The Italian Country Dwelling / French Provençal Style

The most recent accomplishments of Ferdi and his PULSE team demonstrated once more the aesthetic interplay of style, form, mode (elements like the architectural preference of clients), and the undeniable distinctiveness of PULSE-perfection. For while the Tuscan / Provencal style still floods into the South African architectural preference with force, PULSE is the distinctive interior and exterior décor signature that uniquely surpass the expectations of the neighboring reproductions.

The secret to capturing a rare individuality amidst a lot of TUSCAN and/or PROVENÇAL treatments as trends is pure knowledge and artistic flair. Ferdi is convinced that the true Tuscan and Provincial styles will eventually survive a simple reproductions fashion phase applied wrongly in South Africa Ferdi: Tuscan and Provencal styles are not likely to go out of fashion. You can still see it done with new buildings. Mostly wrong, as you seem to have noticed. It has been in general use all over the world for more than a century, while only recently coming to South Africa. It suits all of our local environments. Also consider how well the closely related Portuguese style has fitted Mozambique. No, it will never go out of fashion, but perhaps our local standards will improve. It must be kept in mind that rural villas in Tuscany are country homes, surrounded by large estates. City houses are done quite differently there. So it's risky to build a rural type of Tuscan villa on a small property, packed in between other Tuscan villas. But my team can usually save a style, that didn't work right the first time.

Question: So what are these styles really - maybe first some background?

Ferdi: The difference between the Tuscan and Provençal styles is that they are Italian and French interpretations of the same basic idea. Tuscany lies about one quarter from the top of Italy, on the western side, with at its center the city of Florence, about halfway between Milan and Rome. Provence is the entire south coast of France, including the local mountains and rivers. Tuscany is exactly as far south from the North Pole as Provence, and the two regions are also quite close together, especially by sea. Provence used to be independent, but belonged to France since Louis the eleventh. The style involves natural colours such as reds, greys, and yellows, on plastered walls. The rooms are large and heated by fireplaces. You get beamed ceilings, comfortable kitchens, murals and trompe-l'oeil frescoes, covered and glazed terraces, wrought iron balustrades, tiled roofs, buildings and pavements in carved stone, mosaics, garden fountains, great food made with fresh aromatic herbs, olive groves, vines, orange and lemon trees ...

Question: How then are the two regions different?

Ferdi: Well, since the Roman empire, a great deal of Italian influence has been imported into Provence, but almost nothing French found its way back to Italy. The Provençal countryside is more varied, stony and chaotic, the soil poorer, the droughts and endless winds more extreme, and the rain more violent when it comes. The people are modest, sweet tempered and poetic, especially compared to Paris. If anything, they are proud of being "provincial". The Italians are of course more fiery, dramatic, generous, courageous, and actively involved within their own society. In Tuscany a certain awareness of class is found. Their rich were never officials from far away, but Italian nobility. At their country estates they took up farming, to retreat from politics and return to the soil. The Tuscan countryside is well developed, but all done in a functional, harmonious way, with dense woods kept as well. The large houses are severe, demanding of respect, and done in perfect taste. Inside they have treasures of art and wine, collected over many generations. Tuscany is more prosperous than Provence, with a good balance of manufacturing industries there. Provence is more services based, and has high unemployment, with the population fluctuating wildly due to tourism - mostly from the north of France. All this determines the unique characteristics of these regions. About Provence can be said that it has a silent and delicate quality. It is the center of the perfume industry, with hectares under lavender, jasmine, and other fragrant herbs. It's also the homeland of the Gypsies, who come together here for festivals. There are large houses in Provence as well, only more comfortable and welcoming than Tuscan ones.

Question: How should we apply all this, here in South Africa?

Ferdi: These styles have developed over thousands of years, through much cross-pollination with other cultures. So, while they are well established, their unique character still developed by integrating new influences. The Mediterranean is the only part of Europe that is reliably sunny - this includes countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, and the south of France. Perhaps the style's popularity in South Africa is due to our climates being similar. Also that, while it is a European style, the finishing doesn't need to be so exact - it is quite forgiving and relaxed. One should never approach these styles rigidly. They always take the local environment into account. The typical blonde stone that is used in so many Tuscan and Provençal houses is found in their area. The practical colours of the plasterwork are inspired by the palette of the landscape. Typical plants in their gardens are well suited to that climate. Look out for films set in these regions: "1900" by Bernardo Bertolucci for Tuscany, or the "Manon of the Spring" series by Marcel Pagnol for Provence.