Winter Sun: An Italian villa with dark interiors mixes dramatic style with country ambience

Casa Bramsole – which roughly translates to “longing for the sun” – is a villa that sits high above Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy. Once a dilapidated farm house, the ruin was transformed into a grand farmstead by a pair of Danish fashion photographers. The result is a mix of dramatic, cutting edge style and rustic sun-worn charm.

The villa is the romantic vision of fashion photographers Morten Bjarnhof and Lise Lotte, and it combines their photography background and a desire for a retreat in the Italian sun. The restoration took four years, as the farm house had been abandoned for decades and needed to be brought into the world again. Enlisting the help of local authorities, banks and craftsmen, a road was built and power lines and water pipes installed. They used traditional methods and craftsmanship, building upon the centuries-old foundations, crafting rough stone walls and floors of stone, brick and tiles.

Inside the villa, as many aspects of the original farm house were preserved as possible, including a round stone arch that leads to the kitchen and original fireplaces. The small windows and the thick walls keep the house cool under the hot sun, and cosy in the winter. The design duo made a feature of the building’s high stone walls, leaving them rough and largely exposed, simply plastered and painted white in parts with touches of tea patina.

Through the thick stone arch entranceway from the dining room is found an industrial steel kitchen of modern aesthetic. The house now accommodates up to eight people, with four large bedrooms, and spacious dining and living rooms, easily catered for in the industrial kitchen.

Throughout the interiors, the rooms evoke the feeling of a rustic and stately county manor. Black paint and furnishings add a dramatic edge, offset against rustic beamed ceilings, log fires and low lighting. Artworks and striking design pieces draw the rooms together with a heightened sense of style. Paintings by Morten Bjarnhof’s grandfather, Gunnar Wefring, add to the feeling of country home, alongside antique furniture, oriental kilims and cushions and stacks of books. The personal touches and character of the rooms creates a sense of intimacy, discovery and intrigue.

Despite the small original windows of the rooms, the bright sun pours into some rooms and reflects off the white walls. In others, directed lamps and statement lights make for delicate lighting. “I always try to keep the light as it is,” says Morten Bjarnhof of his work as a fashion photographer. “If I must use artificial light, I will make it look as if it fell through a door or a window. …add nothing and make a loyal account. Let your motive breathe, and give reality a chance to shine through.”

In the surrounding gardens, the designers’ consideration of space is handled as sensitively as inside the house. Fifteen cypress trees and a hedge surround the house. The outdoors pool beside the villa overlooks the vast waters of Lake Trasimeno, once again fusing the history and resonance of the location with the attributes of the sumptuous home.


This house is featured in Holiday Architecture: Selection 2017 by Jan Hamer and Christine Pfau, published by Urlaubs Architektur Imprint.

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Annabel Sheen

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