Dmitry Kulish speaks enthusiastically about the first time he visited Villa Capponi four years ago—a former palace on the edge of Florence, Italy, with 24 acres of land, beautiful frescos and an adjoining church.
“It was a really amazing experience for me,” said Mr. Kulish, a Russian-born architect and designer who lives in Florence. “I was so impressed by its architecture, design and history.”
For Mr. Kulish, the property has since turned into a labor of love.
Villa Capponi, built in the 14th and 15th centuries, had been owned by an order of nuns from the convent of San Domenico del Maglio in Florence since the 1930s, when it was given as a gift by the previous owner.
Only two nuns were living in the property when Mr. Kulish first visited the house in 2013 (originally there were 40), and they were struggling with the upkeep of the property. Mr. Kulish made an offer to buy the property that year and it was accepted. Spokespeople for him declined to say how much he paid for the property.
Mr. Kulish decided that the only way to make the restoration and the running of the estate commercially viable was to convert it into apartments. He set up a company for the project and began applying for planning permission to restore the nationally protected historic property. The development company, known as Villa Antica SrL, received final planning consent for internal alterations earlier this year.
Today, 14 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are being created within the original footprint of the villa, and each property has views over the estate’s formal gardens and the surrounding Florentine hills.
All the homes will have restored original features, such as vaulted ceilings and frescos, along with modern-day fittings including Toncelli Cucine kitchens and home automation systems, according to the developer.
The apartments, which are due to launch onto the market in January, are named after important people in the property’s history. The two-bedroom show apartment, for example, has been given the name Jacopo Chiavistelli after the artist who created the full-length trompe l’oeil fresco on an adjoining church’s exterior walls in the 17th century.
One-bedroom apartments will cost between €500,000 and €530,000 (US$588,000 and US$623,000); two-bedroom apartments cost between €900,000 and €1.5 million (US$1.060 million and US$1.763 million); and three-bedroom apartments cost between €1.8 million and €2.05 million (US$2.117 million and US$2.41 million).
The largest homes in the development have yet to be priced.
A grand and historic past
Grand and historic, Villa Capponi is no ordinary house; symmetrical graffito patterns adorn its cream plaster elevations, it has formal Italian and English gardens that feature grand fountains, as well as acres of olive groves and vineyards, according to the developer.
Inside, it has frescoed ceilings featuring frolicking cherubs, stately passageways and sweeping stone staircases. However, years of neglect had left the property in a poor state: the gardens and agricultural land were overgrown and the house was in dire need of restoration. Since Mr. Kulish fell in love with the place, he was determined to rescue it from dilapidation.
“I immediately saw it would be a magnificent place [once restored],” he said.
The house is named after a prestigious and aristocratic family who acquired the property during the late 18th century. The Capponis hark back to the era of the Renaissance when the Medici family controlled the city of Florence.
First known as merchants then as nobleman and, finally, as patrons of the arts, the Capponis made the biggest mark on the property. They amended the villa’s layout, expanded the gardens and commissioned many of its defining decorative features, including the graffito facades. The family’s black-and-white stone coats of arms also feature in the property’s grand reception rooms.
A return to grandeur
Today, the grandest apartment being built is positioned on the piano nobile, the principal room in the house, located on the ground floor. Featuring an impressive array of original features, it has frescos on the ceiling, stone sculptures of the nobility who once lived in the house, and a stained glass window with a Latin inscription. The 2,970-square-foot apartment, which have not yet been priced, will include two bedrooms, three reception rooms and will open onto the rose bush-filled communal formal gardens.
The once-crumbling exterior of the house is now restored, as are the rose-filled formal gardens. The gardens feature limestone busts purchased by the developer after he discovered from old photographs that there used to be sculptures in the grounds, according to Marguerite Krikhaar, the owner’s representative at Villa Capponi.
Designed to be lived in year-round and as an occasional bolt hole, the estate will include a residents’ club, located in one of the villa’s reception rooms, a pop-up restaurant, which serves produce from the villa’s vineyards, orchard and gardens, a children’s play area, parking and storage, concierge service for the properties and state-of-the-art security, according to the developer.
An on-site gym and private trails that wind through the estate, which are ideal for cycling and running, are included. There is also an al fresco yoga platform, as well as a meditation zone, star-gazing platform, along with two outdoor swimming pools, a modern heated pool and a traditional grotto for bathing and wading.
Bordering the city of Florence on one side and open countryside on the other, the estate is in a tranquil, rural spot.
“A great aspect of the estate is that it is so quiet you can hear birdsong,” Ms. Krikhaar said “It’s a great place to get away from it all.”
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