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January 3, 2024 – Published in Design & Decor Autumn-Winter 2023 issue

An intimate glimpse inside a Maltese ancestral family home

Photography: Matthew Mirabelli

Positioned in the core of one of the Three Villages in central Malta, a centuries-old residence rests around a beautiful garden oasis, oozing a sense of inner peace and historic charm.

Built in the 1700s, it was originally a hunting lodge – and, in later years, a summer house – for the noble family who owned it. It accommodated a number of stables whose walls were decked with marble slabs gilded with gold – used to secure the horses, but which were, sadly, lost during renovations.

Although the same family has always owned the villa, there was a period of time when it was rented out for government use – until 1980 when it was reinstated to the family to be used as their dwelling. Intensive embellishments were required to install electricity and add proper doors and louvres, as well as designing and adding the individual rooms accordingly. 

The U-shaped property now includes a separate flatlet to one side, while the main building incorporates a welcoming hallway, with a drawing room to the left and a dining room on the other side. The latter leads into a cosy lounge, with a spacious kitchen further in. The four bedrooms upstairs were built into the existing roof space of the original bungalow. Both levels were then linked by a new staircase, with two bathrooms making up the rest of the rooms. The stables were converted into a sizeable garage.

The couple who lives here presently – one half of whom is a direct descendant of the original owners – are still carrying out considerable renovations, particularly in the upper floor where the bedrooms are situated. Nevertheless, the ground floor is a veritable treasure trove of vintage furniture, antique collectibles, and elegant décor.

The entrance hallway leading in from the front door and traditional antiporta, with beautiful motifs on the glass, houses an eye-catching octagonal table with rich floral patterns and a gilded tripod base. An intricate glass chandelier hovers majestically over the classical urn sitting on the centre of the table, framed by the towering door leading directly out into the garden. A wide mirror, an antique clock, and a striking tapestry adorn the walls on each side.

In the expansive drawing room, stunning frescos line the space between the deep red walls and the lofty beamed ceiling.

The colourful depictions by local artist and muralist, Damian Ebejer, took around nine months to complete and include the family’s coat of arms, various artistic recreations, and distinct elements and landmarks such as the Maltese Luzzu, the Taj Mahal, and the Pyramids. 

The room itself is a museum collection of antique dressers, armchairs, and tables, with several paintings in gilded frames and vintage wall brackets covering the walls.

An 18th-century secretaire made from ebony wood was used in olden times to hide personal treasures. It holds several small drawers decorated with hunting scenes carved out in ivory. A Maltese table sits among Louis XIV and Louis XV armchairs, while a 17th-century double bench conjures visions of women in their billowing period dresses perching on the edge of the narrow seat.

One unique piece is an invalid’s chair originating from the nearby Villa Francia, which was polished and restored by its new owner, while retaining the original upholstery on its adjustable arms. An ornate clock is wall-mounted over a wooden chess table with mother-of-pearl inlaid squares. A mahogany dresser – inherited from the owner’s mother – displays her favourite knick-knacks, among them a selection of exquisite hand fans, made from soft feathers, Belgian lace, or embroidered silk.

The dining room contains a Georgian mahogany dining table, which can seat 12 guests. Dressers and shelves around the room display vintage collections of tea and coffee sets, as well as a bone china Royal Crown Derby dinner set delicately designed with Pinxton Roses. Vibrant Maltese tiles add colour and tradition.

In the sitting area in the next room, a wooden chest of drawers lies adjacent to an 18th-century classical bureau, which opens up and can be used as a desk. In its internal shelf, an old pocket watch sits in a small frame, which used to serve as a holder for the watch when it was not being used by the man of the house. Several art pieces painted by old-time friends mingle with works by renowned painters on the walls of the lounge.

Stepping out into the secluded garden offers a welcome pause during your day.

A statue of the goddess of abundance welcomes you into the outdoor space. To one side, a comfortable lounging area with cushioned sofas and armchairs under a steel pergola extends an invitation to sit and contemplate the silence. To the other side, orange and lemon trees fill the area with lush foliage, with life-size statues and flowering plants dotting the surroundings. An unobtrusive stone pathway leads to a hidden gazebo, with a small table and chairs offering the ideal setting for an intimate outdoor meal.

Various handcrafted and colourful pots and planters, decorative plates, round tables, stools, and shelves – most of which extend the lemon and floral theme – were all obtained from Mediterranean Ceramics in Ta’ Qali. One of these patterned table tops sits atop the tree trunk of a palm tree – one of two original trees in the garden which could not be saved. The galvanised steel gazebos and pergolas, as well as the metal chairs and sun loungers, were also crafted at this local artisanal studio.

The pool area is interconnected to the main garden by a stone archway set in the walls stretching out underneath the upstairs open terrace. A door to the side leads into the capacious and well-equipped kitchen, which also includes a more informal indoor dining area. The homely room is brightly enhanced by the natural light filtering in through the windows. 

This incredible home is still a work in progress. Another feature describing the next stage of its renovations will be presented in a future issue of Design & Décor magazine.

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