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Villa Lena: An Artist’s Utopia in Tuscany

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The 19th century villa
The 19th century villa Courtesy of the Villa Lena

We explore the Villa Lena, the unique, non-profit holiday retreat that gives guests the opportunity to savour the work of sojourning artists

Who? Lena Evstafieva, Jérôme Hadey and Lionel Bensemoun are resounding names in the cultured circles of Paris – the first is an art consultant, the second a musician and the third is one of the co-founders of Parisian nightclub Le Baron. Bensemoun entrusted Clarisse Demory, an art director, with the task to oversee the design of Villa Lena’s environs: the decoration of the hotel and private houses on the estate, as well as the landscaping. Olga Shelkovnikova was called upon to direct the eponymous art foundation.

"The Villa Lena is like a home and a laboratory for artists and friends"

What? The Villa Lena concept fuses art, design and ecology against the scenic backdrop of a Tuscan 19th century neo-Renaissance villa that sits among stables, private houses, woodland, olive groves and vineyards. Coupled with the not-for-profit Villa Lena Foundation, these premises encompass an unconventional holiday retreat that gives guests the opportunity to savour the work of sojourning artists, who are invited to two-month residencies. Villa Lena’s informal communal schedule of activities is focused on cultivating the senses. Demory describes the interior design as “humble”, but “everything is of good quality. There's a natural and minimalist feeling and it seems guests appreciate the neutrality because they can project themselves in the apartments as if they were their own homes.” Creativity is nourished literally too: Villa Lena’s restaurant serves a menu by chef Hélène Bouchardeau, previously at the three Michelin stars restaurant ‘L' Arpège’.

One of the artist's studios
One of the artist's studios Courtesy of the Villa Lena

Why? Collaboration and multi-disciplinary exchange are central to Villa Lena’s principles. By allowing the artists seclusion in nature, individual creativity is fostered, while dialogue between the hotel guests and artists is encouraged in a dynamic social scene. “Villa Lena is already a big community and everybody has ideas for the place”, Demory says. “It’s like a home and a laboratory for artists and friends.”

Sottsass and Superstudio for Zanotta in reception
Sottsass and Superstudio for Zanotta in reception Courtesy of the Villa Lena

Villa Lena hosted pop-ups last summer, during the Halloween holidays and the winter holiday, and re-opens for summer on April 15.

Text by Siska Lyssens

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