There’s a tremendous amount of interest in Italian style, both in fashion and in home decor. When talking about decor, many automatically think “Tuscan Home decor.” This is understandable with the popularity of Frances Mayes’ books, and the many movies set in, and around Tuscany. But Italy, with its varied and beautiful cities and regions, has any number of variations on “Italian style.”
Key factors to consider in home decor:
- Respect for the past
- Embrace of the present
- Blending the interior with the exterior
- Emphasis on quality, pride in craftsmanship
- Attention to detail
With the country’s magnificent history – it’s easy to understand the Italians’ respect for traditions and the past. Consider Italy’s accomplishments in art, architecture and engineering – accomplishments that were revered thousands of years ago and continue to inspire awe and admiration today.
But in addition to spectacular past creations, Italy is a leader in modern achievement – modern design. After all, this is the land of Ferrari and Maserati. The land of sleek contemporary furniture that sits juxtaposed with beautiful, classic antiques; with the effect being nothing short of stunning. After all, with only antiques – you have the look of a museum – stuffy and after awhile – boring. But mix the two with a discerning eye – the room becomes vibrant and alive.
Blending the interior and exterior is a charming characteristic of Italian style – what you see on the outside is reflected in the interior. And or course, the beauty of the Italian landscape is breathtaking – whether the rich, vibrant green of the lake regions bordering Switzerland, Tuscany’s rolling hills dotted with vineyards and cypress lined roads, the magical seven hills of Rome, or the hard, brilliant sun and sparkling sea off the Amalfi coast. The light dictates the colors – think the warm, glowing hues of a Tuscan farmhouse wall, the rich effervescent shades of Venetian plaster, the sun-bleached patinas of ancient stone around Pompeii.
Besides the light, the surrounding countryside has dictated the interiors of the homes – the nearest forests provided the wood that made up the furniture, the nearest quarry provided the stone. And closer to home, right outside the doors actually – the gardens.
Italian gardens are famous throughout the world, and everyone has a garden: whether they’re the exceedingly manicured gardens of the palazzos, the more casual gardens of farmhouses and villas, or Roman apartment balconies loaded with masses of geraniums. Life spills out of the homes into the gardens where “rooms” have existed for centuries: dining rooms, lounging rooms, whatever the heart desires.
And water has always been a very important focus (the famous Roman Aqueduct) and focal point in the gardens (think of the magical gardens of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli.) Even the most modest gardens have water features wherever possible.
Then there is the pride in craftsmanship: Italy – the land of master craftsmen. Think handcrafted terra cotta tile roofs, intricate mosaic tile floors, carved marble countertops, exquisitely patterned ceramics, lavishly woven tapestries and linens, fabulous hand blown glass, sleek minimalist furniture… the list goes on and on. And these wonderfully (and in many cases traditionally) crafted items are as prized today, as they were hundreds of years ago. Cheap mass-produces imitations? No way. Dining rooms are dressed with handcrafted chairs upholstered in Fortuny fabrics; kitchen racks are filled with ceramics – simple earthenware bowls to elaborate majolica pieces.
Attention to detail shows up in ways large and small: fresh flowers on nightstands, hand-embroidered table linens, family photos framed in Buccellati silver, bath linens from Busatti and soaps from Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy (Officina Profumo di Santa Maria Novella.), or a single, perfect sunflower standing in a simple vase. Pride in small things – well done.
It’s not difficult to bring a little Italian style into any home. Start by mixing the old with the new (pull the grandmother’s silver and linens and of the closet and use them – or place the “modern art” painting over the antique chest), have fresh flowers and plants throughout the home, and appreciate the little nicks and wear spots, as the patina of age gives a room some depth and history. Whenever possible, invest in timeless, handcrafted pieces that will stand the test of time: in terms of quality (cheap will fall apart) and classic (you won’t tire of them.) Concentrate on ease and comfort, and bring color into the room as it adds instant warmth. And focus on the warmth, not perfection – perfection is boring and ultimately, lifeless.