The Tuscan decorating style is the rustic design theme for Italy, and through its furniture, architecture and interiors, has the sunny look and feel of Tuscany, a more colorful and only slightly more formal theme than its English and French country counterparts.
Widely considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance (in the city of Florence), the region of Tuscany is situated on the Mediterranean coast about 2/3 of the way up Italy's western shoreline. Where the violin was invented in the 1500s, and known for its temperate climate and pastoral scenery of mountains, plains, woodlands, and breathtaking views of sunsets and sea, Tuscany also has the clout of producing world-class wines, artwork and interior home furnishings.
Endless rooftops of centuries old, sun-drenched terracotta, arched doorways, tall cypress trees, courtyard fountains, stucco walls, wrought-iron furniture and gates ... all contribute to the classic Tuscan ambience.
Whether a simple farmhouse or an expansive villa, authentic Tuscan decorating and architecture have changed little over the last 500 years. And so once again, we witness the rise of the ancient Roman design becoming one of the most sought after styles in the Western hemisphere.
Omnipresent terracotta in Tuscany, as viewed from atop Giotto's bell tower.
Colors & Textures
The weathered and muted colors in the Tuscan decorating palette are derived from the land on which it resides. The ubiquitous burnt orange-red hues of terracotta, cinnamon, olive and cypress greens, leather and dark wood browns, burgundy, lavender and cool Mediterranean Sea blue make up the primary colors used in Tuscan design.
Accents of these colors can be achieved through wall color, paintings, tapestries, pillows, rugs, upholstery, curtains, blankets, plants, candles and various other accessories which you will see described below.
Pertaining to walls, a characteristic practice in Tuscan decorating is the use of Frescos, which became popular during the Renaissance, and are light watercolor paintings applied directly to stucco surfaces while the plaster is still damp. This is a great way to add colorful folklore and creative charm to an otherwise blank background.
The color chart below displays the primary colors found in Tuscan designed homes. Color cues in Tuscan decorating.
For assistance selecting your theme colors, try these free online tools, the color wheel calculator (from Sessions School of Design) and the color visualizer (from Sherwin Williams).
Moving into textures, terracotta, the burnt-red brick material that is inescapable in Tuscany, dominates the landscape in all forms of building. Inexpensive and easy to produce, terracotta is used in a multitude of fashions, including curved roof tiles (called pantiles), flower pots, floor tiles (offered in a variety of shapes), patio or garden statues, storage containers, drainage pipes, window boxes for plants and flowers, and bricks used for walls and arched-doorways.
Terracotta walls are often covered in stucco plaster for sealant and protection of the underlying brick, which, when aging begins, cracking and peeling occurs, adding aesthetic appeal and perpetual character.
A brightly lit room in this Tuscan dwelling, with wood and leather furniture, terracotta floors, iron fixtures, and colors falling within the spectrum of this design.
Sandstone, limestone and marble, in use for millennia, are found in abundance in Tuscan decorating and are the region's primary stone types in architecture, furniture and decoration.
Sandstone, a grayish soft stone with hints of tan, brown and red, can be easily carved and is typically found in street cobblestones, flooring, fireplaces, walls and patio construction.
Limestone, on the other hand, a very heavy rock and almost white, is extracted in much larger chunks and can be cut into giant blocks, and is used for building construction, statues, flooring and fortification.
And finally, the beauty of marble is universally popular and is used in such things as floors, walls, fireplaces, countertops, furniture, staircases, fountains, windowsills, artwork, sinks, bathtubs, pillars and columns.
So significant was the buildup during the Roman Empire that stone from ruins of that era is still being recycled into buildings of today. These stone types are seen all over the region in the construction of cathedrals, public buildings, bridges, commercial establishments and farmhouse villas.
Woods native to Tuscany are generously used in towns and villages throughout the countryside. Found in a variety of mass and color throughout the region, timber used in Tuscan design primarily comes from these tree families: walnut, chestnut, elm, oak, maple, poplar and pine.
Contributing to the Old World rustic look in these dwellings, you find natural and unpainted dark wood beams used for ceiling support and doorways, both of which are set against lighter hued stucco surfaces. Window frames, shutters, arched doorways, doors and furniture are all constructed of the medium to darker colored woods and can be left untreated or painted in a variety of colors that suit the Tuscan decorating palette. Tuscan decorating is exemplified in this bedroom with stucco walls, planked floors, unfinished furniture, and dark-wooded ceiling beams.
Wide-planked wood flooring is also incorporated into the home in off rooms and the upstairs, but not usually in the main gathering rooms of the lower level. It is especially desirable where tiling may not be present. Note that wall-to-wall carpet is not commonly seen in the Tuscan decorating style.
