In a tiny hamlet called Favale di Malvaro, on top of a mountain in Northern Italy, was a house where time stood still. An abandoned stone house, crumbling and derelict, was still filled with the furniture and personal relics that had belonged to countless generations of one family – the Boitanos.
No one had lived there for at least thirty years.
Olympic gold medalist, Brian Boitano, visited several years ago, discovering that this was the town where every Boitano originated. Everywhere he went there were Boitanos, and it wasn’t long before a cousin brought him to see the old family house…and suggested he renovate it for himself and bring the American Boitanos to Italy.
That’s exactly what Brian did.
A construction crew was recruited to transform the house, and a television production crew would be there to film the whole process – for a show on HGTV called “The Brian Boitano Project.” (The show can now be seen on Netflix.)
The reason I know all this? I was the art director for the show.
The house needed a LOT of work. There were four small rooms on the ground floor, with a steep and narrow staircase that led to four small rooms upstairs. Windows on two sides overlooked the glorious mountain valley, but the walled in space made the house seem dark and cramped. Deteriorating plaster walls were unsalvageable in some places, but in others, the walls had an exquisitely dappled patina of blues, greens, and grays. The wood floors were rotting, clumsily patched, and unstable.
Brian had specific ideas for the renovation of the house. Contemporary design would be intermingled with the architecture and character of the house to create a 21st century environment in a 19th century structure. He wanted the house to be cozy and comfortable for his big extended family when they came to visit from the United States. A big kitchen was a necessity – he loves to cook, and he anticipated big family dinners with the American Boitanos and the Italian Boitanos around the table.
This was a job for a contractor who not only understood how to restore the dwelling so it was livable, but who would appreciate that Brian wanted to preserve as many of the original details as possible. Brian got lucky when he found contractor, Enzo Pezzolo. He was not only a genius with construction, he was good-natured and fun – and he’s become a life-long friend to Brian and the rest of us.
Enzo and his crew knocked down walls to open the space on the main floor, laid new floors, replaced the roof and a lot of crumbling plaster, and brought new life to the old house.
As the art director of the show, I traveled back and forth to Italy for six months, meeting and making friends with an Italian construction crew and television crew and a gaggle of Boitanos, shopping at flea markets, eating tons of amazing local cuisine, and coming up with creative ways to style this house on a mountain – hands down, best job ever.
THE BRIAN BOITANO PROJECT CAN NOW BE SEEN ON NETFLIX.[See what it was like behind the scenes of The Brian Boitano Project.]