Our restoration Project in an ancient borgata in the mountains of Northern Italy.

Behind the Scenes: How to do an inexpensive makeover!

inexpensive makeover

Casa Bianca kitchen make over


An Inexpensive Makeover at Casa Bianca (Part One)

Why an Inexpensive Makeover?

Sam’s parents are coming over from Australia, that’s WHY!

It’s been three years since we’ve seen them and they are arriving here in the last week of March. They will be staying with us for three months. So they need a space of their own.

With our Loft Apartment taking bookings and our own house with only two bedrooms we need a place for them to stay in comfort and close by.

So Sam came up with the idea of a temporary inexpensive makeover at Casa Bianca (our 4 thousand euro bargain house next door). The old kitchen will transform into a three month bedsit and they will of course eat in the main house with us.

Create a time frame

A time frame with a deadline always helps to get things moving and boy are things moving around here. I love nothing more than getting my hands dirty helping Sam with renovating. We completed a dozen renovations in Australia (living in all of them arghh). It’s a way of life that most people hate and would normally break up many couples, we seem to thrive.

The arrival of an early spring has me in cleaning mode, I’m astonished at how much ‘stuff ‘ has crept back into our life. I have to say I do love my ‘stuff ‘ and could never be a minimalist, but some of this just has to go.

Once Sam says he will do something it gets done, he has great organization skills and the know how to put it all into practice. They say men don’t multitask well but he has it to an art form, working on restoring the borgata, making lunch, picking up and dropping off the kids to school, making salami, preserves, and generally keeping everything running smoothly.

I am the calm on in the partnership, smoothing the way…..lol.

Totally clear the space

The first thing to be done is to totally clear the space.

Don’t work around things, and be sure to clean as you go.

We spent a day moving everything from the house up to our garage.

We’d been using Casa Bianca as storage for all the ‘treasures’ we found when we first arrived. So it was full of old bottles, baskets, furniture, an original bed frame, old suitcases, and a multitude of bits and bobs.

Visualize the space

Planning the space will save you time and frustration later, it’s fairly easy to do this on a computer or even just sketched out in a notebook.

Gather inspiration and look for ideas, I have hundreds of images, I take after my Mum as she always has a notebook in her handbag to jot down any ideas she sees. I keep my camera with me and take photos of things I like and ‘pin’ things I see online to my Casa Bianca inspiration board on Pinterest.

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If you are working on any project Pinterest is a great way to keep everything together, just be careful not to fall down the rabbit hole and become one of those people who sit online pinning all day.

Keep the purpose in mind, although at a latter date the house will be restored as a whole for now we need to create a space for Sams parents.

The Casa Bianca of my dreams will still happen, just not now.

Keeping costs low

Reuse as many items as possible, we seem to throw nothing away here at the Borgata. In our own home we took the old board up from the floor in the lounge and ended up sanding them back and reusing them as a benchtop and shelving.

Call in some helpers, we have a great community of friends here who give us a hand in return for us helping them out. It’s a collaborative community and it helps us keep costs low.

Shop online for prices and don’t be afraid to haggle (Sam has this to an artform). Be aware that locals will get a better price so get a local friend to go with you to the local stores for the first few times.

Keeping it Simple

Using a simple color pallette will help keep costs down, the room will be recoated white and the texture gives it some depth.

This also means that we can use left over products on other renovations.

We can then add warmth with elements like soft furnishings or decorative elements on the walls.

Our Inexpensive Makeover – What we’ve has Done so far!

» Taken out the old window and security bars and replaced it with a ready made double glazed window from Bricoman which helped us to save on costs.

» Totally cleared the room of stored items like an old bed, the original windows, and items from other renovations.

» Removed the old staircase to the upper floor which was twisted and rotting. Cut up the wood to be used as firewood.

» Cleared the sink area, removing the sink and pipes.

» Taken out the old pantry cupboard, removing the doors and shelves to make a wardrobe  space.

» Sanded the wooden window ledge back to original timber ready for a clear coating.

» Scraped the walls and ceiling free of ridges and filled holes.

» Refinished the walls with stabilatura, a mixture that you trowel on.

» Currently replacing old flooring with ceramic tiles. These will be harder wearing than a floating floor. Bricoman had a good range and we found something we liked for 13 euro a square meter.

