House style

Tue, 06/23/2009 - 03:30
Words by Mellissa Ormiston – Pictures by Etro

Picture the scene: you come back from a hard day of designer shopping and fall exhausted through the front door in a heap with your carrier bags. Kicking off your shoes, you sit back in your armchair and smile at your newly acquired purchases and then you hear something strange.

There’s a low whine, coming from behind the wallpaper. Slightly unnerved, you get up and look around the room. There it is again. Now it sounds as if it’s coming from the comfy sofa, and it’s there again, from the pine coffee table. ‘What about me?’ it says, getting louder. ‘What about me?’ Yes, it’s your home pleading with you to dress it in designer gear too.

Before you start thinking I’ve been let loose on the grappa, remember that in Italy the style of one’s wardrobe is as important as what’s stashed inside it.

As we all know, gli italiani have the ability to merely glance at something to make it chic, cool and desirable and their homes are no exception. This talent undoubtedly stems from their deep-rooted passion, creativity and by simply being born aesthetes.

It’s not unusual to see a ten year-old lovingly straighten a picture frame and as much as an Italian can spot dust at 100 paces, they’ll also notice if your furniture looks tired, the coffee cups are chipped and the overhead lighting is strip fluorescent.

Whether homes are classic and traditional or colourful and contemporary, it is important that the casa italiana portrays an element of individuality and flair that for most of us could take a decade’s viewing of patronising makeover programmes. I recall admiring a Florentine friend’s tiled kitchen with unusual wooden shelves. ‘Oh those?’ he said, nonchalantly tapping them. ‘I picked up this old drift-wood whilst strolling along the beach last year.’ Not quite Saturday afternoon’s trolley-barging with other distressed DIY novices.

Designers to the rescue

Help has now arrived in the form of the Designer Home Collection and the Lifestyle Store. These specialist shops sell every accessory necessary to make the home more beautiful, with minimal effort, including vintage furniture, fabrics, lights, cds, books and fragrances.

In as much as it matters to be seen in particular designer clothes, it’s becoming increasingly popular for Italians to use their favourite labels to dress their homes. Recently ‘Armani Casa’ was launched, bringing Italian glamour to any home.

Armani and his team of designers created a vast range of classically-styled furniture, including sanded wooden tables and chairs, screens and beds. There are also beautifully-crafted containers and boxes, bowls, vases, trays, delicate linen and spun cashmere blankets that have been hand dyed in Tibet. Giorgio has seemingly thought of it all.

There are also other important names in the world of interiors that every Italian knows equate with the word ‘style’ such as Cappellini for a cabinet, Kartell for a sleek chair, Bang & Olufsen for a streamlined stereo and Arclinea for that futuristic kitchen.

Poliform and B&B Italia are two renowned brands that offer both comfort and elegance. Italians love their huge soft sofas and armchairs, which would have anyone screaming like a brat if asked to move off them. They also make stunning, streamlined bookcases and storage cabinets so the tv and stereo don’t need to take centre-stage.

Signature touches

Wallpaper doesn’t really feature in Italian homes. ‘There is still a strong tendency to choose a ‘neutral’ colour, with all the nuances of white, cream and grey,’ says Andrea Mamo ‘People also seem to like a bit of contrast at the moment, for example painting three walls white with the fourth a fairly strong colour is very popular’.

If looking for something extravagant, perhaps on a Pompeiian scale, then you must try Bisazza. This family-run business makes mosaics and tiling that would have had any emperor drooling. Costing from as little as £35 a metre the mosaics are customised to suit your taste for anywhere in the house, from the sitting room floor to the bathroom walls. You can even create your own mosaic on their website at

For accessories with colour and a touch of humour, there are designer labels Etro, Roberto Cavalli, Missoni and Versace. On everything from cushions and lamps to plates and towels you’ll find elements of their signature prints: Etro’s paisley, Cavalli’s roses, Missoni’s stripes and Versace’s Medusa that come in vibrant shades to liven up any home.

Then for fun in the kitchen, head for Alessi. With its quirky designs, it is instantly recognised and appreciated in Italy and more or less every respectable household has something from its collection whether it be a coffee pot, condiment set or the famous Anna G corkscrew.

Another home styling element that is important to Italians is the lighting. There is a great selection of designer lamps from the likes of Flos, Artemide and Fontana Arte.