Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ahh Sweet Italy!!


Back from a fabulous trip with lots of inspiration and a bit of travel info to share!

Villa Cimbrone

The Almafi Coast was spectacular and a favorite excursion was to the lovely hilltop village of Ravello. We had an extraordinary time exploring the two main villas in town, Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone. (above)

Villa Cimbrone Infintiy

As you can see the gardens and the views were breathtaking!

Rome Forum

First, I want to let you know that I have been to Rome three times. Above is a photo of Ancient Roman Forum. The history is overwhelming - so this trip we decided to finally hire a private guide to take us around. What a difference a guide makes!! We all learned so much and really the cost was very reasonable. David Lown is an art historian and he was fabulous! If you are heading to Rome this summer do contact him HERE and enjoy learning all about this fabulous city.

Uffico Scavi

The greatest highlight of our trip to Rome was our excursion 35 feet UNDER St. Peter’s Basilica called “The Ufficio Scavi Tour” (Tour by Office of Excavations). Only a lucky 120 people are taken down each day, an incredible privilege, as St. Peters has over 20,000 visitors per day! We were taken down in small groups of 12, two levels below St. Peter’s to what was Vatican Hill over 1900 years ago. We saw St. Peters final resting place (and bones) as well as the tombs of the previous Popes. I could go on and on but click this link HERE to learn more and the link HERE to make a request for a tour. You will not be disappointed!!


A special area of Rome which enchanted us was the Villa Borghese Park. The first photo of this post and this photo are just a small sampling of what you will see. We spent a wonderful Sunday touring the Villa Borghese (filled with gorgeous Bernini sculptures) and the surrounding gardens. Do not miss this!


Another highlight was Pompeii – Words just can’t describe how we felt walking along the streets of this ancient buried city. I was incredibly taken by the Frescos, like this one above, that are still intact. We also decided to hire a personal guide in Pompeii. Lucia was wonderful and again I couldn’t recommend her more highly. You can contact her HERE.

Domenic Minchilli torre-gentile-16

Finally, remember my previous post about the fabulous Villa Torre Gentile? You can read about it HERE. The owner was kind enough to contact me and let me know that her spectacular villa is available for rent. So if you want to stay in an extraordinary, gorgeous stone villa in Italy do give her call. You can find out more about Villa Torre Gentile, also known as Villanova HERE

Wall fountain rome

I have been so inspired by the architecture, beauty, color and gardens – well I could go on and on. My mind has been reeling since I’ve been back. I am not sure where it will take me, but I am excited to share my journey with you.

(If you do happen to contact our tour guides, do tell them Gina and her family said Hi! I am always so thrilled to pass on a good a contact!!)

(all post copyrighted by Willow Décor and not to be published with out permission)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Enjoying Italy!

Italy Views Minchilli

We are settling in to life Italian style! And I must say they really know how to live- the pace is slower and you really stop to enjoy life!


How could we quickly rush thru the fantastic gardens of the Villa Rufolo in Ravello?

positano Steps

Or not slow down and admire the beauty

Positanto steps

while we climb up and down the steps of Positano.

Walk of the Gods

Or hike along a trail the locals call

Walk of the Gods2

“The Walk of the Gods” and not stop to smell the flowers. Magnificent!!


I took hundreds of photos of the frescos of Pompeii to share with you when I return.


But its back to wine and gelato for me, see you next week!! Ciao!!

(photo credit – Simon McBride for Domenico Minchilli, Google Images and Laura Taylor)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Amazing Tuscan Stone Villas

tuscan stone villa outside lavendar

In researching my trip to Italy this summer I came across the most amazing and talented architect, Domenico Minchilli. I love architects who respect the integrity of the original home and restore and enhance the property. Domenico Minchilli is a master!


He and his equally talented wife, Elizabeth have restored their own Tuscan stone villa and penned several wonderful books about Italian Stone, Villa and Farmhouse renovations. Their most recent is Italian Rustic. a marvelous book which outlines building in the Tuscan style.

minchilli pergolaccio

Their own home, Pergolaccio, is also the subject of a book and has been in many, many national and international magazines.


The interiors of Pergolaccio are equally beautiful. I adore the amazing Dining area!

Domenic Minchilli torre-gentile-01

But one of my favorites it their restoration of Torre Gentile.

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The outside areas are as spectacular as the inside

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Crumbling walls were repaired to create beautiful vignettes

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The heart of the home is the family room – Notice the beamed ceilings and tiled pass thru


The fireplace is such a stunning focal point. Also notice the texture and depth of the plaster.

Domenic Minchilli torre-gentile-10

The house is filled with wonderful nooks and crannies like this stone shelf that turns a into a desk and chair into a a unique office area.

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I adore the way the old Tuscan stone peeks out from the plaster walls. The wall is so beautiful no headboard is needed. Look thru the doorway into the lovely bath.

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Here is close up the bath vanity. Notice the lovely Italian tile and skirted vanity

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This bedroom has a more ethereal feeling. The ceiling beams have been pained and sheers dress the windows – the shape and patina of the iron bed is to die for.


Here an arched window adds additional interest to an already pretty bath.

Domenic Minchilli torre-gentile-07

Another fireplace is found in the kitchen area. Likely the original cooking hearth.

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The kitchen is a mix of new appliance with antiques. I love the contrast of the old, worn beams with shiny, stainless steel pendant. Floors are gorgeous!

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The outdoor patio takes my breath away! Truly a stunning renovation.

Elizabeth also writes a wonderful blog about her Italian life, travel and her love of Italian cuisine called Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome. It is a wonderful mini-trip to Italy with fabulous tips, recipes and restaurant recommendations. You can visit her blog HERE.

You can visit Domenico Minchilli’s website HERE to see many other spectacular homes.

You can order many books penned by the Minchilli’s HERE. A special thank you the Elizabeth and Domenico Minchilli for allowing me to share these images with you.

(Photos by Simon McBride. Images copyrighted by Domenico and Elizabeth Minchelli not to be used with out permission – all content property of Willow Décor and not be used with out permission)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dreams Happen!

playhouse 4

Imagine owning a playhouse for your children designed by renowned architects, designers and builders? These wonderful, magical playhouses are currently on display at the Stanford Shopping Mall in Palo Alto, CA

Playhouse shipe

In case you can’t get there, like me, but want to see these little gems I decide to preview a few of my favorites. You see my sister Lisa, is co-chairing the Dreams Happen Fundraising Event –which auctions off these lovely little homes for charity

Playhouse 09-Tanglewood

The Dreams Happen event benefits Rebuilding Together Peninsula, a non profit charity that builds volunteer partnerships to rehabilitate homes and community facilities for low income homeowners and neighbors, so they can live independently in warmth and safety .

Playhouse 05-Cotswold-Cottage

The playhouses are wonderful and cover every style, like this adorable Cotswold Cottage!

Playhouse 10-Science-Lab

And this fabulous Mad Scientist Lab!

playhouse 2

There is also a Fire Station!

Playhouse 07-The-Dwell-ittle-D

A lovely contemporary sponsored by DWELL!

playhouse 6

As well as a more California Style!

Playhouse dreams_happen_logo_RTP_color (2)

To see all the spectacular playhouses up for auction, head over to the Stanford Shopping Mall in Palo Alto, CA. If you do not live by, but want to see these amazing little homes click HERE. To get more information about Dreams Happen click HERE. Let me know which is your favorite. I love them all!! And a special thanks to my sister for all her work on this extremely beneficial event.