From fashion icons to master painters to timelessly elegant architecture, for most of us Italian is synonymous with beauty and style. But mastering the art of Italia can be intimidating; pairing just the right colors, textures and elements to look modern and fresh - not busy and old fashioned - to achieve that impression of effortless chic can leave even the most dedicated home goods guru daunted.
It doesn’t need to be nerve-wracking, though. Whether you're looking to update a more traditional room, supplement your current look with a touch of Mediterranean cool, or transform your space into a modern Italian fantasy from the ground up, we've got everything you need to make your design scheme (not to mention your guests) shout “bellissima! We makes it easy to look like you've trawled the vintage markets or visited Murano glass blowers in Venice to pick up gorgeous homewares.
First things first - when it comes to doing modern style the Italian way you need to forget stark Scandinavian minimalism, according to Italianbark founder Elisabetta Rizzato.
"Modern Italian style is not so much into rich patterns and textiles," Rizzato says. So if you're looking to infuse a touch of the Italian into your design ideal, avoid what she refers to as "the ‘too much' effect" by steering clear of pattern or color pile-ons that can be a hallmark of more traditional European styles.
One way of achieving this delicate balance is to anchor your look with stalwart pieces like an oversized sofa in a luxe, buttery leather that serve as a base off of which your accents will really pop. To avoid overwhelming the eye, opt for dramatic, eye-catching pieces in milder shades and textures like sleek gold or marble to give your Italian theme a boost.
Turn Your Eye to Un-plain Neutrals
Particularly when it comes to a modern palette, "mild" colors are nothing at all like bland. Though Italian style may bring to mind deep wine shades and rich earth tones, Rizzato encourages the use of neutrals, since pale, creamy hues lend a sense of airy freshness that will make any room look palazzo-worthy. To keep everything looking and feeling sleek, turn your eye to chic neutral hues that are accented by infusions of technicolor intensity.
"I would recommend choosing a neutral color palette, such as ‘greige’," she says. "Then add pops of color with one piece of furniture or with some colored accessories.” Look for pieces that utilize bold jewel tones (emerald green is especially on-trend right now) to create focal points that give a sense of modern, not mod.
Of course, modern Italian design also sets a focus on meshing the old with the new. Ultra-modern furnishings demand some classical touches to add that sun-soaked Mediterranean feel. For a touch of traditional Italia that won't skew centuries-old, consider looking beyond your walls. "Ceramic tiles are very common in Italy," Rizzato says. "Recently, there has been a huge comeback to the small cement tiles — called ‘cementine’ in Italian — which were typical of the '20s and later." She adds that ‘70s staple terrazzo is also making a come back as a way to bring a dose of classico that’s not in-your-face.
Embrace Italian Classics
Looking for a more mix-and-match option than reflooring? Italy's history is teeming with design stars, so it's hardly a surprise that even the most modern Italian styles employ a nod or two to the country's legacy. Rizzato suggests eyeing up modern pieces inspired by iconic Italian designers. “Adding an iconic piece from Italian design of the '60s and '70s could be a really good and everlasting choice," Rizzato notes. Look for options like this timeless hourglass-shaped silk lamp that will give your scheme an un-dowdy sense of history.
Invest in Statement Lighting
While you’re shedding light, it's hard to do better than a modern Italian chandelier for a complete room revamp with a single piece. Modern designers eschew ordinary recessed lighting and sconces that fade into the background in favor of a centerpiece light with some serious pizzaz. To achieve maximum impact that's in keeping with Italia style, look for versions that blend some traditional Italian craftsmanship like mouth-blown Murano glass with more stripped down modern sensibility to give it an authentically Italian feel.