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Casa Bianca Kitchen

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So that’s it for our Inexpensive Makeover #1,

I’ll be posting the follow up next week. Sam has already started laying the floor tiles and they look great. Carina thinks the room would be a great teenager ‘flat’….I told her not a hope till she’s at least 16 lol.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog and follow along with the adventures, many things are in the works for 2016 here at Borgata Malpertus.

I’ll be posting the completion of our ‘mini apartment’ at Casa Bianca as we go, Sam is next door right now laying the floor tiles. Oh and it’s snowing which is why he has the little wood stove connected (yep borrowed from our friends).

Hope you enjoyed the post, I’m trying a new informative style for some of my writing here at Renovating Italy along with the diary style…..let me know what you think and if you have any questions or thoughts I’d love you to leave them below, and a share would be great.

love as always….

Lisa signature 2and the gang x


Courtyard Work – removing the original bread oven

original bread oven

Entering the large double wooden gates to the the lower courtyard the first thing you see is the original bread oven. Dating to 1916 (the date carved in the rock oven door) and with a large area underneath used for the pigs we are told. Sadly the interior of the oven was beyond repair and crumbling away with huge cracks throughout.


I try to imagine the borgata and valley back in 1916, during the first world war, we are walking in the footsteps of hundreds of years here each day. This oven would have provided the entire borgata with bread, I’d love to learn more about the history of our Borgata.

Anita who is now in her eighties was born here and has never left the Borgata, she lived through the second world war and saw both the Nazi’s and the Partisans walking through these very streets and past our big double doors.


After discussing the idea with the local men here in the borgata Sam decided to take the oven out. I regret seeing it go but sometimes history has to move with the times and be practical as well as safe. We are slowly removing all the added touches in the house that would not have been original like the ugly metal railing. As much as possible we want to restore the house to it’s original state.




The upper porch area will now run right to the exterior wall and the railing eventually replaced with timber. Originally a door was in the rock section leading to the house next door. We also found a doorway down in the back of the original bread oven that must have gone though to Casa Bianca. The two homes were once owned by the one family and now they are again owned by one family who want to protect and restore them.



We have saved as many of the original terracotta bricks from the vaulted section as possible, most are just crumbling away in our hands. I know we’ll find a special place for them to be re used in the house. It’s fascinating to see how the vaulted original bread oven was built, a work of art. We had an original bread oven in our first home here in Italy at Borga Nari and even fired it up a few times.

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Our lower courtyard has been a bit of a mess for the past two weeks and is just now coming back to order. Once  the original bread oven  is totally removed  we can move the wood down from the upper level Sam will begin to work up in the back rooms. He has some good ideas for this area now after talking with our neighbor and seeing what is possible.

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Even though it has been cold and raining now for the past two weeks Sam has continued working to get this area finished. Then we will move the wood down to this area and have the entire back section of the upper floor for another project we are working on. More to come about that as the work progresses. The original bread oven is now gone and all that remains are the photos and the rock door dated 1916.

It’s a fine line between preserving the past and creating the future…….have you ever been torn between the two?

Signatureand the gang x


Casa Bianca – renovating Italian houses


Renovating Italian Houses has become a little like renovating our lives

Slowly stripping back to the essentials, seeing what is missing, and adding a touch of love.

Finding the bare bones.

Seeing what can be done with what you’ve got.



Restoring an old home means removing the signs of a life hard lived.

A fresh start, enhancing the beauty, removing the barriers.

Finding what is really important, enhancing that, recreating the space.


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Renovating Italian Houses means letting in the sunshine.

Clearing layers of misunderstanding.

Deciding on our own future and moving constantly in that direction.

Finding our happiness.



Renovating in our beloved Italy means gathering friends.

Sharing stories, bringing laughter back.

Creating new echos.



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Renovating Italian houses means replacing what doesn’t work.

Blending old and new.

Creating a view beyond normal life.


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some further inspiration:

Restoring a Home in Italy

Italian Country Living

Signatureand the gang x

dare to dreamcomment

Rustic Farmhouse – Clearing out Casa Bianca

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No matter the set backs with our rustic farmhouse we always keep moving forward. Over the past month I’ve been out of action with a mystery illness. Sam has continued to work on ‘Casa Bianca’ next door to our house, we hope to have it habitable so friends and family can come to stay with us and experience life here in the valley we love so much. Lots of work to be done, nothing new for us but we will be taking it slowly till I’m recovered. Maybe I can come in at the end for the ‘house dressing’….I don’t mind missing out on all the cleaning.

