Terena in Italian

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Terena le Roux has fearless entrepreneurial energy in business as well as in curating her own living spaces. The editor, owner and publisher of Ideas Magazine, one of South Africa’s most successful homes and interiors titles, recently focused her creativity on fulfilling her dream of owning a house in Europe. While it’s one thing to take on the difficulties of buying property abroad, there's an added layer or three of complexity when it also involves handling renovations in a foreign language; perhaps even more so when you’re a single woman. The house she lost her heart to is in a medieval village in the Apennine Mountains where Italy meets France above Sanremo on the Italian Riviera. Although she spent two weeks looking at properties and saw a total of 20 options all over Liguria - "the most houses I’ve ever viewed before buying” - the one she fell for was not on her list, nor was it on the market. She tells the story.

"When my son left home and both my dogs passed away, I decided it was time for myself; for doing all the things I’d never had time for. Publishing my magazine from home meant I could finally spread my wings and exchange the big family home for an apartment in Cape Town and a small place in Italy. It had to be an old place where I could appreciate its unique qualities while creating a liveable space with my stamp on it. These types of properties usually come with challenges, but they’re challenges I love. As a keen traveller I dreamed of having a home in Europe, close to all my favourite places. Being a bit of a Francophile the dream was always something in France, but six years ago I started learning Italian. I'd wanted to learn a language to keep my brain healthy and when a friend mentioned that Italian was an almost impossible language to learn, I took it as a challenge and so I came to learn Italian instead of French. Once immersed in the language and culture, Italy as a place to live became more attractive."

"I searched properties online for almost two years during Covid. When Italy re-opened to tourists I immediately booked a ticket and I already had my shortlist of 12 houses. This was the third house I viewed and was not on my list at all. We just happened to stroll past and the agent mentioned that it was not really on the market and needed a lot of work, but I might want to see it. As I walked into the sunny, light lounge area, I could literally feel my heart pounding faster. I just knew. But in the end it also came out tops on my Excel spreadsheet comparison. I still can’t believe I did a spreadsheet; I normally buy with my heart, but it just felt important to get this right."

"I normally look for properties with high ceilings and beautiful floors. These two elements give a home its atmosphere and both are either impossible or very costly to change. In Italy specifically, vaulted ceilings were the main feature on my tick-list. They are just gorgeous and so different to anything I could find in South Africa. Renovating in a strange language was a challenge. These days I confuse the other students in my conversational class with my construction vocab. Besides that, the biggest difficulty was probably the fact that I didn’t have a car so finding and transporting stuff on foot and by bus was not easy. It taught me to make friends and beg for favours more than I usually do."

"I wanted to keep the history of the place intact while making it uniquely mine. I always start with the style of the house and what looks right. Although I love open spaces, I think twice before randomly removing walls. Whatever you do must suit the house and actually improve it. As a case in point, previous work done on this property spoiled the gorgeous ceilings by adding a room that split the vault in two and hid more than half of the gorgeous ceiling shape. I removed the wall and even though I ended up with an enormous entrance hall, the vaulted ceiling can now shine. To refresh the tiles, I primed them with white floor paint, then stencilled patterns that resemble vintage Italian tiles."

“Since fashion is such an important aspect of Italian life - and because I wanted to keep an Italian feel without going all ‘pizza place’ with this interior - I had two huge fashion photo’s printed on fabric. Having worked as a fashion editor in a previous life, they reflect my taste, which I’d describe as an eclectic mix of French, shabby, vintage and just a touch of modernity. My taste remains the same but different spaces may influence the colour choices I make - soft pink velvet and gold, cream linen and wood or just white on white. It makes other decisions easier when I put together my mood board. Having said that, the decor often changes along the way as the house ‘speaks’ to me. In this house the floors needed to be in similar colours so as to not become a wild mishmash of colour and patterns. Both the rust and the dark green are colours I would never normally have chosen, but I repeatedly saw them on the beautiful vintage tiles in so many old Italian houses. That was enough colour for me. In order to keep the space calm, I opted to stay with white and wood for the rest. A clue that I’ve decorated a space is chandeliers on every ceiling and my own vintage curtains in front of every window. My favourite feature in the house now is the barrel vaulted ceiling, which is the first thing I see when I open my eyes in the morning, and the first thing that welcomes me home makes me smile every time I open the front door."

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