An 18th-century Italian castle
Kari Ardissone has eschewed predictability and created a romantic, characterful – almost bohemian – home, in an impressive 18th-century Italian castle. Feature & Photographs Marco Bertolini/Living Inside
When it came to decorating the interior of our Italian home, I didn’t want it to feel grand. I wanted a house where you could kick off your shoes anywhere, touch anything you wanted and feel at home. The idea of creating a formal, contrived look did not appeal to me at all,’ says Kari Ardissone. The home in question is actually an early 18th-century castle, which overlooks rolling hills and the valley of Ticino in the northern region of Piedmont, Italy.
Avoiding a grand aesthetic is surely easier said than done when it comes to decorating a castle, but here Kari has triumphed. All the furniture is mismatched and charming; walls are often left in their bare, unpainted form, and contemporary – yet unpretentious – art injects colour and joie de vivre.
Kari and her husband Alberto spend most of the year in Mexico but, 19 years ago, were looking for a country retreat in Italy, where Alberto originally comes from. It was the couple’s love of this country and nature that piqued their interest when they spotted the castle while on holiday. On viewing, it was love at first sight, and they decided to set about the mammoth task of restoring it – a feat that took them five years.
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Throughout the castle’s many rooms, Kari approached the restoration with the aim of maintaining – wherever possible – their heritage features. The couple kept most of the rooms in their original state, preserving the exceptionally decorated wooden ceilings, stone fireplaces and terracotta, moiré-pattern floor tiles. They left many of the walls, too, as they were. ‘I wanted to leave some of the walls in their primitive, rather decayed, state so that the house didn’t appear to have been plucked out of the 18th century only to land seamlessly into the 21st,’ explains Kari.
The furnishings in the castle add to the relaxed feel – inherited from Alberto’s family, found around the castle or sourced in small, local towns and flea markets in Florence. Some items were even salvaged from the side of the road and reupholstered by Kari.
‘My favourite pieces of furniture are the 18th-century butcher’s block table and cupboard in the kitchen. They were found in Turin and the dealer, who had been in possession of the pieces for a number of years, drove to the castle to see where they were going to be positioned before agreeing to the sale! He wanted to make sure they were going to the right home. He approved and, voilà, endless banquets at my beautiful marble table,’ says Kari.
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She is drawn to pieces that aren’t perfect. ‘I tend to go for items that I can put my own mark on by sanding down and varnishing or just by adding or detracting some small element so that I also leave my mark for future generations to come,’ she says.
Mexican influences add to the fun, colourful feel. Vast artworks by young Mexican artists mean that the couple can find a little bit of Mexico here in Italy. The vibrant textiles echo this and, despite Kari’s rejection of formal fittings, often come in the form of raw silk velvets. Lush fabrics, for Kari, are a must and cover antique French sofas and chairs, as well as the many cushions. Each room is a masterclass in how to effortlessly mismatch fabrics.
For Kari, though, it’s the home’s dreamy location that sets it apart. The couple are horse lovers and the castle’s grounds include fields that are perfect for riding. ‘What I adore most about living here is seeing the horses every morning when I wake up, and going for a ride in the park, listening to the birds sing with my dogs and cats following behind me. Yes, even the cats!’ laughs Kari.
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