We all enjoy the good taste that Italy has to offer, and Italian decorating and design are no exception, clearly distinguished with fashionable interiors exhibiting rich colors, brilliant fabric mixes, marble surfaces, arched doorways and columns, wrought-iron fixtures, and timeworn antiques.
Far from snobbery, Italian decorating is casually grand, yet comfortable and uncluttered, where guests feel as comfortable as household family members
The Renaissance period, marked by profoundly far-reaching cultural movements, began just as the Dark Ages were ending during the 1300s, and as Europe was recovering from the devastating Black Plague, in which roughly half of her population was wiped out.
Coming out of this bleak and dismal period, the Renaissance movement was born as ancient scrolls from Greece and the Roman Empire began to surface. With great renewed historical interest in the days of the Roman Empire, excavation efforts of relics and long-buried cities in these regions (such as Pompeii and Herculaneum) began to teach 14th century scholars and historians about all aspects of their societies from centuries gone by.
Rooted in Florence, Italy, the Renaissance (meaning "rebirth" "reawakening") brought on sweeping reform as more and more was learned about the past, and cascaded throughout virtually every segment of European society, including art, literature, architecture, mathematics, philosophy, politics, science and religion ... Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare and Michelangelo came into prominence during this period of enlightenment.
Cream colors, arched doorways, hardwood floors, and iron railingmark key elements of Italian decorating in the foyer of this home.
Discovery of these ancient ruins inspired Italian artists, sculptors and architects of the time to resurrect the styles which had long been forgotten from their ancestors and Greek counterparts.
The popularity of these styles resulted in Italian decorating and design to remain the undisputed international trendsetter for Europe and the rest of the West for centuries to come.
As noted above, the styles emanating out of the Renaissance were direct descendants from the brighter days of the Roman Empire. Having just come out of the Dark Ages, however, Renaissance-styled furniture carried with it Gothic influences as well, resulting in highly ornate and detailed dark wood carvings that were not present in furniture a thousand years prior. Furniture manufactured in Italy during the Renaissance played a crucial role in how French and English furniture design would cultivate over the coming centuries.
Traditional Italian Renaissance furniture was constructed of woods such as oak, ebony, walnut and rosewood, and often included marquetry and inlays of ivory, marble, mother-of-pearl and bone. Dining room sets, cabinets, bookshelves, and monumental, timeworn, hand-painted cassoni and cabinets are all good choices to consider for bringing back some of Italy's fabled past.
Italian decorating places emphasis on gathering fixtures with character and/or sentimental value. Somewhat foreign to modern thinking, mismatching furniture, lamps and other fixtures, so long as they have historic and aesthetic value, is encouraged.
Finally, mixing in a dose of Italy's contemporary furniture, such as the modern appeal of its stuffed leather sofas, arm chairs and love seats, with antique Renaissance period fixtures and accessories, offers a nice eclectic mix of old and new, and keeps the home elegantly comfortable.
Textures & Colors
Terracotta tiling, a brownish-orange, brick-like substance, is an integral characteristic in Italian decorating for floors, walls, roofs and pottery. Waterproof and extremely durable, terracotta will add the right look for whatever use you choose in or around your home.
Hardwood floors, either planked or parquet, are laid in rooms where terracotta is not used. Wood flooring covered with area rugs, for example, is commonly found in bedrooms or rooms upstairs. Wall-to-wall carpet is not something you typically see in an Italian-themed home.
Italian decor exhibiting peach colored walls, along with statues, marble-topped tables and a large Persian rug, all make up the scenery in this stylish room.
Marble is another common material found in Italian decor and is used in flooring, furniture, countertops, bathrooms and entranceways. Along with marble (and almost as durable), Venetian plaster, which is a cream-colored, decorative stucco, is a another popular choice for adding texture to walls, and dates back hundreds of years in Italian design. Scagliola is an inexpensive alternative substance used for creation of artificial marble and other stones, and is widely used in fireplaces, columns and sculptures.
