Before & After: An Old Monastery Ruin Is Transformed Into A Modern Family Home

A couple breathed new life into a crumbling 14th century monastery ruin in Naples, preserving and restoring historical features and creating a modern family home that skilfully blends the past and the present.

When young couple Giovanni and Janine struggled to find any houses for sale near Giovanni's parents' home on Vormero Hill in Naples, they got creative and instead built their home out of a crumbling 14th century monastery.

BEFORE

AFTER

Giovanni always planned to return to Vormero in Naples, to build his home near his parents, and to move back to the town where he grew up and where three generations of his family still live. He and his wife Janine, whom he met on a trip to Rio de Janeiro, began with renting a small house next door to his parents’ home. When the hunt for a suitable property produced no results, he decided to get creative.

BEFORE

Vormero is the 13th district of Naples and is known as the “upper town”; the houses are all perched on a very steep hill that can only be reached by cable car, or, in part, only via very steep stairs. Of course, this came with it's fair share of challenges – not just in terms of planning permission (they had to use the exact same materials as the original 700-year-old monastery, meaning that cement was strictly off the menu), but also in transporting all the materials up and down the hill.

AFTER

The hard work paid off; now you can enjoy the ocean views from the house and the terrace. The views even stretch as far as the island of Capri.

BEFORE

AFTER

The couple preserved the 14th century monastery's original arched windows, floors tiles and other details. Inside, the interiors were fitted out with a stylish mix of modern and a timeless design.

BEFORE

The couple found evidence that the monastery had been used as a residential property in the past, which greatly helped their planning application. But there were still some restrictions; for example, they had to use the exact same materials as the original 700-year-old monastery, like chalk and regional sandstone – meaning that cement was strictly off the menu.

Plus, being on such a steep incline, all building materials needed to be lugged up 150 steps (there are no cars or roads). Giovanni quit his job for a year in order to manage the build full-time.

Owners Janine and Giovanni with their son Umberto Rio

To help them implement their ideas, the couple called in the architect Antonio Gravagnuolo, who specialises in listed projects, and the German interior designer Stephan Poeppelmann. Together, they created a unique house that skilfully blends the past and the present.

BEFORE

AFTER

The interiors are a blend between traditional and modern. The original arches above now frame the views from the living room. “We wanted to retain the character of the ruined monastery. That’s why it was particularly important for us to use traditional materials as much as possible both for the building and the internal restoration and to work with suppliers from the local region,” Janine says. The interior planning corresponded with those wishes: restrained and respectful of the ruin’s history – but at the same time incredibly brave.

BEFORE

AFTER

The above corner is now an open-plan kitchen.

Talking about the concept, designer Stephan Poeppelmann says: “In keeping with the building’s past life as a monastery which was now to be restored as a home and be a part of the landscape, we didn’t remove corners and niches in existing walls, for example, but used them as spaces to integrate shelves or seating. The colours are restrained and are reminiscent of the vineyard landscape. The main colours are a delicate pastel green and warm shades of brown.”

Ancient floor tiles were salvaged, as were lots of little apothecary bottles made of coloured glass, some of which have been integrated into the walls, or serve as decorative elements and vases around the house.

BEFORE

AFTER

The space pictured above is now the dining area between kitchen and living room.

BEFORE

AFTER

The historic arches above now frame the views in the master bedroom.

BEFORE

AFTER

The alcoves above were the perfect nooks for creating a cosy bathroom space. The couple chose Kaldewei’s bathroom solutions in order to honour the property's heritage and strike the right balance between modern and traditional.

In fitting out the spacious bathroom, designer Stephan Poeppelmann was inspired by the former monastery’s distinctive vaulting. “Naturally, we were impressed by Kaldewei’s natural and classical yet modern shapes. Since we had a round-arched ceiling in the bathroom, we wanted to pick up on that shape with the bath and the washbasin. That’s why we decided on the Centro countertop washbasin, whose interior echoes the rounded shape, and the Meisterstück Classic Duo Oval bath,” says Janine, explaining the decision behind their choice.

The bath, made of elegant Kaldewei steel enamel, is the classic archetype of the freestanding bath. The Centro countertop washbasin with its spacious surround, designed by Anke Salomon, also exudes a sense of purity and simple elegance.

Meanwhile the space-saving wall-hung Cono washbasin works well in the guest WC.

Images courtesy of Kaldewei