PUBLISHED AS: Noble Pursuit
Text: Joann Greco
Photography: Nathan Kirkman
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: AUGUST+SEPTEMBER 2008
Villa La Cassinella isn’t just another Old World, postcard-perfect estate ready for the tourist’s lens. Instead, its service and style are the pinnacles of aristocratic luxury, and exceed even the highest-rated European hotels. This is a resort designed for catering to the whims and fancies of a new generation of international royalty.
Just beyond the threshold of La Cassinella’s collection of priceless 15th- and 16th-century doors is a world of splendid finery in a setting meticulously crafted by British designer Maggie Austin. She attained the perfect juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary style, taking her cues from the villa’s noble surroundings and imparting a sense of excellence to even the humblest of details. “This house is about the comfortable feel of summer and the connection to the water and the garden,” says Austin. A palette of moss greens and daffodil yellows for the chairs, sofas and drapes in the drawing room, for example, pulls inspiration from the house’s extensive grounds. The bedrooms, on the other hand, turn to the lake. “I sat for hours and hours, just looking through fabrics,” muses Austin. “In the master bedroom, for instance, the curtains even feel like water, and they’re the color of the pale blue lake. You look through them right out to the water, they don’t stop your eye. I found the fabric first, and everything else evolved from it.”
Austin’s painstaking, three-year labor of love began when the current owners commissioned her to undertake the complete renovation after they purchased it from Giacomo Mantegazza, whose family owned it for 50 years. Now in his 70s, the son of Carlo Mantegazza, the architect who started maintaining the villa in 1926, has been true to his provenance, dedicating himself to restoring many of the lakeside homes, including the Heinz family’s legendary Villa Oleandra, purchased by George Clooney in 2002. “Most of the villas on the lake have been in the same family for years, and they live on the laurels of their frescoes and such,” Austin continues. “This renovation was about moving beyond Old World European grandeur and attempting a boutique-hotel feel.”