June 22, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2012 issue
Apartment with an elegant country look – furniture is a mixture of English/French antiques
Words: Andrea Christians
Photography: Alan Carville
There are some properties that need little introduction because they are so well known. Ballutta Buildings is one such building in Malta. Completed in 1928, it is the combined work of two prominent architects, Giuseppe Psaila (1891-1961) and Andrea Vassallo (1856-1928). These two architects focused on the more sinuous, nature inspired features of Art Nouveau creating what is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of this architectural style on the islands. Ballutta Buildings is considered by many to be a masterpiece of art deco.
The property viewed in this issue can certainly be considered unique. Described by one visitor as “A miniature palazzo, but on one level and without the disadvantages” it is situated within this famous building.
This first property is one of two apartments each with a respective floor space of some 400 square metres. Interconnecting double doors open through from one apartment to the other whilst each also has its own separate entrance. This clever design allows for them to be used independently if so desired.
On entering one is met by a long entrance hall that runs the length of the property. Here the English owners made an ingenious use of the traditional Maltese floor tiles by having had them relaid so as to appear like large carpets running the length of floor space. It is a striking feature that adds symmetry and is both attractive and practical.
The furniture is a mixture of English/French antique and contemporary. The owners are also art lovers and have an eclectic mix of classic and modern artwork. In the hall a 19th century gilt consol table holds a bronze sculpture by British artist, Jonathon Wylder. Wylder is famous for producing a life-sized bronze of international show jumper, Milton. This, together with a five-metre-high bronze statue for London’s Belgrave Square of the first Marquis of Westminster and a life-sized memorial portrait of Mother Theresa unveiled by the Governor of Calcutta at the Sisters of Mercy Convent, have helped establish him as one of Britain’s most exciting artistic talents. Next to this stands a circular terracotta medallion of satyrs and nymphs by Bouchardon on a bamboo stand. A pair of gilt metal altar candle sticks stand to either side. Immediately above the table is an eighteenth-century painting of The Nativity.
The Salon in this property is in keeping with the architectural art deco style, and with its high ceilings and spaciousness, is bright and airy. The room is effectively split into parts by two majestic looking pillars.
The sunlight is filtered by floor to ceiling curtains at the far end and there is a relaxing ambience with white linen upholstered sofas that contrast nicely with two red Regency style chairs. A French Pier glass adorns one wall and oil painting of a young girl hangs on the other. Next to this a door leads out onto a large terrace overlooking Ballutta Bay with lovely uninterrupted sea views on the one side and a view of the original valley on the other.
The other half of the room contrasts with a subtly different style. A large sea grass carpet covers the floor and the owners love of antiques becomes again apparent. A French gilt sofa and two armchairs are to be found on one side. An Empire country – made fruitwood secretaire a’ abattant is to be found on the other. An unusual French mirrored screen, that is particularly eye catching, has been placed behind a candelabra to reflect light. The candelabra itself is also French as it the amaranth and gilt oval vitrine on which it stands. The mirrored frames contain watercolours of Egypt where the family were based for some years.
Indeed, the owner loves mirrors not only for the way they reflect light but for their ability to effectively making a room seem larger or change its mood.
The kitchen is, not surprisingly, large and has been built in an informal farmhouse style with top of the range appliances and a large dining table for family meals or breakfast. A family sitting room with easy sofas immediately adjoins this. Double doors open from the kitchen onto a large covered terrace with a wall mounted water fountain and is nicely furnished for al fresco eating.
This first apartment has four double bedrooms but one is used as a home office. The bedrooms are large and have ensuite bathrooms and are exquisitely furnished.
The first bedroom has a lovely antique four poster bed and patchwork quilt. There is also a walk-in dressing room and a bath and shower room with matching blue and white Chinese style ceramic basins and contemporary white floor tiles.
The third bedroom is particularly spacious and again has a distinctly French feel to it with pink cheque upholstery. There is also a smaller room that has been designated as an ironing room but could be converted to a single bedroom if so desired.