The Villa in Tuscany is not just a dream vacation destination, it's also an inspiring residence for multidisciplinary artists.
We first came across this hidden gem, nestled into the Tuscan countryside, through the Instagram account of creative Ana Kraš, girlfriend of musician Devendra Banhart and known for her beautiful lanterns. On the pictures we saw her at work with Julie Ho, half of the duo behind Confetti System, co-creating beautiful wall hangings. It was clear: these two New York city girls were enjoying the good life in Tuscany at Villa Lena and we wished we were there to enjoy it too!
At first we thought of Villa Lena as an artist residency, but now that renovation works are over, the place is more than just that. The 19th century neo-Renaissance house is an inspiring residence for multidisciplinary artists, merging art, design and ecology. Villa Lena is like a home and a laboratory for artists and friends. The new concept in barefoot luxury was created by Lionel, Jérôme and Lena - entrepreneur, musician and art consultant respectively (the walking embodiment of cool on the Paris art scene right now). Hidden away with a gang of friends in a quiet corner of Italy, they launched Villa Lena. Set in 500 hectares of woodland, olive groves and vineyards, filled with extraordinary fauna and wildlife, the restoration of Villa Lena commenced in 2013.
We had a chat with interior designer Clarisse Demory whose eclectic ’neo folk’ style creates a fresh and uncluttered atmosphere throughout the hotel.
It was quite easy and a natural thing to do, although I didn't have that much time to decorate the 13 apartments. I only had three months, and none of the apartments was alike. They each had different measurements. It took me quite some time to find decent second-hand shops selling good small furniture and accessories at cheap prices, but as soon as I found them, things went on really well. I found treasures like the Superstudio table, now used as a reception desk. The difficulty with a hotel is to create a homey feeling with a minimum quantity of objects. After all, housekeepers can't take three hours to clean each apartment.
When I arrived, the hotel was already furnished with a lot of heavy dark varnished furniture that is commonly found in Italian agriturismo, a kind of gloomy 90's neo-rustic interior design. But for each of my projects I love using what is available and optimize it. Ana Kraš and I painted the leaves of a dead plant. Gave a tacky sofa a new look, by removing the upholstery, sanding the wood and tossing in some new hand painted cushions. Old curtains were hand bleached and re-used them to make pillows.
I have several favorites, but I'd say number 33 because it has a big private terrace facing the villa and the incredibly high ceilings add grandeur to the space. The bedroom, the living room and the kitchen all have French windows. And during summer it’s really enjoyable when the wind blows against the white veils.
Thanks to Clarisse, guests can now enjoy accommodation speckled over several residencies, including rooms in converted stables, self-contained apartments, and private houses. All year round, creative talents of today and tomorrow are invited to take up residencies to work at their discipline, be it painting, sculpture, music or writing. Villa Lena looks amazing, doesn’t it? Shall we go?
If you’re looking for an impressive houseplant, make room for the dazzling tropical beauty of elephant’s ear.
Drawing pictures and telling stories, that’s what Oliver Jeffers is known for. But if you'd like to find out what he really does, you should check out Mac Premo's hilarious video.