When Raffaele Vetrugno discovered an old masseria in Puglia, he set out to transform it into a nine-room private villa in the dream (and namesake) of his father, Antonio Augusto Vetrugno. The elder Vetrugno grew up in Italy but came to Belgium at the age of nine. He is also an owner of the property, designed by architect Valerie Van der Put, who helped define the spaces and polish the bones (travertine marble floors, walls of pietra lecesse, arched hallways and rib-vaulted ceilings).
When Van der Put’s work was finished, Raffaele remembers standing in the spaces, completely empty, save for the exquisite contours and materials.
"I then had the idea to bring Belgium and Holland designers to Italy because my father came to Belgium at nine years old, and brought a lot of influence from Italy," he says. "In return, I wanted to bring back some of the richness we had in our youth near Mastricht - and we know a lot of artists and designers. I also think Holland and Belgium are a little bit ahead for designer furniture."
In a monochromatic waiting point before the living room, a Kubrickian vibe is cast, with a circular foam leather bench and a 400 kilo XXL(amp) that Belgian architect Bart Lens designed for Eden (all the light fixtures in the masseria are by Eden). "It’s like a UFO, you can actually sit with your head inside of it, and you will hear things quite different," Raffaele says.
A Moorish influence takes shape in the bedrooms, an echo of the region’s history that has been settled by a mix of Greeks, Turks, Moors and Normans. The headboards were sketched by Raffaele and Van der Put, and given to local artisans to build. “There are a lot of Baroque and Byzantine churches in Lecce, and we took the shapes from them. We drew them and had artisans shape them by hand,” he says. In the suite, you’ll find “The Pope chair”, an idea that came from watching the television show “The New Pope”. Its extremely tall back was another idea that was crafted by local artisans from a sketch. "I want to send it to the Vatican," Raffaele jokes.
In the center of the living room is Casimir's Bowl n° 1 (his first piece ever) surrounded by four plastic Sam Son chairs by Konstantin Grcic for Magis. The design of the statue was done on Raffaele’s iPhone, and translated into a totem of Pietra Lecesse, burned by the sculptor Renzo Buttazzo in the style of shou sugi ban, where the Japanese char the wood to be almost black.
The kitchen island is flanked by three raven-black stools, made from tires by African children. Raffaele stayed in an ancient village in Tanzania once, and remembered them wearing slippers made of tires. When he saw the stools online, he felt a connection and snapped them up. "I once saw a quote that said 'Every room needs a touch of black, just as it needs at least one antique piece,' and it's a nice point," he says.
And then there's the silent room: the only room in the masseria with no Bang & Olufsun sound system. The four benches are made from the whole trunk segments of trees, remade, then hollowed out and both the logs and table were made by Casimir. "It's art, and it really represents Belgium," he says.
Other highlights include two chairs positioned at a round Casimir dining table, one by Maarten Baas (who recently had a summer exhibit at Moma), the other, a 3D-printed chair by Dirk van der Kooij) and outdoor furniture by Tribù.
Come see this amazing collection of furniture for yourself by booking a stay at Masseria Antonio Augusto here.