Bianco on the outside and gelati flavored on the inside, the latest addition to our rustic farmhouse is just a delight. Sam has been clearing the rubbish from inside the house and the main rooms are now cleared. Four tractor loads so far. Under these stairs are two cellars which are crammed with more rubbish, the doorways are tiny and I haven’t even taken a look. The doors and windows need replacing, every surface needs a good clean and the whole place needs flea bombing.

This room will be gutted, cleaned, painted and something needs to be done with the flooring. All of the rubbish has been cleared out and only the old fridge and cabinet are still in here now. I’m already imagining the transformation photos, I’m picturing the rustic farmhouse of my imagination, somewhere friends and family can come to visit and experience life in the valley. We’ve left all the windows open to start to air it out. It will take shape quickly once cleaned, then we start looking at new sink, and furnishings.


I like the old fireplace, everything else will get pulled out and we’ll start from scratch. The doorway leads into the stairwell and across from this room is another largish airy room that was used as a bedroom. The window looks out over the old original road. After so many renovations this doesn’t phase me at all, although now being unwell I haven’t been able to help out, just supervise from a distance for short periods of time before heading back inside to rest.

One house in Australia that we wanted to buy was beyond belief. We were given access and removed cubic tonnes of rubbish, ended up using a gurney on the walls and the family that lived in the house were hoarders. The house had such a horrific history that I always felt creepy being in it and was actually glad when the contract fell through. One wall had a tombstone drawn complete with a child’s name and date of death, we found out later that the owners had ten foster kids. I always expected to move something and find a body in that house.

So we’ve been through many renovations in Australia and now this is our third rustic farmhouse in Italy, hopefully our last for a few years.

The staircase up to the main bedroom has a small lean, and seems to also have a bit of a twist. It’s an art form making it to the top level without whacking your head on the ceiling, Sam has a few new scars. Ahhh the master bedroom…..what can I say?

Everything is going, the furniture will be broken up so we can get it out, and then used for firewood. The room is actually quite big and although it has the most mold we think it’s coming from a leak somewhere in the rock roof. I’m not sure what will happen with the old stairs, perhaps a spiral staircase instead.

Thank you again for all your well wishes and love, I’m still struggling with exhaustion, and now a bad cough, aches and pains, and menopause thrown into the mix…..Bonus. Having just about given up hope I sent out some messages to our English speaking friends and guess what found a Doctor (I thought he was a musician lol) and I hope to get some thoughts about what might be going on with my health. It’s been almost four weeks now since I went to the hospital and I don’t feel much better. Something has to give……hopefully it won’t be me.

and the gang x

Italian Renovation – we buy the white house

An Italian Renovation


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The White House [Casa Bianca]

Recently the house next to ours came up for sale, the neighbors have moved to the town and the agent let us know it was for sale. Another Italian Renovation and of course we were interested but hadn’t thought it would come up for at least a few years. So we had to do a very fast scramble to try to get enough money to put a deposit and buy it.

We have a contract and once it goes through we can start the next part of “the project” here. It has two bedrooms, a kitchen lounge area, and two cellars underneath (one is the small lower window). Plenty of work to be done cleaning it up and giving it a cosmetic inexpensive make over.

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The Property

The property includes the house and out buildings on the other side of our house,  and a small building directly opposite our large double gates. It also includes various bits of land some with apple trees, and Sam is in his element with plans for our future ‘orto’ (veggie gardens) and fruit trees. Another thing that is a premium here is parking spaces and a garage type shed, so we now have enough work to do for a while.

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The Outbuildings

This shed is missing the floor between the two levels and needs a good clear out, as with our other Italian renovation this one was a bargain. It is accessed via the lane way which we can now clean up.

Previously the neighbors had dogs tied here in the lane way and as they couldn’t take them to the new place they offered us ‘Fiume’ the shaggy white guy who is now part of our family. He is very happy and has settled in with us, Sam and Carina are training him as he is only young, he is a lovely excuse to go for long walks and he adores Sam.

