Ilaria Miani: Sculpting New Life from Old Stones
Visionary designer Ilaria Miani specializes in finding abandoned architectural jewels and bringing them back to life using skilled artisans and sleek, modern panache, and it's our honor to add a selection of her homes to our collection. Here, Rebecca Withers discovers more about one of Italy's favorite interior designers.
For the better part of four decades, Ilaria Miani has toured the Italian countryside, rescuing old buildings from the ravages of time and nature, transforming them into timeless locations that retain their storied origins. In her celebrated hands, a crumbling farmhouse gets reimagined as genteel country estate—nothing flashy or wildly different from what it once was. Rather, a reinterpretation that honors the past in a fresh, new way.
In Miani’s aesthetic, Venetian palaces and Tuscan manors see bright, pure updates, transformed into serene, history-infused residences revived for casual modern living. The Rome-based interior designer has even applied her trademark approach to an entire Tuscan town, Castiglioncello del Trinoro, redesigning a dilapidated medieval hilltop into a boutique resort now known as Monteverdi Tuscany. She restored its cavernous Roman baths in sleek simplicity, preserved a crumbling parish church, and reimagined the village’s abandoned homes as tranquil hotel rooms, restful sanctuaries where soft plasters, hand hewn beams, and sturdy old stones echo their Italian peasant origins.
Surveying her remarkable portfolio of work, it's interesting to discover that Miani was originally an art historian and gallerist, and took to interior design almost by chance. Back in the late 1970s, she toured the Italian countryside on the back of a motorcycle, taking photos of crumbling farms, decaying residences and abandoned villages. In 1978, she and her now-husband Giorgio bought one of the ruins, a Tuscan outpost in the rural Val d’Orcia, a region that time had seemingly forgotten.
At that time, when it came to these forgotten rural properties, most developers favored demolition over preservation, but Miani persisted, infusing her space with simple updates that ultimately earned her notoriety. She experimented with soft, natural colors, commissioned artisans to create furnishings she’d designed herself, and added modern, organic accents to update the historical bones.
Her aesthetic was a departure from the glitz that dominated the era, but Miani continued creating spaces that were best described as clean, crisp, and breezy. Within about a decade, Tuscany’s architectural renaissance was well underway, and she had restored a portfolio of properties in her signature, unassuming style, each one beautiful, peaceful and simply sophisticated. Her look caught on.
Today, dozens of preserved properties later, the accomplished designer still professes a passion for breathing new life into abandoned architectural jewels. She gets her inspiration from a building’s origins, often looking into to the past to create the structure’s future. She combs local archives, museums, and aristocratic family histories to discover each building’s backstory. Elements that captivate her most are those that reveal a building’s soul—a trace of colored plaster here, a collapsed stone window there, a fallen archway or sagging wooden beam that once soared massively overhead.
The landscape inspires her work, too, a property on a Venetian canal getting a different reimagining than a Tuscan farm outpost. Miani’s real expertise comes in her gift for “reading” a building. The designer can look into old stones and see the beauty of the rural, Italian peasant lifestyle. She can walk an estate’s pocked and faded tile floors and re-envision them for the future, firing up artisan kilns to create new tiles to marry with the old. And she doesn’t shy away from creating the pieces she knows will fit a particular space. In every project, she adds her own designs to the mix—chairs and beds, lamps and linens, flatware and furnishings, each design rooted in the past and created with respect for historic artisanal traditions.
Miani’s renovations reveal the best of a building’s noble bones. Retrofitting, preserving and repurposing take center stage, and each property feels grounded in its terroir. Her interiors avoid the clichéd or frivolous, and each home is tactile, sumptuously rustic and historically authentic. At each residence—whether palace, farmhouse, spa, villa or hotel—Miani expertly sculpts a new home from ancient timbers and salvaged stones, living proof that when it comes to architectural preservation, the devil really is found in the details.
To explore the work of Ilaria Miani, visit her homes on BoutiqueHomes here.