Working the Rooms
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.”
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