centre of the room to allow mud to be washed and brushed away.

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Artichoke’s design for the Villa’s bootroom.


Kitchen Fireplace
Artichoke designed the fireplace and surround as a multi-functional space, and it is far from simply decorative.  A chargrill has been designed on the right hand side, with the left reserved for open fires and spit-roasting meats.  The stone for the surround is Pietra


Shows the Artichoke designed fireplace being prepared in tandem with the groined ceiling, also designed by us.


Interior Architecture
There are nearly 100 individual features designed by Artichoke inside Villa Guglielmesca, including coffered ceilings, fireplaces, windows, columns, doors and stone architraves.   A few examples can be seen below:

Construction in progress of the groined ceiling in the Villa’s Limonaria

Pietra Serena stone architrave being set into the Villa walls.IMG_1511
One of the Artichoke designed Pietra Serena window surrounds.Screen shot 2015-03-27 at 09_24_36(1)
One of the Artichoke designed Pietra Serena window surrounds.
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An image of the guest wing rear corridor before our groined ceiling was added.

Installation Phase

Artichoke’s European walnut vanity unity with walnut mirrors. The marble to be added will be Carrara.
The Villa’s exterior showing the Pietra Serena windows and door frames designed by Artichoke. The shutters were make locally.
The Villa’s exterior showing the Pietra Serena windows and door frames designed by Artichoke. The shutters were make locally.
Walnut skirting was designed for the dining room.
Artichoke designed this simple linen store. Note the detail in the clay tiles at the threshold of the door.
Artichoke designed this simple linen store. Note the detail in the clay tiles at the threshold of the door.

Completed Project

A small selection of images from the completed project are below.


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Guest WC


Hallway Doors


Selected Architectural Joinery





Designers and Makers of Bespoke Luxury Kitchens and Interiors.          

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