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April 24, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Spring 2015 issue

A subtle fusion of old and new indelibly combined together to create a truly unique home

Words: Andrea Christians 

Photographs: Alan Carville

A traditional unassuming façade is what one sees from the outside of this recently renovated family home that lies at the heart of one of Malta’s more traditional villages – But step inside and you’ll be surprised. The metamorphosis of this house from a dated residence to a modern abode is the work of architect Paul Scerri who has used his expertise to fully utilise the light and space available to maximum effect.

What we see before us is the culmination of more than two years of work to bring a 400-year-old property into the 21st century whilst retaining much of its essential character. When the current owners purchased the house they certainly had their work cut out as the layout was very different from what we see today. As a family with four young children achieving a sense of space was an important consideration. Entering through an arched entrance hall the eye is immediately drawn to a large airy courtyard that has been enclosed with a glass roof to create an atrium effect making it an intrinsic part of the inner core of the house. The result is an impressive one with this inner sanctuary now filled with natural light making it is the undoubted focal point of the entire house. However, despite being an impressive feat of modern engineering the connection with the past has been retained and many original features are still present such as the original well that is covered and up lit to create aesthetic interest. Other later additions include antique stone planters and a coat of arms above the doors that lead out to the garden and pool area together with a carved face mounted high on the inside interior wall. Overlooking balconies, although apparently original to the house, were also added during the renovation and serve to add yet more character to this already intriguing property. 

 The courtyard allows access to all the downstairs rooms and a large open plan kitchen dining and living room is found to the immediate left. Again considerable redesigning was required to create what we now see as the original lay out included a number of small rooms, a spiral staircase that was used to access the roof and a small enclosed yard. As this area was to be used as a main family room it was decided to keep things simple and the décor is modern and uncomplicated. The flooring throughout the ground floor is marble that was supplied by Hal Mann. The stainless steel appliances and kitchen and living room furniture was all sourced in Italy and make for a muted colour scheme that is easy on the eye. A sense of separation is effected by a clever use of the soffit ceilings that help define the different areas of the room. Two steps lead up to a former work shop that has been incorporated into this modern living space to create a children’s’ play area. 

Crossing to the far side of the enclosed courtyard one finds a formal sitting room and dining room. In doing so one cannot fail to notice the suit of armour in the courtyard and in these rooms the owners love for antiques once again becomes apparent with traditional style furniture including a large dining table and a collection of oil painting on the walls. Again, a great deal of planning and redesigning was necessary to create the effect that we now see as this area was also a number of small room with different doorways that have been removed and rebuilt to appear as one. The stone arches in the dining area are a later addition constructed to give continuity in style to those of the rear sitting room that was originally a small enclosed study. Another structural change are the French doors that overlook the pool allowing plenty of natural light into the room where originally there was only a small window aperture looking out over the garden. 

Apart from the ground floor another large undertaking was to redesign and rebuild the upper floor to incorporate three bedrooms, a spacious landing and an enclosed terrace – which was no easy task as at the time of purchase it consisted of a confusion of indented rooms that were removed and rebuilt to create a layout more conducive to modern family living. The third bedroom was added during this process and is accessed by the stone balcony mentioned earlier. The ensuing rebuild resulted in a larger landing whilst the glass panels create a further sense of space whilst allowing for an unobstructed view down to the open plan kitchen and living area below through a floor to ceiling internal window which is of particular use when having to keep an eye on young children! The spiral stone staircase was also relocated and painstakingly reconstructed allowing access to the roof from the landing.

The Master bedroom is spacious and minimalistic with mostly modern furniture complemented by the occasional antique feature – in this case an antique wooden wardrobe. Again the colour scheme is restful whilst the parquet flooring creates a warmer look. A shuttered doorway leads to a further terrace from where it is possible to get an interesting over view of the house below.

 The ensuite has a monochromatic effect of black and white marble again from Hall mann. Stainless steel fittings, white ceramics, matching circular marble wash basins set atop a floating marble base have a cohesive style. The black marble backdrop on the wall behind the shower complete the simple and retro look that characterise this bathroom. 

When the owners came to view the house in its original state one of the things that they liked was that it not only had a large courtyard but also a good sized garden as it was unusual to find both in a house located at the heart of a village. Originally given over almost entirely to fruit trees the garden now also features a sizeable overflow pool with a Hal Mann marble surround and deck area and a shower room at the far end.

 In conclusion, it would appear that well executed and bold design decisions made by Paul Scerri and his team have really succeeded in optimizing the potential of this house to create a truly unique stylish home that incorporate the best of modern influences with old style charm!

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