Sicilian palazzo renovated with love, care and a little Scandinavian magic

Marie Olsson Nylander and her family moved from Sweden to the sunshine to complete this dream project

palazzo cirillo renovation by marie olsson nylander dining room
Monica Spezia/Living Inside

‘Here it is different. Sea, sun and a mild climate almost all year round, and luxuriant gardens full of fruit trees. It’s another landscape,’ enthuses Marie Olsson Nylander, sharing her love of Termini Imerese, a historic town on the Sicilian coast close to Palermo. ‘It’s a new world compared to Scandinavia.’

Marie, a stylist and interior designer, was sent a link to the sale of Palazzo Cirillo by a friend. She was so taken by images of the dusty pink, late-18th-century property in Termini Imerese’s oldest district, that she convinced her partner, Bill, and four children – Otto, Vidar, Ingrid and Solveig – to pack their bags.

palazzo cirillo renovation by marie olsson nylander living room
Monica Spezia/Living Inside

The family left their home in Höganäs, southern Sweden, for a holiday that would change everything. ‘Now we have a second home almost 3,000 kilometres from the first,’ she jokes.

Uninhabited for more than 30 years (ever since issues with the roof caused the previous owners to move out), this dream property was not without its challenges. For Marie, though, its history was irresistible. Researching the palazzo’s past, she discovered that a tunnel leads from the garden wall to a hidden door within the nearby church and that local legend told of a woman who once lived in the basement, making dolls from human hair. ‘Everybody was a little afraid of her,’ laughs Marie, who, herself, appears not to be frightened of anything.

palazzo cirillo renovation by marie olsson nylander kitchen
Monica Spezia/Living Inside

Her tireless renovation of this home, undertaken by the family and a small team of friends, even became the subject of a TV show, Husdrömmar Sicilien (or ‘Dream Houses’), in her native Sweden. Viewers were able to share in her joy as she unearthed the palazzo’s treasures, such as the pink, light blue and mustard plaster tones buried beneath countless layers of paint and wallpaper on the one-metre-thick walls, and preserved the original tiled floors.

palazzo cirillo renovation by marie olsson nylander bedroom
Monica Spezia/Living Inside

To these uncovered delights, she has added a surprising mix of contemporary Scandinavian and Italian designs, as well as bespoke pieces and one-off finds from her own company, MO Interior. ‘The two teak lion statues at the entrance, the furniture, the lights and the precious carpets, all collected over many years, arrived from Sweden with us by cargo ship,’ says Marie.

palazzo cirillo renovation by marie olsson nylander garden
Monica Spezia/Living Inside

‘Here, the rooms are so wide and the ceilings so high that you can’t fill them. No matter how much you put in, they always seem empty.’

Filling them will take time. But time is something the family are happy to spend here, soaking up the Sicilian sun as Marie’s to-do list continues. ‘The rooms on the ground floor need to be completed and we will have to take care of the garden, too,’ she says. ‘Perhaps we will add a small swimming pool, who knows…’ We’ll all just have to stay tuned to find out.

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