Restoring a Damp House in Sicily, Part 14

September 21, 2010

Spotted in a Sicilian antique store: Baroque armoire of honeyed rosewood. Curlicues. Cornices. Roomy shelves. Way out of my range.

I keep going back. Just looking, I say, petting the piece. The price drops. But still…

Bellissimo,” rasps the bleached antiquaria, pulling on a cigarette like it’s oxygen itself. “One of a kind. From the villa of a barone.”

I imagine it in its former life, surrounded by Chinese porcelain, bibelots on the mantle, gilt-framed mirrors, Persian carpets, embroideries heavy with tassels. I fork over a wad of euro-cash, and she stubs out her cigarette and says two delivery guys will be on the job posthaste. And won’t it be absolutely gorgeous in my salone.

I don’t have the heart to admit it’s going in my bagno, bathroom, just steps from a toilet.

My buzzer goes off and two rosewood-laden guys heave into the house. My joy sinks a notch when I see her, the antique dealer, imperiously bringing up the rear.

I point toward the bathroom. When she sees how I’m violating Sicilian protocol, she exhales a puff of black smoke, utters a curse, and waves her cigarette around.

Later, I wipe out the centuries of baronial grime, fill it with my plebian doodads, and sweep up her long trail of ash.

Sicilian Baroque Armoire, copyright Jann Huizenga

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For all of you who love Stromboli, or the Aeolian Islands, or Sicily, or Italy–would you help save a gorgeous (earthquake-damaged) church on Stomboli by signing a petition?  It’s the project of one of Baroque Sicily’s readers, Beatrice Ughi. Signatures can only be collected until the end September. The link is in Italian, but it’s simple: go to the 3 long, thin boxes at the bottom and put in your name, email address, and the verification code. Mille grazie!


18 comments to Restoring a Damp House in Sicily, Part 14

  • Oh, I absolutely loved this post! I could see the scene before my very eyes. Wonderful!

  • catherine Billups

    your bathroom looks wonderful. I have the same tile floors in our house in Noto. I needed to replace a few and have not been able to find originals. Have you run across someone who sells them?

  • Plebian Doodads. LOL. I really felt the horror. Italians with their controlling rules about how things have to be done, if they just experimented a bit…it looks fantastic in the bathroom and what a luxury in Italy not to worry about 8 leggers running out from underneath like they do in England.

  • Yes, I’ve been waiting for an update. The armoire looks gorgeous, and who would have thought that a piece of furniture from a barone would look nice in the bathroom. And don’t worry about the elderly lady. You paid for it, and why should she care what you do with it after…. well as long as you don’t dismantle it or something. lol

  • joe g.

    A great find,really does look like it was made for the spot. We’re in Modica having a great time always working on the house see you soon.

  • Nur

    Just a word,it is “Greattttt!”

  • Seems a win-win situation. You got the gorgeous stick of furniture; the saleslady got her price, a chance to snoop in your apartment, and a tale of the strange ways of the foreigner to shake her head over while recounting it all to her cronies. The piece looks like it was made for your bathroom!

  • Cathy

    Oh Jann, it is gorgeous!!

    We are definitely kindred souls lol….in one apartment I lived in years ago, I had a huge bathroom but only one closet for the entire apt., and that was at the back of the bedroom… So as a lover of antique furniture, and quite well versed in refinishing furniture out of necessity (the distressed look wasn’t “in” during those years) I had stripped and refinished a beautiful commode that turned out to be oak and bird’s eye maple until several layers of paint (and mouse dirt lol) it
    turned out beautiful and served me well in the bathroom in lieu of a linen closet!

    Love seeing pics of the house!!

    Take care,

  • Emalene Renna

    I love the piece and it looks perfect exactle where
    it is. Isn’t the bathroom where you can sit quitely
    and admire the lovely piece. I would have done the
    same thing. In fact I do have a lovely oak piece in
    mio bagno.

  • NorahS

    What a great find! It looks fabulous in that spot.

  • liz

    amazing…so american to put such a piece of furniture in the bagno., i would have done the same…i am truly enjoying your blog. i can’t quite remember how i stumbled upon it, but am so glad i did.
    just recently my children and i aquired our italian citizenship. my granfather was from a small town in sicily called ‘santa cristian gela’… looking forward to our dream of one day doing the same as you..owning a place in sicily.

    • Jann

      Hi Liz–I’m glad to hear you would’ve done the same!! Ha ha. How fascinating about your background, and I’m so jealous you have dual citizenship! Such a thing would make my life easier. I googled your village (population 919!). It looks fascinating–with 3 local languages (Italian, Sicilian, Arberischt)! May your dream come true someday (it can, all you have to do is really really want it!).

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