May 25, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Spring 2012 issue
Skilled design in Mtarfa
Words: Deana Luchia
Photography: Alan Carville
There’s a considerable element of expertise at work in this beautifully designed Mtarfa farmhouse. The owner, Alfred Tanti, is an antiques dealer, with an eye for design and an interest in Asian artefacts. With this property he has created a comfortable and elegant home furnished with wonderful antiques and some unexpected elements. Being able to create a home is clearly a family trait. Alfred’s father was also an antiques dealer, with an avid interest in fine musical boxes; Alfred’s son is the interior designer Kenneth Tanti.
The property is over 300 years old and was purchased by Alfred a few years ago. Restoring the house took around two years, a process that involved restoring and reconstructing the walls and some of the ceilings, rewiring and redoing the plumbing, creating new apertures and overhauling the outdoor space. In keeping with the age of the property all reconstruction was done in the traditional way.
The age of the property is visible throughout – there are those high ceilings, the original beams, and, from many a vantage point you can see the remarkable thickness of the stone walls (at least a metre thick at some points). There are other clues too as to the property’s age: ventilation pigeonholes high up in the walls, now fitted with subtle lights; two holes in one arch which would have once been used for rope to hang a lantern from a rope.
The property was the dream house of Alfred and his late-wife who wished to escape the hustle and bustle of St Julian’s. The couple had always loved farmhouses and had restored a number before deciding to make one their home.
Throughout, the furniture is beautiful, perfectly matched with this large, light-filled home. A number of the antiques Alfred inherited and one of the criteria when looking for a suitable farmhouse was that there would be a room within it that would house these much-loved heirlooms.
The large living room is separated from the dining room by a stone arch (it is this arch from which a rope would once have hung). The ceilings, both beamed, are of different heights. The flooring is all new: a subtle marble design with two borders, one in black, the other in a terracotta. In addition to the antiques which include a stunning 17th century Maltese in-laid chest of drawers (with bun-feet), a bare walnut French armoire, there’s a modern corner sofa and a coffee table that has been created from an antique Asian door. The art in this room is mostly Maltese with a number of watercolours.
During the restoration a window and a door onto the yard were added to this room, giving it some additional light.
The dining room has a solid oak dining table with chairs and a Maltese walnut armoire from the 17th century. This room also has a remarkable music box, one from Alfred’s father’s collection.
The kitchen forms part of the house that was built during the restoration. Despite being new, it was built to work seamlessly with the original quarters and so has high ceilings and beams. From here there’s a glass step down to a very pretty sunroom with weather resistant furniture and lovely views onto the pretty yard.
The hallway is wide and light with an original arch and a new marble floor. Hanging here is a rare Maltese clock that has 23 dials. The craftsman sadly died before it was finished which only adds to its rarity. It’s the details like this unusual clock and the beloved music boxes that make this house into a home.
The stairs to the first floor are part of the new addition to the property but once again, fine craftsmanship ensures that the difference in look, between the original wall to the right and the new wall to the left, is minimal. The stairs are a pale golden marble and lead you round and upwards to a large landing with traditional Maltese tiles. There’s a small terrace accessed from this landing with lovely views over to Rabat and Mdina.
The master bedroom is a large and very attractive room, tastefully furnished with antiques. In addition to a French chaise longue, there’s a Victorian desk and linen press. The wallpaper on one wall, the curtains and the wall lamps are from Tanti Interiors. The bedroom has a very spacious walk-in wardrobe with dark stained doors and a large en-suite bathroom.
The bathroom is classic modern in style with marble-look tiles, white fittings, twin sinks and a fabulous corner bath. Asian figurines on the windowsill add a personal touch. The beautiful Roman blind is also from Tanti Interiors.
The yard is a good size with a wide border, plenty of large plants and trees in ceramic pots, and, at the centre, a glass-topped dining table and chairs. On one wall there’s a mirror with an ornate wooden frame from Thailand.