A History of Home Decoration In Italy

More than 2000 years of tradition and experience.

Home decorating "Italian style" draws on long and amazingly rich traditions. More than 2000 years ago, the ancient Romans had developed highly sophisticated architectural and decorative art forms that were widely used not only for public buildings but also in the private homes of the leading citizens. Home decorating already then reflected the population's values, philosophy and love of beauty and comfort. The amazing frescoes and incredibly refined mosaics used to decorate the living quarters of the wealthy are still visible to date in the ruins of the ancient Roman homes for example at Pompeii, Herculaneum, in Rome itself and Ostia Antica, in Sicily and throughout all of the areas bordering on the Mediterranean where the vestiges of Roman culture survive. Indeed the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the 1800s had a significant impact on the construction and decoration of various palaces in Naples, Venice and Milan.

 

After the downfall of the Roman Empire and the continuous invasions from the north there followed a period of disorder, decline and stagnation with little development in artistic forms except for some isolated instances. Most artistic endeavors were nurtured and encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church as a means of exalting and promoting the spread of Christianity, and the popes were often great art collectors.

 

However, beyond ecclesiastical architecture and decorative art forms, a new impetus was given to the construction of urban buildings and fortifications in the 1100s with the growth of temporal authorities and the rise of city-states and maritime republics like Pisa and Venice. Medieval towns prospered with commerce, agriculture and mining, and by the 1200s many architectural jewels had been constructed. Along side the Romanesque cathedrals and churches there were the town halls, the government palaces and the castles of the noble families. The nobles who inhabited these castles were sponsors of decorative art forms, including of frescoes and paintings, carved decorations and sculpted furniture, marble and mosaic inlay, precious textiles, porcelain and glassware, and fine jewelry.

 

Throughout the subsequent decades, ever more refined and sophisticated art works were achieved, and in the Renaissance these were fully reflected in the decoration of the homes of the wealthy and noble families. The historic design of interiors is exemplified, for example, by such buildings in Florence as the Palazzo Pitti, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Uffizi Gallery, not to mention the splendid villas though out the Tuscan country side; or in Venice by the Doges Palace and the many splendid palaces bordering on the Grand Canal with their magnificent interiors and valuable decorations. And later, there were the unique villas designed by Palladio in the serene countryside of the Veneto.

 

Following a period of some stagnation in the late 1700s and early 1800s, linked to declining fortunes both politically, commercially and culturally, the late 1800s saw a new flourishing of interest in decorative art forms as applied to, among others, home decoration. Notable among artistic movements was that of Art Deco of the early 1900s, and this style was widely applied to many household decorative items, from furniture to light fixtures and from fabrics to fixtures.

 

With the advent of Fascism, innovation was largely stifled and home decoration remained relatively unchanged for several decades. World War II, with the destruction and poverty that followed, left little room for thought of home decorating. Only in the late 1950s and early 1960s did the average Italian citizens have sufficient resources to start thinking about acquiring more than the bare essentials. Only after 1960 following what was called in Italy the Economic Boom, did the average Italians begin spending to acquire household appliances such as TVs, washing machines, vacuum cleaners etc that were felt to satisfy a need for modernization and functionality.

 

From then on, home furnishing and decoration have become an ever more significant aspect of Italian life, and though the art forms have changed and the materials are different one can easily claim that Italian home decoration is living a new period of glory in line with the traditions of the distant past which began with the Romans and continued with the magnificent medieval palaces of Florence, Venice etc. Moreover, there is one great difference with the past and that is that historically only the most affluent could think about interior design or home decoration. Now, design permeates most Italian homes, and among the younger generations in particular it is no longer a prerogative of the wealthy.

 

Italian homes now tend to be splendidly decorated, reflecting the individuality and taste of their owners. artistic interior decor And after many years of research and commercial success there is an immense range of furnishing, decorative, building and technical materials suited to meet the most discerning and varied tastes. "Good taste" in home decorating is no longer a stereotyped stylistic form.

 

Without any preconceived ideas, tasteful home decorating in Italy is now recognized as the ability to furnish a home in a simplified manner with functional furniture using also some unique and beautiful art pieces. The distinctions between living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms etc are being restored after a "revolutionary" period when large open spaces were favored as a reaction to the earlier stereotyped solutions that had prevailed for so long.

 

As part of the ever-increasing quest for individual well-being special attention is being given to the dining room and kitchen, places where "slow food" is glorified as part of a genteel life style in direct contrast to the much vilified "fast food" trend that is quickly losing ground in Italy after an initial period of popularity. Similarly the bathroom is now recognized as a place of rest and restoration, and possibly even meditation, devoted to soothing body and soul. The newest trends in bathroom decoration and technical equipment reflect this trend. Finally, the difficulty that exists in finding house help has resulted in greater emphasis on home decoration solutions that make housekeeping tasks easier, such as large walk-in closets and storage places, stain repellent fabrics, easy to clean floors and the prevalence of the most up to date equipment.


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