Tuscan furniture takes on two forms, the first being a restrained elegance which is ornate and decorative, and the second a more simple and rustic style. Either way, sturdy wooden antiques (or at least having the appearance of being old) are what you should seek.
Darker woods are preferred in Tuscan furniture, so walnut and chestnut are used primarily in the construction of these fixtures around the home. Although, if a more rustic farmhouse look is desired, furniture constructed out of the lighter color tones of pine and poplar should be used.
Rooms are usually somewhat bare, decorated with a only a few pieces. The most common pieces found in this style include open (door-less) shelving, desks, wrought-iron bed frames, cassoni, credenzas and armoires (can be put in almost any room or hallway) for storing ceramics and artwork, linens and clothes.
And if you have the space, a long, rustic, lighter-toned wood dining room set with the ability to serve lots of guests food (and wine) is obligatory!
Dark, lacquer-coated furniture with inlays and carved decoration were very popular during the Renaissance. So keeping with the theme today, inlays of mother-of-pearl, ivory and marble are very common in the darker pieces.
Lighter colored furniture is often painted in the same way that other woods around the home are, such as doors, windows and shutters. Very common on lighter toned furniture you also find ornately hand-painted designs, various different motifs and gold trim.
Simple lines and curves, accent inlays, wrought-iron and colorful fabric, all in concert with one another and complemented with the room's artwork and architecture, form a never-ending orchestra of sensation that would make even Julius Caesar proud.
Lightly colored fabrics are typically used in Tuscan decorating to brighten the room and contrast against darker furniture and wall colors. Cushions, tapestries, upholstery, bedding, area rugs and drapes are all auspiciously infused for wonderful accents.
Window dressings, if used at all, are kept simple and low-key, hanging on an iron rod and allowing the beauty of the outdoors in.
Materials of brocade, damask, linen and lace are intermingled throughout the environment to set a soft and comfortable stage.
Tuscan Decorating Accessories
Accessories in the Tuscan decorating style should be casual, reveal time-worn character and look anything but new. Listed below, whether you choose only a few or several decorations, will add the right touch in varying degrees to the Tuscan look that you desire.A majolica bowl on a hardwood counter in the rustic Tuscan kitchen.
Below are some additional ideas for your Tuscan decorating theme.
- Unpolished metal (copper being the most prevalent) used for urns, pots and cookware in the kitchen
- Large, leafy plants in terracotta or unpolished metal pots and urns (the more plants the better)
- Dried or freshly cut flowers such as roses and geraniums in terracotta or copper pots, and jasmine vines for the patio
- Renaissance era wooden cassoni chests, highly decorated and used for aesthetic appeal as well as storage
- Iron wine rack, ceiling pot rack (complete with hanging copper pots), patio furniture, wall sconces and candleholders
- Ceiling medallions
- Antique Persian or oriental rugs on terracotta tiled or hardwood floors
- Pillars, columns, pedestals and arched doorways of marble, sandstone, or limestone
- Tall glass jars storing pasta and garlic, or mason jars of preserved olives, tomatoes and onions
- Marble or limestone tabletops with iron-framed and legs
- Wrought-iron fencing and stair railing both in and outdoors
- Wall tapestries
- Eerie medieval gargoyle statues and water fountains
- Italian garden decor, such as stone or terracotta masks of distorted expressions on faces, either animal, human or mythical, usually depicting horror or insanity (called "grotesque" masks); can be hung or used as a fountain
- Rustic wooden window shutters
- Wooden benches and stools
- Elegant Italian hand-painted ceramics, majolica, or terracotta to be used for vases, jars, wine chillers, flower pots, crock-pots, pitchers and storage containers
- Terracotta or stone water fountain on the patio, surrounded by lots of greenery and statues
- Dark, wood-beamed and plastered ceilings
- 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
- Shields, coats-of-arms, or family crests placed above the fireplace mantel
Harkening back to the Old World days of 500 years ago, Tuscan decorating employs the use of iron wall sconces, candlesticks, lanterns, and lamps placed around the room, which serves not only to brighten, but also to set a comfortable and timeless tone while displaying vintage-quality taste.
Some other ideas for Tuscan lighting include:
Old World styled wood, brass or iron chandeliers with Venice gold glass shades, particularly over areas where dining or entertaining occurs
Brass, terracotta, majolica, or dark-wood stemmed lamps, for both floors and tabletops
And of course, bright sunshine streaming through wide open windows!
See Also ...
English Country Decor
French Country Decorating
Return to European Decorating from here
Tuscan Decorating - Old World Design in the Mediterranean Region of Tuscany, including Pottery, Lighting, Earthenware, and many other Accessories
Italian Style Home Decor Shop - Features beautiful Tuscan style home decor accessories such as imported Italian ceramics, luxury bedding ensembles, wall decor, wall tapestries, kitchen accessories, and more