Renovating the dream
When we first started this journey years ago in our imaginations, we spent time going back and forth between whether we should live in a village, walled city, or in the countryside. We knew we would end up with something old, I mean it’s Italy! But, nearly 400 years old never seemed to enter our minds. Finding Miedi was clearly a path that was just meant to be, and taking on the task of bringing her forward we eagerly took along with it. Our picture of the work involved seemed easy enough while walking through the house. How hard could it be? Once we started peeling back the plaster and realizing just how much work it really is, we reached for lots more wine as we came to terms with the rather enormous task that was actually ahead of us now!
At the end of last season, we packed up the house, and prepared it to be completely emptied. Everything was sent to “storage” and demolition began! First up, was MANY trees to be cut down on the property. We had somewhere around 65 trees on our property, and almost all of them were dead or dying. GIANT trees that swayed dangerously during every storm! In order to prevent any possible damage to the house or pool, they had to go. Thankfully, one of the side effects of this change, more sunlight on the property, and no more cleaning thousands of pine needles from the pool every morning.
How they managed to get that much furniture on such a small truck and then proceed to navigate the windy dirt roads from Miedi and not drop anything along the way, is a pure miracle as far as I’m concerned. Well, maybe they did and we just haven’t noticed the missing furniture yet. Our plan was to return in early March this year, stay at a lovely little place near Mercatale and be onsite daily to make the crucial decisions for the remainder of the project. Where were light switches and outlets going to go, which way do the shower doors open and hang, choosing the glass for the custom showers, choose the stone floors, the kitchen stone, etc.
In every single one of our scenarios during the risk assessment that this former corporate project manager could have come up with, not one of them included a global pandemic. Flights, cars and our stay near Miedi were all cancelled and we were now faced with a Plan B. Except, we didn’t actually have a Plan B, we just jumped in with both feet and made it up as we went along. In a normal world, renovating a 400+ year old home in a foreign country, with a language barrier would categorize you a bit crazy. Now let’s add to that, 4,000+ miles and navigating this renovation 100% over our phones and laptops. We have just become completely insane.
Living on Italian time in the US, attempting to meet deadlines with contractors, was just one of the more challenging things in this process. We woke very early every day to stacks of emails and text messages all needing answers ASAP! So this was how the mornings went. Countless hours on our phones and laptops. Viewing tiles, fixtures and floor tiles online or in photos being sent to us by our geometra, Giovanni, who was brilliantly managing this massive effort for us.
Scanning and sending drawings back and forth on email with changes to where pipes, electricity, switches and outlets should go. Choosing glass for the new showers, and drawings and photos back and forth with the marmista (marble cutter/artisan) that was making the stone sink from one giant piece of travertine marble, and the granite countertops. The marmista even offered to send us stone samples in the mail! Now that we sit at the end of this process. Having made it through the gauntlet that was the past year, we can say that it was certainly one hell of a ride and we are immensely grateful for everyone involved that went far above and beyond to see this through for us. Everyone worked with the care as if it was their own home. The few items that we did keep, were brought back to Miedi, and have been lovingly placed by Elsa. She has unpacked every box and put everything away for us. She has even made our bed and placed a basket of pinecones from the woods by the fireplace in the hopes that we could return this Fall or Winter. It is these little acts of kindness and care that remind us just how fortunate and blessed we truly are. Of course, the house is now rather empty, and awaiting all new furniture! We are excited to fill it with beautiful and carefully chosen pieces to complete our home.
Of course, I am most excited about the renovation of the kitchen, being that is always my favorite room of any home! But, with all of Miedi getting a full makeover, we also now have 3 brand new guest rooms and bathrooms. Each of these rooms carries a history as a part of the home. Casa Miedi is a classic Umbrian casa colonica. A farmhouse in the Umbrian style and is around 400 years old. The farmhouses in our area were typical in that the animals lived downstairs and the family lived upstairs. It was important to us to hold onto what history was left in the home and find ways to use it, or leave it intact where possible. What is now our kitchen, was once where a lot of the animals lived. Along one long wall in our kitchen was the original manger which we loved! However, it took up so much room so we decided to have it removed, and used for shelves that will be hung on the wall. Upstairs in the old kitchen was a very old loft, made from chestnut wood. To open up the room we had it taken down, and Candido our local wood artisan has used the beautiful old wood to make our new table in the kitchen.
We thought it would be fun to share some before and after photos of the renovations. Some of these before pictures, are truly...BEFORE. Real estate photos from when we purchased Casa Miedi. We, of course, did some redecorating, new bedding etc. However, these pictures can give an idea of the overall rooms. Stay tuned for some true after photos once each room is furnished and decorated.
First up, is what used to be the original pigsty and pig yard. While this is the smallest of our guest rooms, it is one of my favorite rooms in the house. It has 4 bright windows, and the original pig yard with the stone wall still intact means this room has the sweetest little patio beyond the little iron gate. Before, with it’s sloped ceiling, it was difficult to make use of the entire room with the lack of head room! Adding a second story or expanding out wasn’t an option so we had to get creative. After much discussion with our beloved geometra and architect, the answer came one day in the pool with my visiting cousins...lower the floor! Brilliant! The result is perfect and we could be happier.
Next up is the old horse stalls. Not much was needed in the bedroom. Just new floors, screens, fresh coat of plaster and paint. The biggest transformation was the bathroom. This room was completely gutted and redone from the ground up.
These spaces are now a lovely room and bathroom on the shady side of the house and we have added a tiled roof to create a nice little outdoor sitting area and protection from any rain for this guest room. I am thrilled that we were able to save one of the original carved stone horse ties on the wall.
Last and certainly not least, the original kitchen, which was a sitting room and a bedroom. Now a guest room and bathroom. Big changes in these two rooms. Up the original stone steps to the front of the house, there is a veranda and beautiful sitting area. Through the glass double doors and you step into this bright room with the original old stone sink still under a window. This room was the center of the home and family, and I love imagining all the conversations and meals prepared here over the years.
There are so many other changes to the farmhouse that we are thrilled to see in photos we receive over text from our neighbors as they go by on their daily walks, or from our dear friends and trusted local professionals that are there almost daily checking on the house and keeping our new lawn watered! These two people have managed all the legal permits, various contractors, drawings, measurements of every little thing, light and switch placement, landscaping, and timing, all from across the many miles and all over email and text messages! We are anxious to return and lovingly take our time through every room and enjoy every detail of the work that has been done. We are ready to begin our 2021 season in our newly renovated home and be a part of the memories to be made by so many!
Who’s ready for some fun? We need your help! Despite our attempts at coming up with names for our guest rooms, we just keep drawing a blank! So, we decided to put it out to the masses and create a fun little contest. Here’s how it works, and it couldn’t be easier:
Comment below this blog post with your name, and your 3 names for each of the guest rooms. That’s it! Easy right?
The contest will end on Friday, October 16, 2020 at midnight. We will announce the winner on Sunday, October 18, 2020
If we choose your 3 names for the guest rooms, we will send you a beautiful artisan hand crafted Deruta ceramics mug directly from our favorite shop in Deruta, Italy, Ceramiche Sberna! You will find these beautiful mugs all over Miedi, and when you stay with us, you may even find yourself using one for your morning beverage of choice. We truly adore these typical Umbrian style mugs that can be found in most kitchens, and would love to share a little of Umbria with you to enjoy your morning coffee or tea wherever you are!
Enjoy a glimpse into our life in Umbria, Italy. Recipes, stories, photos and videos of our journey. We welcome you and have saved a seat for you at our table!