Before and After: Airbnb Turned a Decaying Italian Home Into an Airy Oasis — and You Can Live There Rent-Free

published Jan 20, 2022
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Credit: Claudia Zalla

In Sambuca, Italy — a town in Sicily that sold homes for £1 as part of a campaign to boost their local economy — Airbnb gave one of these 1 Euro Houses a designer makeover.

Airbnb teamed up with Studio Didea, an Italian architectural firm, to transform a crumbling abandoned home into a modern abode. And better yet, Airbnb announced a contest where they’re choosing one lucky person (and their family, partner, or friend) to live in the house rent-free for a year while also acting as a host for the house and keeping all earnings.

Studio Didea told Apartment Therapy that the biggest challenge they faced when designing the property was ensuring that whoever was staying there felt at home. “Airbnb’s request was to renovate the property while providing spatial solutions capable of changing and taking different forms depending on who lives there, always keeping the objective of Airbnb linked to the sense of belonging,” they said.

“Therefore, designing spaces that make people from different cultures feel at home while maintaining the Sicilian nature of the places [was key],” Studio Didea continued. “We conceived the house as a flexible space, capable of accommodating more people and more functions according to needs.”

Credit: Claudia Zalla

The overall transformation is truly spectacular, which includes the all-important living room. In the before image above, a detail you might not notice at first amidst the deteriorating walls is the gorgeous green floor with an elegant gold and beige trim. In the “after” photo, the green floor (which has been lovingly restored) is a stunning contrast to the muted tones of the walls and furniture. The orange tree and view of Sicily complete the vibe.

Credit: Claudia Zalla
Credit: Claudia Zalla

In the kitchen, a relatively drab room is made anew with bold accents and sleek furnishings. Wood door frames and a bench lend warmth to the room, which gets a fair amount of natural light from a glass door that looks out to a nearby building. One of the walls has been painted green (there seems to be a theme here), and the raw wood ceiling is now a soft gray to complement the space. 

Studio Didea noted that the mood board for the house combined traditional materials that were already present and new elements that reflect their work and aesthetic without distorting the existing tones. “The new elements of the stairwells are highlighted by the choice of contemporary materials and colors — red and green painted metal sheet — in contrast to the neutral and natural tones of the lime and terra cruda wall and floor finishes,” they explained.

If living in Italy rent-free and hosting this renovated home sounds like a dream come true, you can submit an application on Airbnb anytime before Feb. 18. Interested candidates must be over 18 years old and ready to move to Sambuca for at least three months starting in June. Speaking Italian isn’t required but is definitely a plus, and the winner will have the opportunity to learn Italian and take Italian cooking classes.