A Tuscan kitchen reborn: ‘When we first took it on a tree was growing through the kitchen and the basement was full of snakes’

Having rescued this Tuscan villa from near ruin, its British owners commissioned Artichoke to design a hard-working kitchen. Arabella Youens explains more.

Originally built in 1916 by a Swiss family, this 12-bedroom villa stands nearly 4,000ft above sea level on the border between Tuscany and Umbria. It was used as a hotel, but was abandoned in the 1980s. For its new British owners, a hard-working kitchen to suit their large family of enthusiastic cooks was essential.

‘When we first took on the project, a tree was growing through the kitchen and the basement was full of snakes and scorpions,’ says Artichoke’s creative director, Bruce Hodgson.

Using Tuscany-based artisans and local materials where possible, the company oversaw renovation works that took four years. Part of the project included merging smaller rooms to create this voluminous kitchen in the centre of the house, where it acts as the ‘engine room’, says Bruce.

One of the stipulations that informed the architecture was that a traditional inglenook fireplace spacious enough to cook porchetta (roast suckling pig) should be included. This involved running a flue under the main staircase that crosses the top of the kitchen — resulting in a vaulted ceiling from which hang two striking wagon wheel-style chandeliers from Ralph Lauren Home.

Much of the decorative interest comes from the wood used on the dresser and cabinetry — a mixture of local chestnut and oak, which has been bleached. For day-to-day cooking, a Wolf range was installed, with a surround of tiles in a glossy sage from Verona adding a splash of colour. An acid-etched zinc extractor, designed and made by Artichoke, adds an industrial feel.

‘We wanted the story behind the room to make it feel as if it had evolved over many centuries,’ adds Bruce.