This rustic Italian chapel house is a masterclass in restoration and modern Mediterranean style

This baroque palazzotto has been revived sensitively with earthy neutrals, minimalist decor and restored antiques

three images of puglian house tour
(Image credit: SALVA LÓPEZ)

We wanted to create a home that makes you feel like taking off your shoes,’ says Andrew Trotter, owner of this 17th-century baroque building. Located in the Apulian town of Soleto in Italy, it had lain untouched for 20 years. Then Andrew, a self-confessed house design restoration addict, spotted it and decided to revive it, along with his long-time friend and associate Marcelo Martínez. 

living area in puglian house in neutral colors

Walls in Pierre lime plaster, Domingue Architectural Finishes.Wall lights, Charlotte Perriand for Nemo Lighting. Sofa, Blasco.

(Image credit: SALVA LÓPEZ)

With a background in magazine editing and interior design, British-born Andrew of Studio Andrew Trotter, and Spanish-born Marcelo bring a uniquely Mediterranean style to their projects, born from an eye for seeing the beauty in everything. So when it came to restoring their own Italian escape, the key was to conceive schemes that looked as though they had always been there.

kitchen in neutral minimalist style in puglia house

Original restored cabinetry and terrazzo flooring. Pendant light, Zangra

(Image credit: SALVA LÓPEZ)

‘When we first saw the house, it seemed that time had stood still,’ says Marcelo. ‘There was furniture, books, and photos from previous occupants left untouched, lending the place an air of nostalgia. The rooms featured domed ceilings and simple but striking architectural details.

We wanted to bring all that back, with a touch of modernity to create an old meets new, transitional style, but in the least obvious way.’ Alongside a decorative frontage, a courtyard, and a garden, the building (referred to as a ‘palazzotto’ to indicate its modest scale) also featured its own chapel at the rear and a newer chapel to the front, probably a later addition for a wealthy former inhabitant. But the layout was something of a labyrinth.

kitchen in puglian house in neutral colors

Original restored cabinetry and terrazzo flooring. Range cooker, Ilve.

(Image credit: SALVA LÓPEZ)

Bedrooms, accessed via an external staircase in the courtyard, were served by just one bathroom. But the pair did not seek to rationalize the footprint too much. They swapped the dining and sitting rooms, carved out space for a couple of cloakrooms, turned the chapel into a media room, and reworked the first floor to allow for a bathroom for every bedroom.

stone bathroom sink in puglia house

Walls in Brique lime plaster, Domingue Architectural Finishes. Custom-made concrete basin, Arte Ippolito. Tapware, Valadares.

(Image credit: SALVA LÓPEZ)

The external staircase remains and the 1960s kitchen was retained. ‘If it feels like Nonna’s house has been given a gentle nudge towards 21st-century living, so much the better,’ says Andrew. ‘We wanted to retain that patina and age.’

In honor of that ethos, earthy neutrals pervade in the form of colors ranging from mushroom to forest green, sage or stone linens, walnut furniture, and sandy jute rugs. Texture is vital. Finished in chalky Belgian lime plaster, the walls give off an almost monastic air.

Bedroom in minimalist neutral style

The bedside lamp is vintage. Mesa rug in Natural, Armadillo. Bed linen, Midnatt.

(Image credit: SALVA LÓPEZ)

The pair sourced antique pieces including an 18th-century walnut dining table from a monastery in Abruzzo and a 19th-century red wardrobe from Lombardy. However, many treasures were unearthed in the house, such as the wood kitchen table, wrought-iron single bed, and glass-fronted antique bookcase.

Interior doors were restored and exterior doors were faithfully reproduced. ‘When you come from a country as rich in history as Italy, sometimes it’s easy to overlook its beauty,’ suggests Marcelo of their decision to restore terrazzo floors and repair rusty metal furniture. ‘The benefit of a fresh pair of eyes is seeing everyday objects in a new perspective. That enabled us to save pieces that others might have discarded.’

bathroom in neutral minimalist style

The cast-iron claw-foot bath is antique. Lucine Nook circular rug in Natural, Armadillo. Fittings, Valadares.

(Image credit: SALVA LÓPEZ)

And what do the locals think of the restoration? ‘There is some curiosity,’ smiles Marcelo. ‘We do get stopped in the supermarket and asked questions, while the local priest and the mayor have been around'.

He continues 'That’s what we love: this is a true Italian town. When we are at home, we can hear the neighbors’ TV from the garden, the church bells ringing and the lady cooking next door. You know you are in Italy. And we wouldn’t swap that for the world.’

Sun deck and pool in house in puglia

(Image credit: SALVA LÓPEZ)

Meet the designers

Andrew Trotter and Marcelo Martínez share their style inspiration

What one small change has the greatest impact?

Mellow lime washes or plasters can completely change the atmosphere of a space.

What's your go-to decorative detail?

Natural stone for flooring, sinks, and worktops.

Where do you find inspiration?

The concept of a Mediterranean lifestyle is a source of inspiration when we approach a new project: it’s all about outdoor living and cooking as a communal activity.

Describe your style in three words.

Simple, clean, textured.

Finish the sentence, 'We know we're creative because...'

We need to be surrounded by interesting, inspiring, and beautiful objects and people in order to feel at peace.

What do you love most about Italy?

Its traditions, gastronomy, architecture, and people are endlessly fascinating