A dreamy holiday getaway and artist’s retreat located in the heart of Tuscany, Villa Lena is a secluded spot composed of vineyards, olive groves, and organic vegetable gardens. With a farm-to-table restaurant and a non-profit art foundation with an artist-in-residence program, the Italian retreat is an example of agriturismo—which loosely translates as "farm stay"—a holiday retreat that celebrates local Tuscan history, culture, and food in a spectacular locale. At the center of it all, is a 19th-century villa originally built for an Italian aristocratic family.
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Surrounding the villa, converted agricultural buildings have become guest apartments and communal facilities. This year, Hesselbrand, an international architectural practice with offices in London and Oslo, was brought on to renovate a former horse stable on the property, the historic Fattoria building. The firm approached this request with respect for the already-existing surroundings, executing a timeless, period-sensitive renovation.
Hesselbrand transformed the property to encourage social interaction, creating a series of guest rooms and communal social spaces that explore the playful intersection of traditional and contemporary design. The firm juxtaposed antique pieces and modernist Italian designs with more traditional elements like the Fattoria's existing white stucco walls, simple smooth-surfaced Doric columns, and vaulted ceilings—a look consistent with what has come to be Villa Lena’s trademark rustic aesthetic, but with a decidedly more luxurious feel. "The aim was to keep and restore as much of the existing structure as possible and use the light and space of the building," Magnus Casselbrant and Jesper Henriksson of Hesselbrand explain.
Casselbrant and Henriksson further elaborate on their approach: "As an architectural practice working primarily with cultural and residential projects, it has been an amazing opportunity to work with Lena on the design for a truly contemporary and sustainable hotel design. Fattoria has served so many varied uses throughout the years, so we are excited to use our design to finally open up the site, create new spaces and allow everyone to experience this rich and characterful building."
The firm used a carefully curated palette of organic materials and forms to enhance the interaction of both old and new in the guest rooms and surrounding social spaces throughout the sprawling estate. The main building was reimagined to feature a large new entrance with a double staircase, creating a walkway through the building as well as a grand, new setting for events and ceremonies. New guest rooms were carved out on both sides of the pathway, facing outwards, to create privacy and improved access.
There are two styles of rooms: the Superior Fattoria rooms and the Large
Superior Fattoria rooms. Both feature oak floors and wood paneling created by highly skilled local artisans using traditional Italian modernist and post-war joinery techniques. Ensuite bathrooms reflect this contemporary/classical mix and have been finished with local Carrara marble and custom-made ornamental stainless-steel vanities. Sliding doors separate the bathroom and in the bedroom to enhance the feeling of intimacy. The renovated Fattoria building also features Villa Lena’s first Honeymoon suite, a secluded, semi-standalone known as the Casetta del'Amore—no translation needed.
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