Working the Rooms

  • Photo by Philip Vile
    Tabaccaia Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    Tabaccaia Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    Tabaccaia Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    Tabaccaia Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    The 3,000-acre estate, named for its castle, features 50 ancient farmhouses. Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    Bolza’s white 1956 Fiat 600, another of his restoration projects, parks in the building. Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    Farmhouse ruins at Castello di Reschio range in age from 500 to 1,000 years old. Often they are entirely rebuilt. Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    For the rebuilt Spinaltermine, completed in 2009, the chimney “wasn’t there, but it looks very authentic,” says Bolza, explaining how he draws inspiration from local architecture. Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    He was less involved with Belvedere, a six-bedroom, 7,100-square-foot home from 1997, but it is dear to him nonetheless—he met his mural-painter wife on the project. Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    Belvedere Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    Belvedere Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
    The living room of Bolza’s Castello di Reschio home contains pieces of his making. Before a portrait of his wife sits his Etruscan window seat, one of the pieces in his new furniture line. Photo by Philip Vile
  • Bolza had considerable freedom to shape the five-bedroom, 7,900-square-foot Palazzo because little was known of it beyond its name, which was handed down from history, and its footprint.
  • The breathtaking landscape inspired the sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green to new heights.
  • Bolza gave the Palazzo three stories and a sleek lounge area.
  • The redesign of the Palazzo home incorporates a sitting room with custom-painted silver leaf wallpaper from de Gournay.
  • The redesign of the Palazzo home also incorporates a dining room that showcases Bolza’s elegant tables with cast bronze tops.
  • Bolza’s furniture line includes lamps made from reclaimed heaters ($4,000).
  • Bolza’s furniture line includes the Etruscan window seat ($7,600).
  • Bolza’s furniture line includes the Corsini recliner ($3,000).
  • Bolza’s furniture line includes the campaign bed ($7,500).
  • Everything is made at the estate, in artisanal workshops within the Tabaccaia.
  • Noci, a three-bedroom, 4,200-square-foot home that Bolza finished in 2002, has a pool with a glorious view of the castle across the valley.
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
  • Photo by Philip Vile
<< Back to Home & Style, September 2014
  • Sheila Gibson Stoodley

An exclusive community’s design mastermind lives in his own artfully rendered world. 

Le Corbusier, the 20th-century architect and trailblazer of modernism, famously said, “A house is a machine for living in.” Castello di Reschio, a 3,000-acre private community in the central Italian region of Umbria, has given Benedikt Bolza an education Le Corbusier never enjoyed. Since 1999, Bolza, who earned his degree in architecture from the University of Westminster, London, has been restoring Castello di Reschio’s centuries-old farmhouses (many of them ruins) and responding to their owners’ needs after he has transformed the dwellings into machines for living in. Unlike most architects, who rarely revisit their creations, the 40-year-old Bolza sees more than 20 of his, week after week, year after year, while residing on the estate in a home of his own making. “I live with all the projects we’ve done every day,” he says. “It gives real insight into how the clients use the designs.”

Those who purchase a home at Castello di Reschio also purchase the services of Bolza and a team of 120 who turn historic remnants into structures gorgeously livable. (To start, there were 50 ruins on the grounds; about half have been restored to date.) The estate’s management staff handles housekeeping matters and similar tasks, such as arranging to rent homes when their owners are away (see “Life at Castello di Reschio"). “It’s not a club. There are no club fees, and there’s no fractional ownership,” Bolza says. “We sell the land and the property, and we only sell if you do the entire project through us, including the furniture.” 

Those furnishings are Bolza’s brainchildren too. Crafting the decor for his own home on-site, from 2009 to 2011, helped lead him to another venture, the recently launched B.B. for Reschio line of furniture and lighting designs. Items in the series include a campaign bed based on those favored by British army officials of old who accepted posts in India and Africa, and the Corsini recliner, modeled after an abandoned 1920s-era piece found in the palazzo of Bolza’s parents-in-law. Many of the B.B. designs are based on bespoke items he has created for Castello di Reschio homes and clients, a sideline that ramped up after he designed his home. “I haven’t changed them,” he says of the pieces, several of which were custom-built for rooms and spaces on the estate. Bolza imagines that the more idiosyncratic confections might have trouble finding a wider catalog audience, and he is at peace with this possibility. “Some will be too quirky, and some will be too niche,” he says. “But some will be successful.” 

Bolza’s success is a story that begins with his parents, Count Antonio and his wife, Countess Angelika, in 1984, when they bought their first property in Umbria. Benedikt was 10 at the time, and he recalls that only a few eccentric Brits shared the area with him and his family. “In the 1980s, Umbria was not really on the map,” Bolza says. “It was a great surprise to them [his parents] how untouched and beautiful it was.” As a boy, the Hungarian-born Antonio fled his country in the wake of World War II, and years later, he and his Austrian-born wife sought a place where they and their five children (Benedikt is the middle child and second son) could put down roots. “They came purely because they wanted a holiday house,” he says. His parents’ bolder move came later, in 1994, when Benedikt was studying in England. They purchased Castello di Reschio, seated on 2,200 Umbrian acres (a subsequent acquisition increased the parcel to its current size). “My parents never saw buying the estate as a cold investment. They wanted to re-create a family center. They wanted to have land again.” 

(Continues on next page...)

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