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This old agricultural ruin has become a tiny house overlooking the sea

An intimate project that’s a tribute to slowness

You can only get there on foot by taking an ancient Napoleonic trail through a forest that’s a tangle of chestnut trees and dense vegetation. The small house is made from stone, lime and wood, and clings to the mountain, overlooking the breathtaking panorama of sky and sea of the Cinque Terre. Situated on the coast of Liguria, in Italy, it’s an area characterised by the presence of five ancient agricultural villages overlooking the sea.

“My partner and I have been frequenting this area for more than 15 years, where we’ve had another house that’s been our refuge for many weekends and holidays,” says interior designer Stella Orsini. “But this house was a ruined agricultural building, on the land next to ours; after looking at it for years, watching as the brambles covered it over more and more, we decided to buy it.”

The restructuring was complex and took a long time because the house was dismantled and rebuilt from zero. Access has to be on foot, and most of materials for the restructuring arrived by helicopter. The original stones of the house were reused to clad it: very difficult, precision work carried out by specialist craftsmen.

In 2020, by which time the only missing parts were the services and the internal finishes, the pandemic broke out and none of the suppliers were able to come any more. “We ended up spending the first three-month lockdown here by ourselves; during that period we finished all the work that we were able to do ourselves, working for hours and hours.”

The ground had to be levelled, the dry stone walls had to be put right, the brambles uprooted, and the new plants planted. After that Stella and her partner did the whitewashing and painting, rustproofed the metal, assembled the furniture, and created the vegetable garden.

“In a way we’re grateful for the lockdown because during that period we did so much work that would otherwise have been impossible to finish if we’d only been working during the weekends,” she says.

This little house, measuring 35sqm, has only a single view of the sky and the sea, with a wooden slatted terrace that rests on the rocks: just one bedroom, a bathroom, and a living room with an open kitchen. The interiors are reminiscent of a house in the country in central Europe: the walls are lime-plastered with vegetable pigments in light tones, the floor is made of dark stone, and the local chestnut wood, which was used for the roof and the outdoor platform, has been left in its natural state.

Given their simple lifestyle and the very small size of the house, all the furniture was made to measure by craftsmen using simple materials like steel and wood, including the large table, which was built without felling trees and using timber from dead trees found in the forest. The one-wall kitchen is made from untreated steel with a worktop of old cement tiles.

The remaining furniture is vintage “because I find that objects that have already lived give warmth to houses, independently of their style or period.” From an energy viewpoint the house is self-sufficient; the sun produces the electricity thanks to photovoltaic panels, the gas comes from canisters that have to be carried here, and the heating comes from a Norwegian wood-burning stove.

Only the water supply is connected to the public network. Immersed in the trails of the Cinque Terre and descending long flights of steps and steep paths, you can go swimming in one of the most beautiful places on the Ligurian coast. But there are 1100 steps.

 

Words and photography: Living Inside

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