high & mighty

Perched on the edge of the Amalfi Coast, Sil­via Le­feb­vre’s his­toric fortress is now a re­lax­ing hol­i­day re­treat with breath­tak­ing views

25 Beautiful Homes - - CONTENTS - Fea­ture Mag­gie Colvin | pho­tog­ra­phy Robert San­der­son

An old Ital­ian watch­tower on the Amalfi Coast is trans­formed into a stun­ning week­end re­treat

Ev­ery morn­ing, a pink light drenches the stone walls of the old Ital­ian watch­tower, which Sil­via Le­feb­vre in­her­ited from her par­ents sev­eral years ago. It’s a mag­i­cal sight which is re­peated at sun­set – but then every­thing about this place is spe­cial.

Built in the 13th cen­tury as part of a num­ber of square fortress tow­ers dot­ted along the Ital­ian coast­line, its main pur­pose was to ward off the ma­raud­ing Moors. To­day, these huge stone sen­tries act as a re­minder of the coun­try’s colour­ful his­tory.

‘Be­fore my par­ents bought this tower, it was owned by a den­tist from Rome who did a lot of work to it,’ says Sil­via. ‘He added the din­ing room and in­serted sev­eral large win­dows in the three-me­tre-thick walls in the sit­ting room. Be­fore that, the only open­ings were slots for shoot­ing ar­rows.’

The prop­erty’s re­mote lo­ca­tion made quite an im­pact on Sil­via when she hol­i­dayed here as a child. ‘ When we first came in 1968, all of our lug­gage had to be brought down to the tower from the car park by don­keys,’ she re­calls. ‘These days, it’s a fiveminute drive by elec­tric buggy or a 15-minute steep walk to and from the front door, which does keep me fit!’

When Sil­via took over the prop­erty, she wanted to bring her two daugh­ters, Lavinia and Gala, then tod­dlers, for the sum­mer, so her first task was to make the house child friendly. ‘I started by resur­fac­ing the drive to ac­com­mo­date a small car so the girls could avoid the climb,’ Sil­via ex­plains. ‘Then I in­stalled a chil­dren’s pad­dling pool be­side the grown-up plunge pool near the lemon grove.’

The next thing to fig­ure out was how to link the din­ing room ex­ten­sion to the main body of the tower. ‘In the past, the only ac­cess was along an ex­te­rior walk­way that wrapped its way along two sides of the

tower,’ ex­plains Sil­via. ‘Food from the kitchen had a long way to travel.’ She solved this prob­lem by knock­ing through an in­ter­nal wall to in­stall a door for a more prac­ti­cal lay­out.

Thank­fully for Sil­via, this was one of the few struc­tural al­ter­ations that needed to be made to the tower. ‘The pre­vi­ous owner had cut out al­coves and niches in the thick walls where I now store books and pretty china, as well as flower ar­range­ments gath­ered from the gar­den,’ she says.

Up­stairs, the bed­rooms are dec­o­rated with an­tiques in­her­ited from Sil­via’s par­ents, but she made the bold de­ci­sion to furnish the re­cep­tion rooms with con­tem­po­rary pieces. ‘In­te­rior de­signer Alessan­dra Ra­p­a­tioni was a huge help,’ says Sil­via. ‘She was very clever at be­ing able to blend his­tor­i­cal el­e­ments with mod­ern fur­nish­ings.’ Be­tween the two of them, they chose im­pact­ful de­signs, to­gether with new china and soft fur­nish­ings to add a punch of colour against the back­drop of white walls, oc­ca­sion­ally leav­ing ar­eas of nat­u­ral stone as a re­minder of the build­ing’s his­toric past.

A coun­try girl at heart, Sil­via is pas­sion­ate about an­i­mals and so was keen to in­tro­duce them to the sur­round­ing land. Now, while her friends soak up the sun on the ter­races which dra­mat­i­cally project over the sea, Sil­via likes noth­ing more than watch­ing the rab­bits, don­keys, sheep and horses ram­bling wild in the grounds. ‘This place is an es­cape into an­other world,’ she says. ‘Liv­ing here is a truly restora­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.’

de­sign tip‘ Use cowhides and lots of rich tex­tures in cush­ions and throws to lighten and soften tiled walls and floors’

KITCHEN Mar­ble ap­pears on the floor­ing, cab­i­netry and sur­faces for a sleek fin­ish. Try Bel­gravia pol­ished mar­ble tiles, from £ 49.99sq m, Man­darin Stone

GUEST Bed­room The curved fire­place is the fo­cal point of this sim­ply styled space. tatli tiles, £29.95sq m, Walls and floors, are com­pa­ra­ble. to rent the watch­tower for hol­i­days, visit car­pediem­travel.co.uk

GUEST Bed­room An Ed­war­dian dress­ing ta­ble was con­verted to fit a mar­ble basin. for a sim­i­lar ta­ble, £ 475, try lovean­tiques.com

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