We have also gained another cat, the little tortoiseshell has joined Mishu and she is such a princess in comparison.

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This shed now has the makeshift boards taken down and to the left just inside is a door that leads into a large vaulted room. Above is a hay loft and above the vaulted room another large area that is open to the elements (now the roof has fallen in). As you can see we  have plenty to keep ourselves occupied and plenty of scope for these areas in the future. The best thing about this Italian renovation project is that it gets us dreaming.

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Plans for the Outbuildings

Sam would like to have this room for making the salami, I can imagine it with a big worktable and somewhere for workshops or friends to come and help us process all the food we will grow. We have so many ideas, and I’ll be sharing them with you once we get underway.

We will be clearing this area and keeping it open, I can see a courtyard with plants and a place to sit and relax. I quite like the original wall and window if we fix it up, Sam likes the idea of lowering the wall and putting a railing so you can see out, hmmmmm.

Fiume the Wonder Dog

This little white dog has already made such a difference to our lives and he is endlessly happy now he has some freedom. He is no longer chained in the lane way, and his tail hasn’t stopped wagging. His old owners still visit the borgata to tend to other animals that friends are minding for them. It’s all a bit delicate as you can imagine and we are getting used to the big changes in the borgata.

Health and Wellbeing

Apologies for not sharing sooner about all the news, I didn’t want to say anything until we were sure firstly we could get the money, and secondly it was all actually going ahead. I’ve also been going through early menopause and been up, down and all over the place…..mood swings, depression, low blood pressure, and thinking I was losing the plot. I’ve been to the doctor and looking online for help.

Thanks to everyone who gave me virtual hugs over at our Renovating Italy facebook page, without you all I know I’d be lost.

Things here are shifting to a whole new level, luckily I’m always up for an adventure.

So where would you start, do you have a dream Italian renovation…..?

Take a small step towards your dreams each day…..sending love

and the gang x


Rustic Italian Living Room – before and after

It’s all those little moments that make life a very big adventure…


We arrived in Milan airport almost a year ago now, and it seems like yesterday until I look at these photos. Our Rustic Italian living room has slowly progressed and although not finished is now a space I love. Creating our rustic Italian living room has been my favorite part of the renovations. My desk is here, it’s where I write,  it’s where we sit in the evening, where the kids like to play, the spot for my few treasures.

We have slowly peeled, painted, renewed and replaced hundreds of years of wear and tear. The house now breathes again, still much to complete but she knows she’s in good hands. It’s as if she trusts us to care for her, and future generations will still see that original spirit, and hear her voice.

 The first step for our Rustic Italian living room was removing all the plastic paneling, nailed to the rock underneath it was a nightmare to remove. The section around the door to the upper level had been burnt at some stage and was black and buckled. The walls underneath were black with soot and grime, originally a bright blue they showed promise.

The ceiling was pitch black and the beams had been covered with Masonite and blackened over time. With no light we needed a torch to navigate the room even in the day time. We pulled up the timber floor which had rotted in places and widened the doorway to the kitchen. Once we got back to the bare bones of the room we pulled all the nails from the wall one at a time, gave it a wash, sandblasted the ceiling, and finally the windows arrived, it all started coming together.

In the middle of everything we had the House Hunters International crew out with us for five days of filming. Through the year I had to return to Australia for a family issue with my dear Mum. Sam ended up in hospital a few times, we had visitors from Australia and New York, met up with fellow bloggers, laughed, argued and cried.

So here we are almost a year into our Italian Dream and it was all worth it, even with the struggles. Nothing ever works out the way you think it will…..who knows what this year will hold.

Christmas time saw us flooded with cards from all over the world. I asked if you’d send us a Christmas card and never expected the results. Our postman was totally confused and I was almost to tears with the wonder of it all and the outpouring of love. Stories were told and dreams shared, I’m planning a little surprise for you all throughout the year. I also declared that I am going to spend my 50th birthday in Paris and invited you all to Dare to Dream, and to come along if you could.

So when I sit at my desk writing and thinking of our journey it seems we’ve come a long way, yet are only just beginning.

