So here’s the situation: In our Italian neck of the woods, there is a law than permits only a certain number of windows per room. Yes, that’s right. Apparently, the practice started years ago when farmers didn’t want so many windows due to their inefficiency—you know, drafty winters, vulnerability, etc. So, over the centuries, they just made the practice into an architectural common law of sorts. Why not? You can do that kind of thing here . . . it’s Italy!
As a result, when we rebuilt this farmhouse years ago, we were told that we couldn’t add a second window in the guest room. No! Not a possibility. “Forget about it!” (To be said like Joe Pesci would say it.) ASSOLUTAMENTE NO! (Absolutely not!)
We argued, “What about the wonderful Tuscan sunlight that could spill into the room, creating mysterious shadows on the stark white walls ?? Maybe we could have just a small window the size of a cereal box.” At that point, they were down to simple one word responses: “NO!” In fact, the room-to-window ratio was explained to us and the news was even worse. It seems that the single allowable window in the guest room was technically too small for the space and so the room needed to be made correspondingly smaller—by adding a closet. Does that make any sense to you?
We’re kidding, right? ASSOLUTAMENTE NO!
So we waited 10 years until all of the flurry and scrutiny died down. Here’s our logic: No window meant that there was a large empty wall outside. Boring! Our solution: “Install” a faux window! After all, painting on flat surfaces to simulate wood grain, decorative trim, or even ceilings with cherubs were a sign of Italian creativity. Heck, if Michelangelo could paint the entire Sistine Chapel ceiling, then we can surely fake in one measly window on a begging blank wall. Okay. Now we’re talking!
We went to the nearby town of Borgo San Lorenzo and bought a pair of old shutters from our friendly antique dealer. We took our treasure home and set about distressing them a bit for more authenticity—scraping and banging them around a little. After varnishing, we set them in a hand-made frame. Next, a quick trip to Pontassieve, down in the valley, to buy some special tempura paint to simulate the typical stone that often surrounds windows—pietra serena.
We painted the wall and placed the shutters just above the grape arbor yesterday. As simple as hanging a picture on the living room wall, right? Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. But, at the end of the day, we had our faux window. It balances nicely with the real one to the right, and is just different enough to create a tinge of funkiness on the facade. It’s fun to imagine what might be on the other side. Of course, from the inside looking out is our next challenge. Maybe we’ll just have to hang a window frame inside with a photo of the real view outside.
Whew! Italian laws. Logical or not, they’re serious business here, and we actually support the craziness of it all. When you stop to think about it, it’s the relentless control that has kept this place so authentic and enchanting over the centuries for all of us to enjoy. In Italy, change is always suspect. This is also why Italians are so ingenious and creative. To describe their harmless mischief to deal with the unreasonable laws and their resulting craftiness, there’s a particular word, furbo. We now have our faux window. We just need to be careful not to make an unintentional faux-pas (false step) along the way!