Italian interior design ideas that will transform your space into a Tuscan villa
If you are reading this because you watched Under the Tuscan sun more times than you care to admit – you’re in a safe space. The design aesthetic of the Italian villa is imbued with the spirit of “la dolce vita” and justifies a healthy obsession. “Italian villas have a simplicity and rigor that translates into their interior design. Even though they may seem laid-back, everything is very well thought out,” says Pietro Castagna (the interior designer behind Lake Como’s Villa Làrio). “Italian architecture is a bit like its cuisine in that you can’t learn it, you have to feel it.” Her approach for the iconic Lake Como property was to make guests feel at home and cared for by an Italian mother. “This is the secret of Italian architecture, a combination of aesthetics and family, of rigor but also of decorum, of spontaneity but also of study of functions and great dialogue with the territory and the magnificent nature of the hills , lakes, mountains and sea of Italy.”
For Masciarelli owner Marina Cvetic, history plays a huge role in channeling this look. “The essence of the aesthetics of the Italian villa begins from the Florentine Renaissance and is realized through canons of beauty which, for 500 years, have been evolving, renewing themselves and from which the whole world is inspired”, says- she. “Just think, for example, of the Palladian villas of the Veneto region, the Sicilian Baroque villas and the villas of Lake Como which communicate their magnificence from the north to the south of Italy.” In addition to the winery, Cvetic also owns Masciarelli Castello Semivicoli, a 17th-century villa in Abruzzo surrounded by vineyards and olive groves and offering rooms for rent.
While Instagram would have you believe that everyone is in Italy this summer, if you haven’t planned a trip to the region, why not bring the Italian villa into your own space? Castagna, whose family has been in the industry for nearly 85 years and who was born and raised “among drawings, drafting machines, sawdust and the smell of fresh paints and fabrics” has a tip for those looking to invite this aesthetic into their homes. “Get acquainted with and immerse yourself in the traditions, materials and craftsmanship of Italy,” he says. “It requires an ability to be spontaneous and keep things simple, yet sophisticated.” Ahead, dive into expert advice on how you can update your home with the ineffable romance of the Italian villa.
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Make light a priority
Renowned Italian interior designer Paola Navone, who is behind the interiors of COMO Castello del Nero and founder of the design studio OTTO, emphasizes light as a key pillar in achieving the aesthetics of the Italian villa. “Light is always very important when designing an interior and a site, we love beautiful natural light that makes it feel like you’re outdoors,” she says. “For us, wellness focuses on simplicity, natural materials and handmade items.”
Reinvent and reimagine
Part of Italian villa leadership is a strong sense of place, which for Navone means being comfortable with change. “The most beautiful homes are the ones you live in that are constantly changing over the time that the owner has spent,” she says. “We like the idea that you can invent a new frame every day. One day you can cover everything in white fabric and enjoy the calm aesthetic, while the next day you can paint old furniture a vibrant new color.
Use natural materials
Italian villas are often historic, which gives them that unique sense of romance. For COMO Castello del Nero, Navona was commissioned to design a 12th century villa, preserving its past while translating it into modern life. “Everything in the property is very light and soft, so as not to obscure the magic of the place. The challenge in working on this historic castle was to create new surprises in a caring and respectful way,” she shares. “We have redesigned the interiors – both the 50 rooms and the common areas – to showcase our lifestyle values while taking advantage of locally sourced materials such as wood, Carrara marble, Serena stone and lime-based paints.” Cvetic adds that the choice of materials such as stone, wood and brick (cotto) is fundamental to reflect the Italian villa. “The important thing is that they are original. Today, online sales allow us to buy everything from furniture to Italian materials anywhere in the world,” she says. “These pieces of furniture, thanks to the contamination of styles, can be combined with the decor of any home.”
Create balance with color
In addition to natural materials, color can help capture the essence of the Italian villa. “Neutral colors rule, but you can always add pops of color by keeping them soft and muted, like a dusty pink or sage green,” notes Sarah Shepherd, co-owner of the Heights House Hotel. She also brings color with natural materials, such as ceramic tiles, stone tables, plaster columns and wooden shelves.
Turn to ancient techniques
Lime paint has been used since ancient Roman times, and Shepherd suggests incorporating it into your home for an Italian villa effect. “Limewash paint gives a nice texture to your walls, it’s the perfect backdrop to start with if you’re aiming for the Italian villa aesthetic,” she says. “You can even apply it to drywall to give it the look of plaster, which of course is a base material used in Italian villas.”
While there’s room for modernity, it’s no surprise that a key part of the Italian villa aesthetic encompasses older pieces. “Go to your local antique dealers! You will find hidden gems to add among your new items in your home,” says Shepherd. “Keep an eye out for wooden tables with marble tops, oil paintings, vintage (low-pile) rugs, gilt-framed mirrors and traditional chandeliers.”