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July 17, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2013 issue

A house that is a pleasure to come home to!

Words: Andrea Christians

Photography: Alan Carville

This spacious family home is located in one of Malta’s most desired in land residential locations. The house itself is approximately 50 years old and was renovated by designer, Daniela Messina Ferrante approximately seven years ago.

A heavy traditional style front door opens to a hallway that runs the length of the property leading to a small enclosed courtyard at the far end. It only takes a moment to realise that the house has a relaxed, informal feel about it that is at once tranquil and welcoming. In its original condition, however, the property posed a number of problems, one of which was rising damp. This was remedied by removing the tiles and sealing the floors with 4 inches of liquid tar and replacing the rather dated looking tiles with those of a more rustic style that now run throughout. Daniela also suggested creating an additional focal point of interest and an eye catching floor motif, closely resembling the Maltese cross, was sourced from Italy and inlaid in the front hall area.

Another problem was that despite its pleasing design the house was essentially lacking in character. The rustic floors went a long way to improving the situation but after careful thought and consideration it was decided that wooden ceiling beams would give a certain sense of continuation to the theme that was developing. These beams, though not original to the house, definitely add a certain something and I was surprised to discover that they are not actually real wood but a clever imitation – albeit very cleverly done and are particularly effective in the Sitting Room. Here we find a comfortable combination of practical furnishing and a number of family heirlooms – making for a mix of modern and traditional pieces that work well together. For example, the wooden wall unit is oak and was designed by the owner and custom made locally whilst the neutral coloured leather sofa is from Fino. The rather majestic looking fireplace, however, is actually a piece of history in itself and was brought from the Old Empire building in Sliema whilst the oil painting that hangs in the corner has been in the family for generations. Just like the sofa all soft furnishings have been kept neutral and add to the gentle ambience of this room.

Across the hall we find the Dining Room, which, despite not being particularly large, allows for a clever combination of old and new to create an intimate dining atmosphere. The table is antique Rosewood whilst the display cabinet is something that was rescued and restored by the owner and now houses china and other items of interest. The mirror at the far end is not actually that old but perfectly complements the style of the other pieces giving this room a strong sense of old world comfort. However, I was once again to discover that this antique feel had in fact been intentionally created by Daniel by removing the plaster to expose the oldest part of the far wall and cladding the others in matching stone with the choice of light fittings and soft furnishings completing the look.

The Kitchen is located next to the sitting room and has an adjoining window that can be opened if so desired. Bought from Fino, its spacious style, distressed wooden doors and large open surfaces give it a distinct country feel that is further enhanced by the beamed ceilings. A marble topped dining suite holds centre stage for informal meals.

Across from the dining room the end of the hall opens onto a small enclosed yard containing plants and colourful Mediterranean ceramics that are also an attractive feature when lit up in the evening. Here the skylight ceiling makes for an abundance of natural light making this an ideal place for reading – especially in winter months where heat from the wood burner pervades the entire house and this area, with its eclectic mix of furniture, rugs and soft furnishings, is particularly cosy.

A spacious landing awaits us at the top of the stairs with beamed ceilings and stairs leading up to another floor. Here Danielle put a large circular mirror immediately above an antique chest of drawers. A large bronze of a polo player astride a horse and an antelope horn base lamp (that thankfully isn’t the real thing and was sourced locally) make a strong statement and give a good indication of the individualistic style of the owner of this house!

As I continue my observations it soon becomes apparent that the owners like antiques and where they have chosen modern furniture have opted for a solid and substantial style. The master bedroom is no exception and is large and well lit and more than able to accommodate the solid wooden furniture that was designed and custom made locally. The fact that Danielle retained the mosaic floor is again an important thread of creative continuity that links the past to the present of this house.

The ensuite was again a pleasant surprise as it has a simplistic but essentially Mediterranean feel to it. Daniela explained that the inspiration for this came from Greece where the dark blue against the white is a popular choice and is both stylish and timeless in its appeal. She also followed the Greek model of not tiling the room to the top of the wall, as is the trend at the moment in Malta, but of half way only. The paintings on the wall are also from the Greek islands. The blue border above again picks up on the contrasts of the floor colours and completes the look. The oval hydro bath and ceramics were all sourced locally.

The final room of interest was the child’s bedroom and encompasses everything that a young boy’s bedroom should be. The room has a pirate theme which is reflected in everything from the choice of bedding to the murals on the wall which I was told were sourced online. With practical pine furniture from Granny Smith that offers plenty of storage this is a room that will grow with the child and at present is a fun and colourful representation of the vivid imagination of childhood without an overabundance of computer toys and action figures.

In conclusion, I would describe this as a refreshingly unpretentious house that Daniela (with special thanks to painter/plasterer Liam Hamsworth) has cleverly brought together in all its essential elements. With its eclectic mix of furniture and clever combination of old and new it exudes its welcome as soon as you enter. As a perfect place to find peace at the end of a busy day and close the door on the world it is, in effect, a house that it is a pleasure to come home to!

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