Villa Lena is constantly evolving, not only due to the transiency of resident artist’s making their stamp within and around the hotel, but due to the renovations overseen by Designer, Fred Rigby. Once an Artist-in-Resident himself, he later returned to build Villa Lena into a completely energy-sustainable building, with clever designs sympathetic to the Tuscan countryside, as well as pleasing the eye of Villa Lena’s creative cliental. Joining us at the Villa, he guided us around the grounds pointing out the areas he was responsible for working on (San Michele building, the pool area, the yoga deck to name a few), stopping to chat amiably in broken Italian to local craftsmen who helped him achieve his designs, telling us about his own stay at Villa Lena and the interesting people he has met, as well his love for local flea markets and Italian gelato.
When/how did you start to work at Villa Lena and what attracted you to the project?
I was a resident on the art foundation in 2015, and since then Lena, the owner, has invited me back to design and create spaces around the grounds of Villa Lena. The whole ethos behind the project is amazing, hotel guests mix with creative residents from around the world, which creates a truly unique and very special place, how could I say no!
What areas of Villa Lena have you worked on?
After the foundation, Lena, the owner, invited me back to design a yoga platform/deck, which was built that winter. We then discussed future projects and started work on redesigning the interior of San Michele, a building at the heart of Villa Lena which is used as a restaurant for the hotel. Construction started in January 2017 and was completed ready for the hotel opening that year in Spring. Most recently I designed the main hotel pool area, which included re-landscaping the area and creating new structures
What was your inspiration when designing for VL?
The surrounding area! It's set in the most beautiful landscape back set with the rolling hills of Tuscany, with every shade of green you can imagine, as well as the sunsets and sunrises which produce insane pinks and blues, all of which inspired the Villa Lena palette.
What are your thoughts on Sustainability and how did you incorporate these into the design and building at VL?
I think good design is sustainable design, it’s impossible to create a truly sustainable space just through the logistics of sourcing all the elements involved, however we used local materials, suppliers, and fabricators, as much as possible, as well as sourcing various furniture from local markets and reclaimed timber, and hopefully created a space which will last for years to come. We also installed Solar Panels for producing electricity and Air Sourced Heating, which is the start to Villa Lena become off grid. Most recently we harvested bamboo from a forest in the grounds of the Villa which we then dried through the winter and then used as a roofing material for the new structures around the pool.
Where do you source your materials? Do you use local artisans, for example?
The majority of materials were sourced from local suppliers, it’s been a kind of treasure hunt, trying to find the right person or material for a particular job within the local area, my Italian is terrible but through drawing, charades and google translate (!) I've managed to find some wonderful people who have helped to realise my designs
Did you find any inspiration from other Artist's staying at VL?
Of course! There's always so many interesting people staying at VL, whether it is the guests, artists or staff. We've also displayed art created by ex-residents around the hotel and it's always brilliant to add these final pieces of the puzzle to the walls.
Are there any other developments planned for VL? If so, can you tell us a little about them?
Villa Lena is a continually developing project, there's so much scope as there are areas and buildings on the property which are still undeveloped, so when people come back to visit they will find new and improved areas
What other projects are you working on and will you maintain a sustainable approach throughout your projects?
I have various projects on the go, we've just completed the interior of a store on Monmouth Street called The Basics Store, where we used only sustainable plywood. I've also designed a collection of office furniture, called Kontor Desk, which is made from responsibly sourced timber. Sustainability is always something we should try to implement as much as possible and I'll strive to do as much as we can.
Interview by Jade McSorley
Read our Travel & Stay with the TWENTY6 Team at Villa Lena
Travel through Tuscany with the TWENTY6 Team