Have you ever swooned over your hotel decor in Milan, dreamed about owning a villa in Puglia, or filled your camera reel with photo after photo of colorful houses on the Amalfi Coast? There is something alluring about Italian decor and with a few tips, you can easily bring the Italian lifestyle into your own home.
Whether you prefer the minimal laid-back lifestyle of Sicily or the refined elegance of Piedmont, Italy is a patchwork of style, culture, and craftsmanship. Italian decor is about embracing the perfectly imperfect. It goes beyond a “style” and instead captures a way of living. Create a space that celebrates natural materials, ancient traditions, as well as craftsmanship, and most importantly, embraces the beauty of your ongoing story.
As a designer, travel isn’t just my inspiration — travel is my design process. And with a few Italian decor tips, you can easily bring the Italian lifestyle into your home.
1. Add Texture To Your Walls
A distinctive feature of Italian homes is their exterior stucco finish. Whether you opt for pastel hues in Portofino or whitewashed walls in Ostuni, the textured walls of Italian properties are the quintessential Mediterranean style. But why not introduce this inside our homes as well?
Here’s where limewash comes in. Made from minerals contained in limestone, lime wash creates a soft, textured effect that is not just beautiful to look at, but has health and environmental benefits too. I work with paint colors every day and the paints that reflect the most soul are lime wash.
Bronwyn, co-founder and creative director at Bauwerk Colour, creates their colors using natural pigments, taken directly from the earth, many sourced from Italy itself.
“Limewash is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to makeover a room,” she says. “It brings gentle texture, personality, calm, and beauty to the space due to the light refraction properties it has. When you’re choosing the perfect color for your space, there is always one that just feels right. If it makes you feel good, you know it’s the right one.”
2. Use Natural Materials
Italy’s varied landscapes are defined by the resourceful use of local, raw materials. Northern Italy, for example, is famous for its Carrara marble quarries, while Tuscany is well-known for its terracotta clay milled from the earth, perfect for homeware objects. Terrazzo is another popular material linked to Italy. Originally derived from the Ancient Greeks, Terrazzo was ubiquitous during the Venetian period when pavimenti alla veneziana or terrazzi were built.
Valentina Spano, interior designer and founder of Mediteranea, believes that incorporating natural materials into design holds huge importance. “When I’m designing interior spaces, I use natural materials as poignant reminders of unhurried summer days,” she says. “When you’re layering natural materials in a home, consider balancing textures for visual interest.”
It’s important to harmonize different materials — such as wood, stone, and textiles — to create depth. And maintain a cohesive color palette to ensure a unified and tranquil atmosphere. “Pay attention to the functionality of each material, ensuring they suit the specific spaces and purposes within your home,” she explains. “Lastly, don’t be afraid to embrace simplicity in design. This allows the inherent beauty of the natural materials to shine through.”
3. Collect Handcrafted Objects
Famous for its artisans and ancient craft techniques, Italy is home to long traditions of glass blowing, ceramics, basket weaving, textiles, woodwork, and mosaics — to name just a few. So when you’re traveling to Italy, be sure to save some room for unique objects to hold your memories and elevate the everyday.
If you dream of owning hand-crafted homeware made in Italy, take a look at ABASK: a home decor initiative that shares the skills and stories behind local artisans. The colorful glass tumblers made in Murano, Venice transmit a sunny, Mediterranean atmosphere to any kitchen.
I’m also a sucker for ceramics and have been swooning over Elise Eales’s creations through her studio Di Lunedi. “I’ve spent a lot of time around the table in Italy and love imagining the lives of each piece of pottery, how they’ve been used over time,” she says. “Maybe a platter is only removed from the wall for special occasions like Ferragosto, or it might be used daily for pranzo. There’s something so beautiful about coming together over a shared ritual.”
4. Incorporate Secondhand Furniture
Another of my top Italian decor tips is to mix old with new. Often the most beautiful pieces of furniture are those that are secondhand found from spending the weekends at the mercatini. Curating your collection of furniture in this way introduces a story into your home, of the designer, the market, and your journey of reviving it.
Italy is famous for its antique markets and second-hand furniture shops. But for those living abroad or who can’t fit a side table in their suitcase, check out One Off Piece. This online marketplace brings the mercatino to you by curating unique homewares and objects.
Sophie Douglas, the founder of One Off Piece says: “Not only is buying vintage the best way to pick up something truly original, it is also the most sustainable way to furnish your space. Plus, vintage items are usually made better and made to last.”
5. Play With Color
Italian decor is more than just how an interior looks — it’s about how it feels. And color has the power to set the mood and encourage wellness in our homes. When choosing a color for your home, ask yourself, how do you want to feel in each space? What is the space used for and how can you use color to encourage those habits? We all associate different color palettes with Italy, but how can we translate this into our decor? Let’s try a little exercise…
Sit back, close your eyes, and imagine you’re in your favorite Italian destination. What colors can you see? How do they make you feel? Perhaps you’re sipping on an orange aperol spritz, relaxing on a beach in Sardinia with its crystal blue waters. Or maybe you’re hiking in the Dolomites at sunrise watching the warm orange haze stretch across the grey-blue mountains. Or you’re basking in the glory of pink and green Venetian houses from a gondola.
Pip Brett, founder of Jumbled, a colorful fashion and interior brand, built her dream home in Australia inspired by her time in the Mediterranean. With a backdrop of neutrals, Pip introduces accents in her favorite color combinations, from cobalt blue and yellow in her main living spaces, to earthy, escapist green in the smaller sanctuary spaces. Her home is proof that Mediterranean-inspired interiors can truly travel the globe.