Decorating 101: Tuscan

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Tuscany

You dream of an Italian villa on a hillside, complete with exposed brick and stucco, a stone patio, terra-cotta tile floors, textured walls, and gorgeous murals painted on an accent wall. At the same time, you don’t want your home to resemble the interior of a kitschy Italian restaurant. Don’t worry – you can achieve Tuscan style in your home and it will be gorgeous!

First, before you begin hauling in the tapestries, the wood beams, and the gilded paintings of rolling vineyards, it’s a good idea to know a little about the inspiration behind Tuscan décor. The Tuscan region of Italy is in central Italy, with the capital being Florence. Tuscany is known for pastoral beauty, history, and an unequaled legacy of art and music. This is the home of the Renaissance. This is where Dante wrote his Inferno, where Michelangelo sculpted David, where Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. This is the homeland of Donatello, Botticelli, and Puccini. The Leaning Tower of Pisa (construction of which began in 1173 and wasn’t completed until 1372) is in the Tuscan region, and so is Sienna’s Piazza del Campo, a World Heritage Site and one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares, established sometime before the 13th century and finally paved in 1349. Florence – the entire city – is also a World Heritage Site, and it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

With that in mind, it’s easier to grasp the elements of Tuscan style: simple, beautiful, earthy. Think natural elements: crumbling stone walls, beautiful hillsides dotted with vineyards, stone farmhouses that have survived for centuries, marble and hardwood. Look for water colors and pastoral paintings, curvy wrought iron accessories, marble statues, terra cotta, stone, and brick. Nothing about Tuscan décor is fancy, shiny, or new.

If possible, start with the ceiling. Think plaster and wood beams. The walls can be stone or stucco – you can also consider using a faux painting technique to give your walls an aged look. Venetian plaster is also great. When choosing paint colors, think of the color of a sunset on a hillside – warm, with hints of gold, olive green, brick red, copper, and rich blue. Flooring can be terra cotta or clay tiles, stone, rough wood planks, or marble.

In the kitchen, you want open shelving and heavy wood furniture (preferably aged or distressed). Hang copper pots and pans from a wrought-iron pot rack above a rough butcher-block island, set terra-cotta planters filled with fresh herbs on the windowsill, and hang plates and platters on the wall. Decorative items should also be useful, as they would have been in a Tuscan farmhouse. Use rough wood planks for the flooring or terra cotta tiles. A rustic terra cotta backsplash is also a great look – or try a rough-tumbled marble. Countertops should also be stone or acid-washed marble (again – nothing too polished or shiny). For faucets and hardware, look for bronze or copper. For décor, add a wine rack, some antique-looking throw rugs, and an antique chandelier.

When looking for furniture, look for simple lines in natural materials. A long, wooden farm-style dining table, a wood frame and leather sofa, wrought iron wall sconces, antique hurricane lamps, curvy chairs with velvet cushions, a hand-carved coffee table made from local wood, mahogany end tables with curved legs, a hand-painted drum table, mirrors with rustic frames, etc.

Hang your curtains high and use lightweight fabrics – a true Tuscan villa celebrates the outdoors, and you want as much natural light as possible. And while you may not have the breathtaking views of an idyllic hillside or a rustic stone courtyard complete with a beautiful fountain so common in the Italian countryside, that’s okay — you’ve brought a touch of Tuscany into your home.