Modern Italian design has earthy origins
THERE is no mistaking the contemporary energy and confidence of Italian style. We are all familiar with the low, clean lines of furnishings conceived by today’s brilliant Italian designers. They juxtapose modern materials — plastics and steel — with traditional woods in a manner that brings the past and present together. I find it very exciting.
Whenever I visit the Italian countryside, I am swept away by the earthy beauty of the landscape. The colours of the soil vary in the unending stretch of valleys and hillsides from vibrant terra cottas to warm shades of ocher and deep burnt umbers. These are the colours that have been impregnated into the plastered exteriors of their buildings for centuries. We find this same time-honoured palette woven into the upholstery fabrics that hug the sleek curves on a sofa, or cover the frame of a platform bed.
Perhaps because of their abiding love for their country’s lineage, Italy’s contemporary design edge fits as com- fortably alongside an antique wall finish as a sparse black backdrop. When I spotted this stunning living room series by Italian designer Giorgio Saporiti at virezinteriors.com, I recognized it would be a brilliant complement to any modern space. The geometric patterns in the carpet and table, and a splash of orange and yellow on the sofa, are grounded by rich chocolate brown striped cushions. But I could also picture Saporiti’s IL LOFT furniture in a frescoed living room with plaster pillars and a marbled fireplace.
I love the colours and versatility found in Italian interiors. Years ago, I learned to emulate the look of faux marbles and aged wall finishes with paint and plaster. This gave me the tools to create the look of fabulously expensive interiors at a fraction of the cost. Although some of the more styl- ized paint finishes have become dated, walls that appear to have been aged by the sun and weather have never lost their appeal. The utilitarian and low-labour drywall used in buildings today can look like the aged plaster walls found in an Italian villa with the application of a few coloured, waterbased glazes. Another option is Venetian plaster. This product is available in white and colours. If you can’t find tinted, the paint store should be able to mix in a colour for you. The plaster is applied over drywall with a spatula. Start with random patches of colour and finishing with a top coat of white or gray, allowing some of the colour to peek through. Gorgeous.
I have made my career sharing these endearing style recipes with my television audience and readers. Much of the inspiration for my work has come from Italy, and I have created a new venture that enables me to share my passion for this country and their exquisite lifestyle. Several times a year, I hold a getaway for women of different ages and backgrounds. It’s an amazing week spent in an ancient villa in southern Tuscany, a breathtaking place where the landscape changes around every bend. We meet a fascinating mix of people who inspire us all to follow our dreams. If you’d love to join me, please contact me through my website (debbietravis.com).
Giorgio Saporiti’s IL LOFT living room furnishings glow with the colours and textures of Italy.