Designed by:Nico van der Meulen
Location:Cannara, Italy
Residence Size:



This is a renovation of a 12th century watch tower, overlooking a wooded Umbrian valley, which was extended through the intervening centuries to create a dwelling.

Due to the sensitivity of both the position (within 700m from Roman ruins, and 10km from Assisi) and the age of the structure the approval process took nearly three years and very strict conditions were imposed by the authorities.

The only additions which were allowed was the link between the two old buildings and a new kitchen, lanai and pool.

This link is a contemporary, flat roof structure, partially under a glass roof.   A new steel clad staircase was inserted into this to create a link between the ground floor living areas and the first floor where the main suite, study and painter’s studio is situated.

The original building was used in the traditional way with the stables on the ground floor, food stock on the middle floor and the living quarters on the top floor.

At the start of the project a very bad renovation of the second floor by the previous owner had to be demolished and redone.   What was a two bedroom house became three guest suites, with their own outside staircase as it was not allowed to build an entrance hall to house an  internal staircase to connect all three floors.

The stonework was painstakingly restored inside and outside by removing the cement that was smeared over it in an attempt to make it earthquake proof.

The clay between the bricks were scraped out and replaced with a strong mortar and steel reinforcing and then the joints were redone with the traditional lime-based grout.

All the extra stone used was found on-site, and most of the other materials such as the timber beams, roof tiles, floor tiles, etc., was recycled materials, often hundreds of years old.

The interior is an eclectic mix of antique stonework with contemporary inserts of steel and wood.   The contemporary furniture was sourced from Italian manufacturers such as B&B Italia, Molteni & C, Ciacci Kreaty, to name a few.

The floors are resin, while off-shutter concrete and rough sawn hard wood was used for ceilings, offset by aged, recycled oak beams.   The doors were manufactured from recycled oak beams, with steel handles, while the window frames are also solid oak.

A modern steel fireplace was purpose built and the staircase and stairwell was clad in lacquered hot rolled steel by local craftsmen.   The same was also used in the guest toilet and main bathroom.   

A steel sculpture by Regardt van der Meulen, “Weathered”, graces the dining room.

The kitchen is directly connected to the lanai, with an adjoining raised reflecting pool.

An antique brick arch divides the new dressing room and main bathroom where a mix of high-tech fittings, black steel and recycled wood was used against the old stone walls.