By Nina Campbell
Large spaces can be grand, dramatic and versatile but they can also lack warmth and intimacy. Carefully selected furnishings and well-planned placement can fix this.
This appealing Italian farmhouse in the Tuscan hills near Pistoia comes with a cavernous 10th-century church which, subject to deconsecration, presents a wonderful blank canvas for creating a rich and inviting space. The property is on the market for €950,000.
Create seating areas
To immediately bring a more intimate feel to this space, I would create several different, small seating areas that would either work as cosy places when fewer people are in the room or that work together for larger gatherings. If the room allows, which this one certainly would, try to have three or four such spaces. The upholstery you choose should be “large enough” for the room: a grand room may struggle with off the shelf seating so I would suggest bespoke pieces from Howard and Sons. When it comes to sofas, spend as much as you can afford — as the saying goes, “buy well, buy once”. This 19th-century Wimborne sofa by the brand is available from 1stDibs, priced at £20,950. Beaumont and Fletcher is another good choice.
Dampen sound with rugs
Noise can be a problem in a vast room such as this, making you feel like you are rattling around in an echoey space. Rugs are a great way to absorb sound and to make the room cosier. To tone down the grandeur and give the room a more contemporary feel without losing the look completely, I would consider beautiful, high-quality coconut matting from Tim Page Carpets. I would then have the rugs bound in contrasting colours for a more finished look. A room of this size could accommodate several rugs. Depending on the number of seating areas, I would suggest Maui, Seagrass Panama or Fish (pictured, £171.60 per sq m) from Tim Page’s naturals collection.
Keep curtains simple
Curtains are another way of absorbing sound, as well as providing warmth during dark, cold winter months. Take care not to overcrowd the room with curtains that are hugely printed or fussy. In a room of this size I would choose a plain fabric: either a super luxurious wool (which hangs beautifully) or a heavy linen in solid colours so you don’t have too much “action” going on. I would go to Claremont for wool or for wonderful linens, Pierre Frey or C & C Milano. The latter’s Mandolino range (pictured) is available at a width of 335cm in 25 colourways and costs £75 per metre. If the rest of the room is quite simple, you could put a trim round the curtains’ edge.
Think hand-waving chandeliers
It sounds obvious but getting the lighting right is critical in a huge room like this. You want to bring it up to date while remaining classic, using different arrangements of lighting. In this room — or any large room with a very high ceiling — I would have oversized chandeliers hung low, but of course leaving enough room for the tallest person to wave their hands in the air. Here, I would buy antique chandeliers from Carlton Davidson. It has a huge selection of wonderful pieces, including (pictured left to right) a 1950s English 16-arm painted chandelier (£3,900), a 1920s Venetian six-arm fitting with leaves and flowers (£3,420), and an eight-arm Italian gilded piece (£3,540). As well as hanging lights I would have huge round tables covered with photographs, books and large lamps to create more ambient lighting.
Go large on furniture
In such a large room you need furniture of different heights, including taller pieces and generally oversized pieces. A sizeable table would be fabulous bedecked with accessories such as a large Belles Rives scallop tray by Rita Konig, £375 from The Lacquer Company and available in various glossy colours. These could be laid up invitingly with masses of colourful glasses and every bottle you can imagine ready to make cocktails. Nothing makes a large room feel cosy like a huge, fabulous party!
Photography: Sylvie Cogranne; Italy Sotheby’s International Realty