La Dolce Vita: A Restored 17th Century Convent in Italy
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Located in the Piacenza hills outside Milan, Villa Chiesuola is an imposing structure with a private chapel, an enclosed courtyard, and more than 20,000 square feet of living space. "The house was built in the seventeenth century to house a convent, then transformed into a country residence in the nineteenth century, and finally inherited by my husband in a state of complete 'abbandano,' " owner Marina Sinibaldi Benatti says. In overhauling the interiors, Benatti came up against numerous challenges (the layout features dozens of small bedrooms arrayed off a corridor; and there was an absence of large living spaces). She transformed the former nuns' bedrooms into a series of thematically rooms; some spare and modern, others featuring traditional Italian furniture and design. During the renovation process, Benatti, who has worked in fashion, textiles, and jewelry design, found her metier; today she works almost entirely to interior design. "The choice was inevitable, given that the restructuring of Chiesuola began a decade ago and involved me—or rather overwhelmed me—full time." To see more of her work, go to Marina Sinibaldi Benatti . Above: A view of the courtyard. Above: A corner of the kitchen, with an original marble sink. Benatti describes the project as a "labor of love and do-it-yourself design." Above: Touches of modernity (steel shelves, L, and a modern fireplace surround) added by Benatti. Above: A small dining room. Above: A seating area with reupholstered vintage pieces. Above: A trio of mirrored armoires anchors the study. Above: Throughout the interiors, Benatti contrasts new with old. Above: A dramatic red bedroom. Above: A guest bedroom with sectional sofa. Above: A classic Italian bedroom with traditional furniture. Above: A dramatically tiled shower room with velvet-upholstered midcentury chairs. Above: A bathing room with stone floor. Above: Another view of the stark, stone-tiled bath. Above: An outdoor dining area featuring a pair of Ikea wicker pendants. Above: Benatti transformed an old irrigation tank into a swimming pool with shower.