One of the funnest parts of restoring a home in Italy, or even building an Italian Rustic style home anywhere else in the world – is the chance to pull together elements that have a story. Tiles, fireplaces, bricks and stones can give any home an almost instant sense of history and place. This is one of the reasons why I wrote Italian Rustic, with my husband, Italian architect Domenico Minchilli. It was a chance to explore the various building blocks that make up rustic architecture in central Italy.
While I could have dallied, writing about the ins and outs of construction techniques (like building walls and laying floors) forever, my editors at Artisan (Thank you Ann! Thank you Ingrid!) had the brilliant idea of including ways that readers could ‘Bring it Home.’ That inspired idea – plus sections on Italian artisans and sources – makes for some of the most useful sections in the book. In these sections I had the great fun of exploring ways that readers could bring Italian rustic elements into their homes, piece by piece.
When we restored our own home in Umbria, we gathered salvaged elements like doors, tiles, beams and mantlepieces to bring our ruin back to life. (You can read more about this in my last book, Restoring a Home in Italy). One of our main resources was Lacole, which – in the 18 years since we first restored our home – has expanded and grown. This year they inaugurated a new, huge and splendid show room in Umbria.
Lacole was started byDante Radicchi about fifty years go. He began by stockpiling salvaged wooden beams from dismantled buildings in Umbria and Tuscany. He eventually traveled throughout Italy and began amassing a collection that now includes roof tiles, flooring, fireplaces, sinks and garden statues. His daughter, Velia took over the business several years ago and has expanded to include the new, incredibly gorgeous 30,000 sq. meter warehouse (made entirely – of course!- from salvaged materials). Her husband, Enzo Belli, has taken part of the original business, and developed it into Porte del Passato, making and restoring doors.
“We take a lot of pride in what we do,” says Velia, “And our clients have come to depend on the quality of the material we stock. We not only search out the material, we carefully edit it down so that the client gets his money worth. For instance, although there are a lot of salvage yards these days, you often take risk when buying a big batch of tiles or flooring.” Lacole carefully takes out any damaged or cracked elements before batching them for shipping. Which is pretty incredible when you take a look the mountains of tiles they inventory.
“We try to leave the pieces exactly as we find them,” says Velia, “We don’t like to clean up, or restore terracotta or stone. Even if they have a little dirt on them, I would rather ere on the side of doing too little. When you are buying a old tiles, or a fireplace, I think you’re partly paying for a bit of age and wear, no? We would never take that away.”
While Lacole is happy to ship anywhere in the world, you can contact some of their partners in the States if you can’t make it to Umbria. Chateau Domingue, in Houston, has a luscious selection of not only Italian elements, but salvaged bits from all over Europe.
One of the best sources in the States for salvaged elements from central Italy is Tuscan Resource. They not only bring home authentic floorings, stone work and tiles, they also work closely with artisans who still produce authentic objects in wrought iron, terra cotta and wood.