The Best Of Italy Interior Styles. Italian style is functional, practical, easy to maintain and suits both modern and classical architecture.
Necessity is the mother of invention and nowhere is this more apparent perhaps than in Italy, where most people live in small flats and designers enjoy a reputation for being masters of space saving, dual purpose furniture.
Tables, for instance, may open envelope fashion or have an ingenious single flap on one side to turn a console into a dining table. Deceptively simple wall storage units can house all the household clutter with sections that pull out to make tables or desks.
Modern Italian seating relies very much on clean cut, definite lines. The conventional three piece suite has no place here. Instead, individual chairs are used to make design statements. A simple upholstered sofa can be contrasted with a chair of shiny chrome, wire mesh or plastic.
And rather than using conventional fixed upholstery which cannot be easily cleaned, upholstery can be closely ‘wrapped’ with practical, removable fabric covers. Other seating may have functional metal frames with tailoring details, such as flat cushions to replace upholstered arms and a top section which opens out to form a high back or folds down to make a neck support.
Lighting is important.
Freestanding uplighters and multi adjustable angular desk lights in chrome and matt black metal frequently punctuate living rooms, bedrooms and work rooms. Pendant lights favour space age shapes and hang low over coffe or dining tables.
Hallway – light and airy
White walls and a painted floor provide a neutral background to this sculptural table. The lilies echo the arrangement of canes in the umbrella stand; a geometric patterned rug echoes the colours of the painting above.
Living room – flexible seating
Piero de Martini designed this sculptural seating range called ‘sampan’. It comprises individual, horseshoe shaped chairs which can be covered in a choice of traditional floral or plain fabrics. Units can be used singly or very simply linked together to form a variety of seating arrangements.
Dining area – space saving table
A simple shelving unit transforms into a neat envelope flap shaped table for two. The striking black, white and yellow colour scheme is echoed in the shelving, black and yellow chairs and tiled floor.
Living room – practical comfort
These ‘Cardigan’ sofas were designed by Vico Magistretti, one of Italy’s foremost designers and have the look of almost being ‘wrapped up’ in padded fabric covers that unzip for cleaning. The ‘veranda ‘ chair in the background has adjustable head support and foot rest.
Kitchen – Functional design
Shiny laminate, built in appliances and lots of cleanly tiled surfaces make up this modern streamlined kitchen. The small grid created by the wall tiles is picked up on a larger scale on the floor. The almost all white scheme is accented by touches of black in the taps, venetian blinds and bar stools.
COLOUR AND PATTERN
Colour schemes are definite: either clear pastels, brilliant primaries, or black and white. Upholstery fabrics are usually in plain colours in flat or self patterned weaves, stripes, checks or small geometric patterns. Some animal prints are also included. Flowers are not usually incorporated as part of this look and in flowery fabrics are used, it is to complement a particular shape of furniture or to make a one off design statement.
A chair may have a plain black back, a blue seat and maybe yellow arms; other seating in the room then tends to be in plain colours, perhaps with black used for occasional tables. A sofa in navy and cream check may be offset by a seating unit incorporating a chaise longue section in a clear red.
Glossy lacquers in black, cream, grey and red are often used for tables and storage. Natural or stained black ash is popular for chair frames as well as tubular black metal and chrome.
Windows mostly feature blinds either venetian, plain roller, or pinoleum. Curtains, if used, tend to be plain with tailored triple pleat or pencil headings, hung from track rather than poles. Floors are of highly polished wood or, alternatively, ceramic or vinyl tiles, painted wood or marble. Good quality art rugs with geometric patterns are a more suitable choice for this look than fitted carpet.
ACHIEVING THE LOOK
Italian furniture is often very expensive, so aim to make an impact with one or two good examples with elegant simple lines a single chair and light fitting perhaps. Look for old sofas and occasional chairs that can be recovered in plain upholstery fabrics in primary colours. Coffee tables shaped like an artist’s palette, with splayed metal legs can be given a coat of black gloss paint for a modern Italian look.
Window treatments can be plain roller or venetian blinds. Floors should be plain with a hard surface; parquet or vinyl marble look floor tiles from DIY shops are an inexpensive answer. Add interest with geometric patterned rugs. Walls should be painted plain white or cream for displaying traditional and modern abstract paintings.
Choose objects which are functional, echo a line which appears elsewhere or make an additional focal point in a room plain glass containers for flowers, marbles or shells, a vase for colour or pattern accent, perhaps a piece of sculpture.
Lighting is nearly as important as furniture in creating the Italian look. Leggy uplightters, versatile work lights and stylish pendants are almost pieces of sculpture in their own right, as well as being efficient light sources.
Line and shape
Shapes are mainly streamlined, with wrapped and folded ‘tailoring’ details to add interest. Witty and practical pieces chairs and occasional tables are used for impact. This ‘T-line’ chair has a padded back which extends to the floor with dramatically cantilevered seat. The lacquered coffee table owes as much impact to its boldly sweeping curves as to its high gloss and bright colour. A multi position ‘Dove’ light appears poised for flight.