A Former Horse Stable Is Repurposed as a Stunning Tuscan Retreat
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A Former Horse Stable Is Repurposed as a Stunning Tuscan Retreat

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Hesselbrand reimagines a historic former horse stable with a timeless, period-sensitive renovation that blends classic Italian design with contemporary style at this dreamy Tuscan escape.

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.  

The ground floor of the Fattoria building is a communal space. There are high ceilings and the existing rooms have been connected to make the space more social. The carefully selected furniture is a mix of antique and modernist Italian designs. 

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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. 

The reception is a gallery-like space which is flooded with natural light, perfect for displaying artwork made on site by the artists-in-residence. "The reception is a good example of how the communal space is designed for the guest, but also for the artists and curators," Hesselbrand explains. 

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. 

The firm cites, "the natural light and existing palette of materials" as the inspiration for the design. 

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." 

In the center of the building, the old timber farm doors have been replaced by German glass doors, which open the ground floor to the garden and creates an improved link to the neighboring buildings. The new hall acts as an event space for the hotel that hosts its own wine and olive oil tastings. 

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. 

The Large Superior Fattoria rooms feature oak floors and wood paneling, which the architects developed with local artisans. 

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.

The decor is a mix of antique and custom pieces. 

Hesselbrand, "concealed the necessities required in a modern hotel without jeopardizing the  simplicity and spaciousness of the existing building."

The bathroom interiors are a twist on a traditional pattern and are made from local materials. 

The Superior Fattoria rooms also aim to blend classic and contemporary design. 

The ensuite bathrooms in the Superior Fattoria rooms are finished with local Carrara marble and custom-made ornamental stainless steel vanities. 

Rates for 2019 at the Fattoria start from €389. Find out more about Villa Lena here and their Artist-in-Residency program here.    

Related Reading: Rustic Meets Modern In This Tuscan Village Boutique Hotel

Project Credits:
Interior Design: Hesselbrand / @hesselbrand
Interior Architecture: Hesselbrand
Photographer: Henrik Lundell 
Art Director: Victor Melchior Olsson