Earth tones dominate within Italian design and are greatly influenced by the local landscape, agriculture and soft, sunny days. For evocative Mediterranean accents of land and sea, your color scheme should include some red and brown tones found in terracotta, blue-green from the sea, and granite, cream and gold from the land and sky.
Color cues in Italian decorating.
For assistance selecting your Italian decorating colors, try these free online tools, the color wheel calculator (from Sessions School of Design) and thecolor visualizer (from Sherwin Williams).
Renaissance art, changing the course of art history forever, was first widely distributed in the form of textiles. The vivid scenery of wall tapestries, with their rich colors and historical significance, have been used throughout the ages for both insulation during the cold seasons as well as for decorative display. Detailed renderings of biblical scenes, castles, medieval landscapes, and mythology are among the many different motifs found in tapestries, adding a necessary ingredient to the room in Italian design.
Switching over to draperies, Italian decorating avoids heavy window treatments, such as the tie-backs found in French and English themes, in favor of lighter, free-hanging and colorful curtains flowing to the floor.
This large room is complemented with a Persian rug, pillars under the walkway, an arched mirror and bookshelves, and iron spindles on the banister.
Where drapes have been simplified and downplayed as compared to centuries ago, bedding has picked up the slack. Thick velvet, silk, or brocade bedspreads with cushions and pillows of similar material display both luxury and comfort. These same materials also apply to furniture upholstery for chairs and sofas throughout the rest of the home.
For your hardwood and terracotta floors, Persian and Oriental rugs are good choices for providing warmth and extra color to the room.
Italian Decorating Accessories
Dating back to the Renaissance, accessorizing your home with antique and colorful traditional Italian artifacts will be a fun and interesting journey back in time. Keep in mind that pieces should look timeworn and if possible have historic or sentimental value.
The list below offers some additional suggestions to help get you started.
- Renaissance-era wooden cassoni chests, highly decorated and used for aesthetic appeal as well as storage
- Shields, coats-of-arms, or family crests placed above the fireplace mantel
- Renaissance-style oil paintings
- Antique clocks
- Leather-bound books
- Pillars, columns, pedestals and arched doorways of marble, sandstone, or limestone
- Persian and Oriental rugs
- Copper planters and pots, filled with large leafy plants or flowers
- Freshly cut sunflower bouquets or dried flowers in unpolished metal, terracotta and majolica
- Sterling silver flatware and crystal glassware
- Plaster and ceramic statues, busts and figurines
- Wall tapestry
- Wrought-iron candelabras
- Altarstick candleholders
- Terracotta or stone water fountains on the patio, surrounded by lots of greenery and statues
- Ceiling medallions
- Tall glass jars storing pasta and garlic, or mason jars of preserved olives, tomatoes and onions
- Wrought-iron cabinet, sink and bathroom hardware
- Kitchen counters lined with fresh herbs of basil, rosemary, sage, parsley and oregano
- Wicker baskets or colorful glazed bowls of fruit, vegetables and bread
Classical Old World style wrought-iron antique candle wall sconces outlining the room, along with a large and ornate matching chandelier, provide for ample period Italian decorating nostalgia. Shimmering candlelight, from iron or steel candelabras and wall sconces on paintings, mirrors and walls adds a special glow to the room's ambience. Distressed copper or cast iron table and floor lamps also work very nicely in rooms where entertaining and ordinary living occurs.
If more formal settings are sought, such as in the dining room, a crystal chandelier complemented with gold-stemmed lamps and gilt-framed oil paintings, will give the room a more stately and ceremonious tone.
See Also ...
Victorian Home Decor
French Formal Theme
Return to European Decorating from here
Home & Garden Art - Italian Decorating - Bring a Little Bit of Italy into Your Home, items sold include Plates, Wall and Kitchen Clocks, Pillows, Rugs and Posters