Con­struct­ing this Um­brian farm­house was the start of a new life for this cou­ple


Af­ter the com­pany Rob Lan­de­weerd worked for as a head hunter was taken over in 2006, he de­cided to heed the same ad­vice he had given to oth­ers so many times. ‘I of­ten told clients that get­ting fired was a good thing as it meant fresh hori­zons,’ he says. ‘The time had come, I re­alised, to try some­thing new my­self.’

For Rob, now an in­te­rior de­signer, and his part­ner, Jeroen, this meant spend­ing more time in Italy. The cou­ple had en­joyed vis­it­ing the re­gion of Um­bria for 20 years. ‘ We fell for the vil­lage of Città della Pieve the first time we saw it,’ says Rob. ‘It’s un­spoilt, with beau­ti­ful views and within strik­ing dis­tance of Peru­gia, As­sisi and Siena.’

There was one par­tic­u­lar 16th-cen­tury farm­house on the vil­lage out­skirts that both Rob and Jeroen had their eye on, so when it came up for sale just as Rob was look­ing for new op­por­tu­ni­ties, they put in an of­fer. This fell through, but the seller of­fered them the chance to buy some neigh­bour­ing land. ‘ We hadn’t thought of build­ing from scratch,’ says Rob, ‘ but this plot seemed ideal.’

Rob and Jeroen’s vi­sion was to build a farm­house in keep­ing with the lo­cal ver­nac­u­lar. Many of the stones used to build the prop­erty came from the land on which it was built, while lo­cal tim­ber was used for the beams. ‘ We were in­cred­i­bly lucky that there are so many tal­ented crafts­peo­ple liv­ing close by who use age-old skills,’ says Rob.

As well as the main farm build­ing, the cou­ple also built an ex­ten­sive log­gia running along the side of the house, to act as a sun trap. ‘ We live in an earthquake zone,’ says Rob, ‘so there are cer­tain rules in place about how wide the open­ings can be, but those re­stric­tions meant we have pretty door­ways that now con­trib­ute to the au­then­tic look of the prop­erty.’

Where decor is con­cerned Rob and Jeroen have eclec­tic taste. Fam­ily heir­looms, mod­ern pieces and an­tique finds all sit side by side. ‘ We love a colour pop, es­pe­cially against the tra­di­tional stone,’ says Rob of the ar­ray of hues that fea­ture through­out, from burnt or­ange and deep red fab­rics to shots of turquoise, cour­tesy of Rubelli, Pierre Frey and Zof­fany.

‘Once we’d built this house, it wasn’t long be­fore we left Hol­land and moved to live in Italy full time,’ says Rob. ‘The build had given us a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and prompted us to launch our own busi­ness here, Spe­cial Um­bria, sourc­ing and restor­ing prop­er­ties for sale and to rent. There are so many beau­ti­ful but aban­doned stone houses hid­den among the vines, me­dieval hill­top vil­lages and the Apen­nine peaks, that it seemed al­most in­evitable we’d end up work­ing in restora­tion.’

With an of­fice for their busi­ness close by and a gar­den full of olive and cy­press trees, Rob and Jeroen’s life­style is a far cry from the cor­po­rate one they left be­hind. ‘It’s still hec­tic here, but work and leisure dove­tail beau­ti­fully, es­pe­cially as we are now part of the lo­cal com­mu­nity,’ says Rob.

‘On the day we signed the fi­nal deeds for our home, we held a lunch at the farm­house for all the skilled ar­ti­sans who had worked with us. It was a fan­tas­tic start to an ex­cit­ing new chapter in our lives.’

SIT­TING ROOM Tra­di­tional crafts­man­ship is teamed ef­fort­lessly with clas­sic de­sign. utrecht arm­chair, £2,699, Cassina. Vi­tra Vi­siona stools, £313.65 each, util­ity. the an­tique cof­fee ta­ble is up­hol­stered in a vin­tage fab­ric by rubelli

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