Hagan Network

A PORTRAIT OF ADORATION AND ADORNMENT: Steve Riseley and Harvey B-Brown at the Inimitable Castle Elvira.



Steve Riseley and Harvey B-Brown at the Inimitable Castle Elvira.

Whether gazing from his dappled fresco in a shadowy ruin or glancing up from her espresso across a sunlit café, there are moments when a visage mesmerises, embodying a moment in time – yet existing in timelessness. So too may a place – in gifted hands – paint a portrait depicting passionate narrative and enduring beauty. At Castle Elvira, nestled between Ionian and Adriatic seas in idyllic Puglia, Steve Riseley and Harvey B-Brown have achieved – and continue to fashion – such inspired portraiture.

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“A complex portrait of deep love, past sorrow and, now, restoration, as the spirit of Elvira rejoices to see her castle renewed with tender care, again welcoming others in her name.”

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Abandoned over a hundred years, Elvira’s image had faded and wrinkled. “When we first visited, it was completely wild. Even the pathways had all but disappeared under a tangle of overgrown plants and dying trees. Despite this, we were totally enchanted.” Hacking their way through thick undergrowth to find the castle’s door, these intrepid artists “recognised the bone structure of the beautiful garden and park beneath the undergrowth” and, once inside, “were smitten – despite the graffitied walls and decay we were overwhelmed by the proportions of the rooms, the gorgeous floors and gigantic windows. It instantly felt like home.” The work of recovery and discovery began. Incredible features remained intact – antique floor tiles were polished to reflect stunning ceiling frescos portraying centuries of age – tender facial lines revealing years of laughter, sorrow, and hope. “These frescos gave us a basis for the design of each room – colours compliment the frescos as focal point.” Joining with Puglian architects Filotico and Partners, the philosophy was “to be as least invasive as possible – to avoid carving up rooms or forcing spaces to become something that would compromise the integrity of the original architecture.” From a genuine love of the regional character and culture, indigineous techniques were sourced from local artisans with a lifetime of experience – from dry stone walling to joinery – restoring or replicating original features. Luxury comforts like underfloor heating and cooling are concealed subtly beneath original ceramic tiled floors while state of the art televisions are hidden behind aged mirrors that reflect Conran linens, Sicilian Ortigia toiletries, and integrated sound systems. Italian and English furnishings – Arketipo, Catalan Italia, Tom Dixon, Lee Broom, Timothy Oulton –“juxtapose each other beautifully when mixed with well chosen antiques like our Bechstein piano . . . we also worked with so many local artisans to create magical pieces, like glass floor lamps by Massimo Maci in the lounge or the incredible golden Murano glass chandelier in the tower.” The bathrooms feature exquisitely designed Italian tapware from IB Rubinetti. Woven together by parkland, each edifice enlivens with its particular character – “the castle is magnificent and stately whilst the cottage is sweet and cosy – the tower is grandiose and romantic whereas the ancient masseria is surprising, exquisite and very private.” Guests therefore “discover something original and magical with delicate touches of modernity. The design process was very much a restoration and not a rebuild – we wanted to honour and highlight the history and heritage.”