One particularly dreamy example is “Casa d’Artista,” a 13th c. ruin in Civita di Bagnoregio filled with modern Italian furniture and transformed by the town’s mayor into an AirBnB. Designed by Milan-based DWA Design Studio, the space has been outfitted with stylish modern conveniences and high end furniture—Utrecht armchairs, clusters of Le Corbusier-designed Tabouret side tables—without erasing the romance of sleeping in a remote, hilltop built by the Etruscans in the 7th century BC.

“Casa d’Artista” in Civita
“Casa d’Artista” in Civita
Image: Roberto Rosa / Airbnb

La Semilla, a nine-room bed and breakfast along Mexico’s Playa del Carmen also uses rough luxe to create a unique environment. The hotel’s owners highlight the original features of their 1990’s building and make a virtue out of patchy walls and imperfect tile work. They use crates as end tables, mismatched chairs in the breakfast area, and accessorize with flea market treasures original to the Yucatán Peninsula.

These properties conform with Hage’s insistence that rough luxe can’t be fabricated. It’s not about combining junk and fancy period props, like how the Brooklyn hipster aesthetic–or its precursor, “shabby chic”—has become. Rough luxe is a principle grounded in a place’s unique character. “It’s about authenticity and experience,” Hage emphasizes.

Rough luxe is also Hage’s treatise on luxury. Describing a bedroom with peeling paint and a gilded bed, he points to the wall as the most prized element. “The wall is more luxurious because it’s part of the spirit and the soul of the house,” he says. “It’s irreplaceable, inimitable and it’s authentic.”

Rough luxe in Provence.
Rough luxe in Provence.
Image: Courtesy Rabih Hage

Born in Lebanon, Hage reflects that seeing destroyed façades in Beirut as a child shaped his outlook.  “I was born in a place where the mark of history was on the walls, and I thought we should preserve it so future generations can learn from it. There’s beauty in washed out façades and broken windows…you can see this faded grandeur,” he explains.

Hage’s rough luxe sensibility also manifests in his taste in furniture. A prolific collector of modern design and the publisher of the DeTnk Collectible Design Market Report, Hage delights in the genius of Johnny Swing’s sinuous furniture made from found coins or Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek’s scrapwood furniture.

“I’m always in search for working with discarded materials to make something intelligent, functional and luxurious,” he says.

In many ways, rough luxe is a revival of the founding ideal of the Brooklyn hipster aesthetic. Before it was packaged and commercialized, hipsterism was, in large part, a reverence for methods and superbly crafted goods from a bygone era. Similarly, rough luxe reminds us that attentiveness to a place’s particular history results in better design.

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