A Villa f or t h e AGES writ ten By Ly DiA DiSHMAn PHOtOS By tJ Ge t z
Villa. The very word inspires thoughts of generous rooms aglow with the light of a Tuscan sun and perfumed with the fragrance of fruits and herbs. Indeed, in 14th-century Italy, villas offered respite for city dwellers, country homes designed for families to experience seasonal pleasures yet located within easy distance of a city. And so it is with a certain house in the Upstate infused with the spirit of the Italian Renaissance and inspired by its architecture, yet
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thoroughly rooted in the 21st century. Gus Fernandez-Rubio skips up the wide brick steps to the massive wooden double doors that mark the entry to the modern-day villa. As president of Gabriel Builders, he oversaw the construction of this 7,000-square-foot stucco manse crowned in Mediterranean terracotta and located to one side of an expansive stretch of rolling acreage. Stepping into the great room, he joins his wife Belinda.
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The villa’s magnificent entrance welcomes weary travelers at twilight.
The two are standing in as tour guides today in the homeowners’ absence, and are thrilled to offer insight into a multi-year project that became a labor of love for them both. Gus notes that the home took architect Mark Schwerthoffer four years to design in collaboration with the exacting standards of the owners. “That was just the beginning. It took three years to build,” he chuckles, and immediately points to the walls. At once creamy and cool, the 12-inch-thick walls’
plaster finish alone took an entire year to install just right. “That’s because there are so few people who know how to do that work anymore,” says Gus, adding that the double height of the ceilings made the plastering that much more challenging, as did the homeowners’ request to eschew any use of caulk. But rather than dwell on the toil, Belinda chimes in with a mention of the authenticity of the design and construction. � 92 � The Rubios had just returned from an Italian spring 2010 | 91
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top, LEFT: One of the imported bronze and Italian glass doors opens to a loggia thatâ€™s flanked by stately columns and open to the air. LEFT: A farmhouse sink and table in the expansive hall outside the kitchen serve as a potting area for tender transplants to the garden. ABOVE: Mahogany coffers adorn the 18-foot ceiling in the great room.
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sojourn before embarking on this project and were eager to employ exacting Old World methods throughout the home. Gus points out that while Gabriel Builders is no stranger to upscale construction, the company had never tackled anything quite like this, and it didn’t end with the plaster. “Every door and window in this house is made of imported Italian bronze and glass,” says Gus, gesturing toward the nearest one with an encouraging smile. The gracefully arching door belies the strength of its materials, but laying a palm on the handle and pushing confirms that it takes
much more than a gentle nudge to open it. “It’s about 700 pounds,” says Gus. Piece by piece, the great room yields its finely crafted treasures. At either end are massive marble fireplaces; above, a mahogany coffered ceiling hung with light fixtures that would be equally at home in a medieval chancery; underfoot are glistening limestone tiles; and throughout are exquisitely upholstered slipper chairs and sofas. It is hard not to linger, but the Rubios are already leading the way through to the kitchen. � 94 �
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smooth butcher block and the dark sparkle of granite complement the kitchenâ€™s sand and sage color scheme. RIGHT: The butlerâ€™s pantry features custom Smallbone cabinetry with a handrubbed finish.
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The master bathroom is a masterful interpretation of classical Italian architecture with its soaring vaulted ceiling and arched doorways.
Here, too, are echoes of the past. The floor in this room originated in a French castle, and evidence of its age are the slight unevenness marking the passing of many feet and the indelible prints of paws here and there. Smallbone cabinets in the pantry are carefully and subtly distressed, while those in the main room were hand-carved antique reproductions crafted by Bill Walker. Further on, a potting room features a deep farm sink and wood table suggesting yet again the pleasures of the planting season to come. The same hall opens alternately into a wine room, another bathroom (this one customized to accommodate the homeowners’ lively four-legged companion) and the garage, each bearing unique marks of fine craftsmanship in the details. Each room is more breathtaking than the last, as a step into the study proves. Here the homeowners’ passion for travel and the thrill of the hunt adorn nearly every available space. All manner of antlered creature cast their serene gazes from the walls, a turkey stands proudly in the corner and pheasant feathers stand up in a decorative stein. The theme carries over to the master bedroom, where a thick bearskin rug is set at the foot of the bed and photos of the couple on their travels perch on nearby shelves. By contrast, the two guest bedrooms with their own baths, as well as the powder room,
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The mighty hunterâ€™s prey from safaris around the world coexist with lovingly collected global artifacts showcased in the study.
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RIGHT: An allĂŠe of trees in the rear of the house punctuates the formal garden. BELOW: The dining area is thoughtfully situated to catch the breezes from the open windows and to provide a glimpse of a portion of the 200+ acre property.
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are decidedly feminine. Villeroy & Boch sinks, delicately embroidered linens and gently draped window treatments soften the spaces. Though small, the powder room boasts a groin ceiling like some of the others and is decorated with gold fixtures and plaster corbels that support a collection of milky opal glass figurines.
the spaces closest to the house and look out to a rectangular pool surrounded by
Gus and Belinda lead the way outside through one of the dining room’s many sets of bronze and glass double doors. The rear patio and yard of the house is just as carefully designed and constructed as anything within.
old homes he toured in Umbria. They too,
Gas lamps, limestone columns, wooden overhangs and silky polished pavers adorn
he says. “This is so authentic. It already
classically formal landscaping in the style of the gardens of Italy. Gus steps out beyond the pool and looks back at the house thoughtfully for a moment before speaking. “European houses were built to last,” he says, recalling the 300-yearhe explains, have minimal architectural details such as the crown moldings so often incorporated into American architecture. Though it appears to be simple and functional it has its own enduring beauty, looks as if it is 200 years old.”
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As twilight deepens, special lighting effects in the pool make it appear that starlight is reflected in the still water. 100 | at home
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