It will be a year since we landed in Milano on the 11th of March 2013…..yes we are still Chasing our Dream xx

Wishing you all love and joy in your own dreams ….

and the gang x


Rustic Italian Living Room – Inspirations

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 Italian Living Room

 “After such a long journey we seem to have found a home we never imagined yet already love.”

 lisa chiodo

Do you ever notice that children don’t talk about inspiration? It’s such a part of them, like joy and laughter, innocence and wonder….they don’t need to look for it in others it just shines from them…

I wrote these lines almost a year ago, they were part of a post about ‘inspiration‘ written just as we were about to embark on our adventure. A lot has changed since then, and we are now in Italy living the dream we began so many years ago.

Back then my biggest concern was for our  son Luca, would he be able to cope with the move, were we doing the right thing, would he be able to thrive in Italy. Moving wasn’t something I took lightly, it kept me awake at night, advice from well meaning friends and family ringing in my head. Everything back then revolved around Luca’s autism, and how this would affect him, I had no idea what would happen in Italy but knew the system wasn’t working for him in Australia.

It was only this morning that a fellow friend and blogger Margaret at Destination Here and Now reminded me in a beautiful way that we made the right decision. Within the blogging world I find many voices I resonate with, another of these is Rohan from Whole Larder Love. I left a comment on his blog and it in turn inspired Margaret to write something extending this thought. A little like a ripple on a pond we each connect and respond to the inspiration of those around us. It really is part of the beauty of blogging, if you’ve ever thought about taking it up I’d give you a resounding “Yes just do it”, the comment follows.


It’s voices like yours Rohan that shine a light on the good life, your little girl in the veggie patch, the walks with arms swinging, noticing your world and sharing it here. I have no doubt at all that the life we are creating for our children (and ourselves) is the right move, out of the suburbs of Queensland to the wild mountains of Italy.

We now live on so much less and get so much more, and I especially see this for our son Luca who has high functioning autism. All of a sudden he is blossoming, he is in a tiny village school which is high on hugs and praise, previously he was always going to be ‘not good enough’ and unable to ‘keep up with his peers’…at last he is learning to read (aged nine). We only need a small amount to live well here, our kids are learning in the school of life.

I have never seen life and death the way I do here, it’s right in your face, we were invited to make the salami, butcher the pig, see the feathers of the chickens killed for that nights dinner, get eggs fresh from our chickens, growing rabbits for the pot, eating veggies from our own garden, it’s wonderful, not a hardship at all in fact the reverse. If I’d have known this I would have done it years ago, and as you say even in the city it’s possible to grow something, join a community garden, buy food from local markets, buy less and live more.



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This post started out as an inspiration board for our Italian living room and  turned into something else all together. If I had posted this last night as planned I’d have missed sharing with you. Last night I just knew I needed color, urgently, needed something vibrant and striking. I see now it is a little bit of longing for the security of our life in Australia. We lived a street from the beach in tropical Queensland, the sky was an intense blue, we grew mango’s in our yard, and lived a beach lifestyle. Funny how my spirit knows exactly what I need, all I have to do is listen.


Inspiration, for me has always been visual, I collect images much like a magpie, I always have. With our enforced hibernation I’ve begun longing for color, in our Italian living room. Although I love the muted earthy tones around us I crave warmth, vibrancy, all the hot rich hues we left behind us in Australia. Our home needs some touches of warmth, each of these images appealed to me, looking through my favorite pinterest board they were the ones to leap out at me. I wanted to share them with you.

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It’s you who are inspiring to me, you show me such love and encouragement, are involved in the life we are creating here in Italy and when I asked you to send me a Christmas Card for our first Christmas away from Australia we were inundated, the postman didn’t know what was going on. It is the passion of the all the people who read my blog, who share your lives with me, who let me into your homes and give me time and space to express myself, you are the people with passion.

I just reflect it back like a mirror, I love what I do, I love that it gives others a way to dream a bigger dream. I love that it gives me a chance to connect with other passionate people around the globe. What a gift you have  given me.

Signature-00134 editand the gang x

dare to dream

Rustic Italian Living Room ~ Inspiration

Italian Country Living
A Year in the World: Journeys of A Passionate Traveller
Villa Fortuna: An Italian Interlude

 tent | pattern | liberty | tea | flowers | chair | flowers | cat | lounge | jars | cactus | pig | view