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"Create a special place that you can call your own ... a place wherein you can truly be yourself, surrounded by your things and by the people you love."


After a foray into high-rise apartments and penthouses, people are again becoming aware of the lasting charm that old Maltese farmhouses and houses of character can offer.  The thick walls and low arches, the texture and patina of exposed stonework and the simplicity of the architecture create an atmosphere that is unmistakable.[/vc_column_text]

Houses of character are usually referred to as “having potential”.  This term must be one of the most abused in the estate agent’s lexicon. The term “potential” usually denotes a property not so much alive with possibilities, as neglected beyond repair!   However, this little village house surrounding a courtyard was filled with natural light and had just enough rooms to be converted into a contemporary comfortable three bedroomed home.

When designing the concept for the interior, I wanted to create focal points that emphasised the natural light and blurred the distinction between the different floors, the interior and the exterior.  I wanted to retain the original façade, keeping it as authentic as possible, while thoroughly modernising the interior.

The architecture was my starting point. The house has a number of architectural features that we accentuated as well as beautiful stonework and an abundance of natural light.  By using the architecture of the house as a foil for modern decorative pieces, we created a strong contrast in surface quality and finish – old and new, smooth and rough, sleek and rustic, monochrome and punches of colour.

Old stripped stone walls, for example, make a tremendous background for a piece of highly polished furniture as their surface qualities are absolutely opposite: one tangled, rough and matt, the other sheer, reflective and pure. They speak immediately of contrast. Combinations of new and old work well together when there is some understated common link. In this case, it is the “honesty” of the materials, such as raw stonework and smooth white walls.  The principle of contrast works in this house because the architecture is so uncompromisingly old. As a result, some really minimal pieces of furniture – that make absolutely no concession to the room, provide a razor-sharp contrast.

I attempted to remove the traditional visual boundaries between the interior and the exterior – making the outside areas complementary to the inside, extending the living space and adding to the functionality of the home.  A stone tower was constructed in the courtyard to house a simple sculptural metal staircase that rises the full height of the house.   A small pool in the courtyard was designed to act as a “moat” around this tower, while small slits reminiscent of medieval watchtowers serve to illuminate the staircase.  The black interior of the pool was again selected to complement the monochromatic colour scheme of the interior.

Throughout the house, we provided glimpses or areas beyond the immediate space.  From the arched entrance hall, a long glass window allows a clear view of the courtyard pool.  A glass panel on the floor of the living room gives a subtle indication that there is a room below and a high level window allows a glimpse of the terrace above.

The fireplace is located in an old window between the living room and the courtyard, so that it can be enjoyed from both the inside and the outside of the house.  By creating focal points that lead the eye beyond the existing space, we have attempted to increase the visual space and to blur the distinction between the interior and the exterior.

White walls add contrast to the stone walls and again help to ”open up” the space. A simple colour palette of white, grey and yellow was used throughout the house and was chosen to complement the honey coloured stone.  Colour was also introduced in the Mondrian inspired skylights, windows and cushions.

A totally white kitchen – walls, table, chairs, cabinets, appliances and worktop create a light filled, open space that leads to the central courtyard.  A colour block skylight adds rainbows of colour on the worktop and around the walls.   The same colours are again reflected onto the spiral staircase through coloured window panes.

A low-slung heavily textured grey sofa, two patterned armchairs and bright yellow pouffs provide seating in the living room.   A narrow custom designed light fixture was fitted just below the ceiling slabs to illuminate the rough walls, while floor lights were positioned beneath the arches to create an interesting light effect.  The beautiful sparkling chandelier in the living room adds elegance to the interior and is centred directly above a floor glass panel, so that it also illuminates the cellar below.  Again, working with the concept of adding an extra dimension to the visual space.

The large doors to the courtyard were kept bare of any soft furnishings to allow the maximum amount of light to flood into the space.

The courtyard floor was decked all the way to the edge of the pool, while a stone staircase leading to the terrace was designed to allow light to create interesting shadows on the white walls.  The “barumbara” above the kitchen door was constructed to add authenticity to the architecture.

The cellar is used to store wine in custom built wine racks that line the rough-hewn walls.  The cool arched interior is the perfect chill out zone with a large television, comfortable loungers and a well-stocked bar.

The house features three bedrooms in the same colour palette of grey, yellow, black and white.  In the main bedroom, the furniture and carpet are custom made to our design and feature an upholstered bed, ottoman and console tables. The wood panelling conceals a large walk in wardrobe and ensuite bathroom.

Light is not an afterthought and it was given tremendous importance throughout the space with architectural fittings, complemented by table lamps, pendants and floor lights. Light enhances architectural detail, accentuates colour and reveals texture.  Light and shadow create moods and generate atmosphere.

It was an immense privilege to work on the interior of this house and I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the conversion.  At Kristine Bonnici Design, we realise the importance of creating cohesive interiors, looking at houses with a fresh eye and an open mind and seeing rooms as areas of potential to be sculpted around our clients needs.