May 8, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Spring 2014 issue
A home tailor-made for Malta
Words: Marika Azzopardi
Photography: Alan Carville
To understand the transformation of this Valletta apartment, we have to cross the water to the opposite side of the Grand Harbour which is where the whole story began. Imagine the scenario - a foreign couple moved to Malta and made an apartment in Sliema, their home. They loved it there but every time they looked across the water, they saw Valletta and wondered what it would be like to live right in the centre of it all.
With curiousity they started house-hunting in earnest, promising themselves they would seek a small place, turn it around and use it to test the Valletta experience... then take it from there. The couple discovered this compact, square and extremely well-lit apartment just over two years ago and decided that, albeit its sorry state, this post-war priorly government housing property, was to be the one.
The apartment is characterised by a typical northern predilection for white and light, an infusion of subtle, warm and colourful Maltese characteristics, plus an elegant collection of artefacts and accessories from around the world. On entering the front door, one finds a small hallway, in the middle of which is an elegant glass table and chandelier. The huge ceiling-to-floor mirror opposite the main doorway reflects more light whilst neatly concealing invaluable closet space. The room doubles up as a mini-dining room and is surrounded by white wooden doors, that span out to other rooms.
The colour of the walls is uniform throughout and are of a colour gleaned from the one which the empty bare apartment had when the new owners first saw it. Once white, the walls had aged into a soft mellow and weather-beaten colour, much like soft Maltese stone. It was so unique a colour, that a sample of wall paint was peeled off and taken to a paint store to be matched. It was the base colour against which the entire revamp materialised, taking just over an intensive three months to complete to a design that utilised uniquely Maltese craftsmen.
The biggest space is the living room. Its real wood parquet floor has a colour specially chosen for its proximity to the colours of Malta. This special Zebrano wood, incidentally also used for some luxurious Mercedes Benz car interiors, is decorated with a border of traditional Maltese tile designs which lift the floor to another dimension.
The wall to wall bookcase serves a double purpose. The large south-facing wall emanated too much heat into the room during full sun exposure. To resolve this issue, the wall was plastered, covered in gypsum and had a custombuilt bookcase fitted. It includes inserts of wood lifted from the parquet, and feels as if the colours of books and accessories have been purposely chosen to accentuate the warm feeling extended by the combination of wood flooring, luxurious Persian carpet and rich curtains. The all is suffused by means of a white leather sofa and armchairs whilst a low level glass table allows for an appreciation of the carpet below.. The veranda beyond provides ample opportunity for relaxing against the elegant backdrop of a custom-made wrought-iron rail that screens the neighbours’ backyards for added privacy with rampant green creepers that have been allowed to grow around it.
To the side, the living room extends to the kitchen. All in white, it boasts the latest high-tech kitchen gadgetry. A Corian top hugs the Italian branded gadgets well and is off-set with white marble throughout. A small glass table, ideal for informal dinners, has been chosen to make the optimum use of space.
The master bedroom enjoys the self-same flooring as the living room again has white furniture. A delicate four-poster is accompanied by two Chinese bedside tables that were sprayed white. Bold blue and red colours on the bed are tempered by the white touches of the furniture and warmed by the wood on the walls and in the frames of the beautiful paintings which echo the oriental feel. Although the bedroom enjoys only one small window, the view of the sea beyond is unhampered. The room, originally deeper, had a slice at the back of it walled off, so that white doors by the bed lead into a reasonably ample walk-in wardrobe that extends the entire width of the room.
The bathrooms are exceptional. One of them incorporates traditional Maltese floor tiles on the wall so that these become features in themselves. Blue and dark red are once again protagonists set against a type of marble selected for its proximity to Maltese stone. Once again the colour white comes in to play, this time in the shape of sanitary ware which balance out the colour combination well. Large mirrors help to provide an illusion of added space to this luxurious and intimate space.
A glass door, the only glass door within the apartment, allows a sea-facing window to stream more direct light into the hall-way and literally lights up this smaller room. Although originally a spare bedroom, it has been transformed into a white study haven with complimentary white shelving, parquet flooring, wooden inserts, more colour, along with a dose of even more artworks.
Everything within this apartment has been custom-built purposely for each specific nook and cranny. Space is accessible in surprising manners, all congenially thought out and planned with uncanny ability. This Valletta apartment has been lovingly built with Malta in mind without its owners ever having lost touch with their origins up north and is, without a doubt, a truly refreshingly quiet space within Valletta.