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June 11, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2012 issue
Beautiful house of character – Creating a warm and attractive surrounding
Words: Deana Luchia
Photography: Alan Carville
I always think it rare to find somewhere that successfully combines homeliness with elegance but this lovely house in one of Malta’s oldest villages does exactly that.
Built at the heart of the hamlet the house is situated near the church and was built in the same era of the late 1600s. From the outside it is attractive double fronted property with small curved upper balconies.
Walking through the front door one passes immediately into an arched hallway that looks straight through to the back garden. The owners, who have lived here for the last sixteen years, explained that in its original form, the house consisted of just the two front rooms with the rear part being built at a later date.
It was in this rear section that we first started our tour where a large sitting room with double doors opens onto the garden. The room has a restful feel to it having been decorated with mustard colour walls that are nicely complimented by cream sofas in a fleur de lye pattern. The owner is a lover of English antiques and there are some very nice pieces to be found throughout the house. In the corner of this room a stately grandfather clock ticks away unassumingly and there are some lovely paintings - nautical scenes painted by eighteenth century artist William Thornley. Above the marble fireplace stands a majestic tall gilt mirror from Christies that emphasises the height of the beamed ceilings and adds a feeling of grandeur to what is a very comfortable looking sitting room. Marble floors run throughout the property but in this main sitting area the marble was covered with a large colourful rug from Harrods.
The Study is located in one of the original front rooms. It too has high beamed ceilings and even the original coving. It houses a traditional style library with custom made book cases in rich mahogany. A marble staircase curves down into this room and at the centre is a much loved family dining table brought back from Britain. A striking feature are the unusual shaped arched doorways that pass under the staircase. These lead to the kitchen but, as the owner explained, would once have opened out onto the garden. On the staircase, a small window opens onto what is now the kitchen but would have also once opened to the outside. Now glazed in stained glass with a fleur de lye pattern it is an unusual and attractive feature.
The kitchen has also been modified by the owners who knocked down walls and moved the downstairs bathroom to create more space. A marble topped breakfast table with pale green chairs is at the centre of the room. The kitchen cupboards are white wood with marble work tops that match the table. A pretty Victorian copper light hangs above and an unusual Maltese stone cooker hood conceals lights and an extractor fan. Burnished copper pots, pretty crockery and bright paintings add splashes of colour to this room that also opens onto the garden.
The Dining room was our next stop. Situated directly opposite the Study in the older part of the house, the two wall alcoves have been heightened to mirror the shape of the pointed arched front window. The room has been painted a restful green with a more dramatic dark hue on the beamed ceiling. This, in effect, creates an optical illusion of making the ceiling appearing lower and more intimate which is exactly the atmosphere one would want when dining here. A tall English mirror hangs above an antique console table between the alcoves. The dining table itself is George 111 and has six William 1V dining chairs and two carvers. The side table is George 11. The chandelier above the table is Venetian glass as are the appliqués on the wall. I particularly liked the circular Georgian trolley and console table with its tall majestic mirror above. Immediately opposite is a small oak antique spice cupboard with shelves and compartments dating from a time when spices were a lot more difficult to obtain than today.
The owners love of antiques is obvious and a dainty folding envelope table stands in one corner below a traditional curved English wall cupboard that are prized by antique collectors today. The silver too is English, as are the paintings.
Upstairs the house is spaciously arranged with three bedrooms which all have ensuite bathrooms.
The master bedroom is at the rear of the property in what was once a terrazzo but which was demolished by earlier owners to create further bed rooms. A beautiful carved Victorian coffer stands at the foot of the bed whilst custom made wardrobes allow for floor to ceiling storage. Shuttered doors open on to a small balcony that looks onto the garden.
All the bedrooms are large and the master bedroom in particular has a sizeable ensuite bathroom with cream ceramics and a hydro bath.
The second bedroom is at the front of the house and again has its own charm with the beamed ceiling and a pretty pink ceramic ensuite bathroom. Across the landing a the third bedroom has been converted to a home office.
Moving to the garden, it immediately becomes obvious that the owners have green fingers and like to dine al fresco with an outside dining area in close proximity to the kitchen. The garden is larger than expected, stretching behind the property next door which is a band club and is festooned with bougainvillea, jasmine and all manner of climbing plants. A collection of large potted hydrangeas provide an impressive display against one wall with a large hibiscus growing high above them. However, the original garden is very different from what we now see.
Some years ago it was paved with rustic stone to make it more accessible and replanted with wide borders. It has been a labour of love with all plants nurtured by the owners with the exception of the lemon tree that pre-dates the current garden. One particularly attractive feature is a small staircase at the far end leading to a small second office in the room above and an arched storage room below.
And that, I could say, is all there is to say about this charming property. But to finish here would be an injustice because we have not mentioned the cellar. Cool from the heat of the midday sun we found a surprisingly large space with arches to support the weight of the house above. The sign of the stone masons chisel were still plain to see as it became apparent that the stone used to build the house had actually been hewn from the cellar where we were standing.
An impressive wine collection is stored here in optimum conditions but what amazed me more than anything was that, untouched, in the depths of this house was the original kitchen dating from when the house was built - a rarity indeed. Furthermore the owners had quite accidentally only recently discovered that it was directly linked to the well which directly supplied it with water. An innovation indeed when we consider the age of this property!
The house was, without a doubt, a country residence for a family who most likely lived in Valletta. During the war there had been further excavation and an entrance to a bomb shelter running under a number of adjacent properties also existed. It has since been blocked off.
If only walls could talk, I can’t help wondering what tales they would tell about this delightful home!