Food writer Skye McAlpine’s unique family home is a rich mix of heirloom chic and traditional Italian craftsmanship
Skye looks out from her downstairs guest bedroom on to the outdoor terrace
Skye McAlpine, a cook and food writer, lives in a three-storey 1820s detached house perched on the edge of a canal in the heart of Venice with her husband Anthony, who works in finance, their son Aeneas, five, and their rescue dog Martino.
‘Food should do more than taste good – it should make you feel good, too,’ says Skye McAlpine. ‘When you take the time to bake a chocolate cake, you reap the rewards of enjoying it afterwards.’
Skye often hosts dinner parties in the summer months: ‘Somehow food always tastes better alfresco.’ Her crockery collection is mostly vintage and purchased from antique markets. For similar plates try Wedgwood (wedgwood.co.uk)
The same can be said of Skye’s approach to interiors: every item in the entrance hallway through to the outdoor patio area has been carefully considered and selected over time – from the vintage Murano glass chandeliers bought ‘for a snip’ during a trip to Brussels, to the bespoke furniture and artwork dotted throughout. ‘Venice doesn’t follow the trends – it is about embracing the higgledy-piggledy in life and the cracks that come naturally with time,’ says Skye.
The house was bought by Skye’s parents in 1990 and bears all the trademark charm of Venice. Furniture throughout is upholstered in crisp white linens offset by faded blush pinks and hits of bold purple and lime green. Bespoke ornate detailing is perfected in the living-room cabinets and marble-topped table designed by Oriel Harwood, which were gifts for Skye’s parents. They are filled with hand-painted glassware including colourful Murano stem glasses and ceramics bearing the McAlpine family crest. ‘I love surrounding myself with things that tell a story or have a sense of integrity,’ says Skye.
Her father, the late Conservative peer Alistair McAlpine, made the decision to move to Venice in 1990, when Skye was six. The house was bought from ‘a friend of a friend’ and originally consisted of three adjacent dwellings that were knocked through to give more space for the family. ‘We lived out of suitcases and hotels during the renovation,’ says Skye. ‘It kept life exciting!’
Above left: the bespoke bed was commissioned from Tony Little (of Osborne & Little) by Skye’s father. ‘It was the ultimate climbing frame when I was growing up,’ she laughs. The bedside table and table lamp are by Gio Ponti. Above right: there is a mix of modern and traditional elements throughout the house. The artwork is by a close family friend. ‘Despite the bright colours, I find it peaceful,’ says Skye
Despite dividing her time between Venice and London, the former feels more like home to Skye. Life in Venice has become synonymous with a ‘calm and measured feeling, ideal for cooking and taking the time to write’. In contrast, the London way of life is ‘fast-paced and filled with business meetings’, says Skye. This division of the serene and vibrant is echoed in her choice of natural materials that ‘show the hand of the maker’, such as hand-poured terrazzo floors and traditional wooden beams, combined with striking abstract artwork.
‘I grew up surrounded by crumbling plaster, vivid colour and antiques,’ she says. ‘It has definitely rubbed off on me.’
Emerald green cabinets in the kitchen enhance the cosy feel. For a similar paint shade try Buckingham by Dulux (dulux.co.uk). The glass blocks are from the Venetian island of Murano and reflect the natural light
The kitchen, where Skye learned to cook as a teenager, holds a unique place in her heart. ‘I love cooking for friends – it’s more intimate and relaxed than going to a bar or restaurant.’ The kitchen’s dark wooden beams and stone floors have become cracked and warped from flood water at high tide. ‘It’s all part of the charm,’ she says.
Read Skye’s blog at frommydiningtable.com. Her first cookbook, A Table In Venice: Recipes From My Home, is published by Bloomsbury, price £26. To order a copy for £19.50 (a 25 per cent discount) until 13 May, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15