This Sicilian villa brings contemporary architecture to the foot of Mount Etna

L House is a modern Sicilian villa in perfect sync with its surroundings, designed by London-based architecture practice Transit Studio

modern sicilian villa L House dusky exterior shot
(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

L House is a contemporary Sicilian villa, sprawled across a generous site amid rolling hills, fertile agricultural land, leafy nature and Mount Etna in the distance. The project is the first in Italy of dynamic, emerging practice Transit Studio, headed by architect Ben Masterton-Smith and based in London. '[It] has been an incredible opportunity to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the island, the unique landscape and the abundant local ingredients and cuisine there,' he says. 

L House dark monolithic exterior block

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

A modern Sicilian villa: L House

Commissioned as a retreat by a private client, L House was conceived to emerge from its land – outlined right from the start, as a home that draws on the heritage, culture and geology of Sicily. Terraced orange, lemon, olive and avocado groves, and vineyards wrap around the site, and are represented in the project by its rich gardens and open-air terraces; meanwhile, Mount Etna's volcanic nature appears in the main building, and in particular its dark-coloured, monolithic, barn-inspired volume. Elsewhere, there are antique terracotta roof tiles and very soft pink render that create a welcome juxtaposition, drawing the visitor in. 

L House swimming pool

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

‘We were really fascinated by the volcanic landscape and the role of Etna in the history of the island. The impact of the volcano on materials and architecture is also strongly pronounced on the island – lava being seen traditionally as a “cheap” building material on the eastern side of the island, but elevated to something rather more special in Palermo, and the reverse for the white stone from Trapani that was used as expensive ornamentation in Catania,' the architect writes. 

'Catania also has various colours of render, with a more rare soft pink intonaco (render) made from sabia volcanica (volcanic sand) that proved to be an inspiration for the project. We visited a lava stone quarry and were particularly interested in a type of lava that is cut from the top of the lava flows. The stone has an almost sponge-like appearance, with air bubbles – known in Italian as ‘occhio di pernice’ (partridge eye lava) – a fantastic surface texture that we used to wrap the new volume in.'

L House living space looking out

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

Inside, minimalist architecture is informed by local materials and crafts that blend with the region’s abundant sunshine to make for a calm, warm and welcoming interior. Lava stone is used in different ways – in various surfaces and glazes, such as the indoor flooring and the bathroom tiles. The Transit team took its cues from the local colours of the sky and sea and the sabia volcanica to create its internal compositions. Refreshing simplicity abounds, as the architecture team masterfully crafted layered spaces that feel streamlined and organic. 

L House terrace and planting

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

‘The project epitomises the interests and passions of the studio, exploring and taking inspiration from our travels and bringing these ideas very much into the character of our work,' said Masterton-Smith. Transit Studio has since worked on a variety of projects across the UK, including the prestigious Groucho Club in London's Soho; an estate masterplan in Sussex; a rural hotel; a Grade I-listed private members’ club in St James’; and an artist retreat in a listed stable block in Devon.

L House minimalist kitchen

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

L House kitchen detail

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

L House bedroom

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

L House living space interior

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

L House exterior

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito) (opens in new tab)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).