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A Centuries-Old Farmhouse for All Seasons by Jonathan Tuckey Design

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A Centuries-Old Farmhouse for All Seasons by Jonathan Tuckey Design

Francesca Iovene September 25, 2023

A once “jaded”, 200-year-old farmstead in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy has been reimagined by Jonathan Tuckey Design, a UK-based design and architecture practice with an inspired approach to combining old and new. We spoke to the project architect, Elena Aleksandrov, about “elegant appropriation”, a method she’s employed to gently restore the whimsical character of this secluded site.

“we discovered the house in a jaded state,” elena recalls. 17
Above: “We discovered the house in a jaded state,” Elena recalls.

Cascina (‘farmhouse’ in Italian) consisted of three original stone buildings: a two-story farmhouse, a large barn with a hay loft, and an enclosed, first floor bridge that connected the two. The brief from the client—a fashion designer and naturalist—was simple: “to rediscover the property’s agrarian soul and establish a connection to the beautiful surrounding landscape.”

the crenellated brickwork brings the centuries old stone facade into the \2\1st 18
Above: The crenellated brickwork brings the centuries-old stone facade into the 21st-century.

The interiors were “gloomy” and an ill-conceived ’90s renovation needed unpicking: “The spaces with the best vantage of the panoramic views were underutilized and not well connected,” Elena explains. The ’90s had also had an ill effect on the stone facade, which had been heavily treated, masking the “textural beauty” of the material. “Our challenge was to rediscover [the building’s] character and a relationship with the landscape by opening up the facades, stripping back finishes, and blurring the definition between inside and outside, old and new,” Elena says.

the &#8\2\20;textural beauty&#8\2\2\1; of the lime washed stone facade  19
Above: The “textural beauty” of the lime-washed stone facade has been rediscovered.

The team also set themselves the challenge of reusing as much of the original fabric of the building as possible, without introducing new structures. Instead, their job was to reimagine “the hierarchy” between existing spaces, “creating visual corridors between the different levels of the former building and between the inside and outside.”

on the ground floor, the existing staircase was turned 90 degrees to improve ci 20
Above: On the ground floor, the existing staircase was turned 90 degrees to improve circulation. Upstairs, the first floor level was raised, increasing the overhead volume on the ground floor to create a welcoming, impactful entrance.
from the entrance hall, guests step down into the lowered ground floor, which l 21
Above: From the entrance hall, guests step down into the lowered ground floor, which leads to an understated home spa and sauna.
part of the lower ground floor is set under original vaulted brick ceilings, wh 22
Above: Part of the lower ground floor is set under original vaulted brick ceilings, which have been painstakingly restored by local craftsmen.
the ground floor layout has been reorientated to give the living spaces the bes 23
Above: The ground floor layout has been reorientated to give the living spaces the best views of the garden and sun-soaked valley.
new apertures and enlarged existing windows frame verdant views from within the 24
Above: New apertures and enlarged existing windows frame verdant views from within the home, capturing shifting light throughout the day.

Cleverly conceived ideas for reuse are apparent throughout Cascina. Elena explains: “The existing roof tiles were temporarily removed, cleaned, and repositioned. Given the high number of tiles found beyond repair, we decided to use an ancient technique used by the Romans in which crushed clay tiles are mixed with soil to make a waterproof finish layer called cocciopesto for the floors and walls. Damaged tiles were ground and mixed with soil and aggregates from the site. The cocciopesto flooring was used in the main living space and dining area and as a colorful ‘rug’ surrounded by a stone frame in the spa.”

the cocciopesto &#8\2\20;rug&#8\2\2\1; in the home spa. 25
Above: The cocciopesto “rug” in the home spa.
a local palette of chestnut wood and luserna stone features throughout the inte 26
Above: A local palette of chestnut wood and Luserna stone features throughout the interiors. “The use of locally sourced material inexorably binds the property into the hillside,” explains Elena.
in the bathrooms, details include milk white tiles, circular mirrors, brass wal 27
Above: In the bathrooms, details include milk white tiles, circular mirrors, brass wall lamps, and carved solid Arabescato Vagil marble basins.

From the first floor, the reimagined barn is reached via an enclosed bridge. So as not to compromise the character of the property, a traditional brick screen ‘gelosia’ camouflages the bridging space between the former barn and three en-suite bedrooms, casting shifting golden shapes along the corridor.

set behind the brick breeze screening is a passage that leads to the upper floo 28
Above: Set behind the brick breeze screening is a passage that leads to the upper floor hayloft.
the top floor of the barn conversion. gable end windows have transformed this i 29
Above: The top floor of the barn conversion. Gable-end windows have transformed this into a light-filled studio with vistas overlooking treetops and distant mountains.

In the studio, the 200-year-old trussed roof structure has been carefully preserved. “One of the greatest challenges was to rehabilitate elements commonly seen to be ‘beyond redemption,’” says Elena. “With the original barn roof structure we decided that, with thoughtful timber engineering and layering new components, a new roof could be formed above the skeleton of the former, providing insulation and structural stability.”

the new floating roof structure is highly insulated and clad in sheets of local 30
Above: The new floating roof structure is highly insulated and clad in sheets of local chestnut timber that gently diffuse light throughout the studio. A ground-source heat pump and red photovoltaic panels (which match the clay roof tiles) provide renewable energy to Cascina. (For more on the subject, see Remodeling 101: Everything You Need to Know About Heat Pumps as well as our new book, Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.)
cascina&#8\2\17;s sprawling, sloping gardens are thoughtfully organized by  31
Above: Cascina’s sprawling, sloping gardens are thoughtfully organized by a series of dry stone retaining walls and grassy terraces bordered with native planting.
cascina: “a house that is harmoniously tied to its ever changing natural 32
Above: Cascina: “A house that is harmoniously tied to its ever-changing natural context,” The walls also conceal a slender swimming pool with adjoining outdoor kitchen.

As the hillside changes with the seasons, so too does Cascina. “In the height of summer Cascina is best experienced from the generous balconies and terraces, accessible from pulled-back, full-height apertures. This articulates a series of indoor/outdoor spaces in which to unwind, cool down, and fully embrace the sweeping scenery,” says Elena.

“In winter the series of stepped volumes take on an altogether different persona,” she continues. “Snow blankets the terracotta roofing and the living room fire roars. Inside, the watery striations of locally sourced Arabescato Vagil marble mirrors the snow-covered woodland branches outside. This is when the warmth of chestnut timber elements create a cocoon-like warmth, guarding inhabitants from the elements.”

Jonathan Tuckey has described Cascina as “a house that is harmoniously tied to its ever-changing natural context”—a fitting description of a project that cleverly straddles both the seasons and the centuries.

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