If you’re reading this because you’ve watched Under the Tuscan Sun more times than you care to admit — you’re in a safe space. The Italian villa design aesthetic is imbued with the spirit of ‘la dolce vita’ and warrants a healthy obsession. “Italian villas have a simplicity and rigor that translates to their interior design. While they may seem casual, everything is very well thought-out,” Pietro Castagna (the interior designer behind Lake Como’s Villa Làrio) says. “Italian architecture is a bit like its cuisine in that you can't learn it, you have to feel it.” His approach for the iconic Lake Como property was to make guests feel at home and cared for by an Italian mother. “This is the secret of Italian architecture, a combination of aesthetics and family, rigor but also decorum, spontaneity but also the study of functions and great dialogue with the territory and the magnificent nature of the hills, lakes, mountains, and Italian sea.”
For Masciarelli owner Marina Cvetic, history plays a lead role in channeling this look. “The essence of the Italian villa aesthetic starts from the Florentine Renaissance onward and is realized through canons of beauty that, for 500 years, have been evolving, renewing and from which the whole world has taken inspiration,” she says. “Just think, for example, of the Palladian villas in the Veneto region, the Sicilian Baroque villas, and the villas on Lake Como that communicate their magnificence from Northern to Southern Italy.” In addition to the winery, Cvetic also owns Masciarelli Castello Semivicoli, a 17th-century villa in Abruzzo that is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves and that offers rooms for rent.
While Instagram would lead you to believe that everyone is in Italy this summer, if you don’t have a trip planned to the region, why not bring the Italian villa into your own space? Castagna, whose family has been in the industry for almost 85 years and who was born and raised “in the midst of drawings, drafting machines, sawdust, and the smell of fresh paints and fabrics” has a piece of advice for those who wish to invite this aesthetic into their homes. “Familiarize and immerse yourself with the traditions, materials, and craftsmanship of Italy,” he says. “It requires an ability to be spontaneous, and keep things simple, yet sophisticated." Ahead, dive into expert-led advice on how you can update your home with the ineffable romance of the Italian villa.
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Make Light A Priority
Acclaimed Italian interior designer Paola Navone, who is behind the interiors for COMO Castello del Nero and founder of OTTO design studio, emphasizes light as a key pillar in achieving the Italian villa aesthetic. “Light is always very important when designing an interior and site we love the beautiful natural light that gives the feeling of being outdoors,” she says. “To us, wellbeing focuses on simplicity, natural materials, and handmade items.”
Reinvent & Reimagine
Part of the Italian villa direction is a strong sense of home, which to Navone, means being comfortable with change. “The most beautiful houses are ones that are lived in, constantly changing over an owner’s time in the home,” she says. “We love the idea that you can invent a new setting every day. One day, you can cover everything with white fabric and enjoy the calm aesthetic, while the next you’re able to paint old furniture with a vibrant, new color.”
Make Use Of Natural Materials
Italian villas are often historic, which is what gives them that unique sense of romance. For COMO Castello del Nero, Navone was tasked with designing a 12th-century villa — preserving its past, while also translating it to modern life. “Everything about the property is very light and soft, not to overshadow the magic of the place. The challenge when working on this historical castle was to create new surprises in a caring and respectful way,” she shares. “We redesigned the interiors — both the 50 rooms and the common spaces — to highlight our lifestyle values while also taking advantage of locally sourced materials like wood, Carrara marble, Serena stone, and lime-based paints.” Cvetic adds that the choice of materials such as stone, wood, and brick (cotto) is fundamental when mirroring the Italian villa. “The important thing is that they are original. Today, online sales allow us to buy everything from furniture to Italian materials anywhere in the world,” she says. “These pieces of furniture, thanks to the contamination of styles, can be combined with the decor of any home.”
Create Balance With Color
In addition to natural materials, color can help capture the essence of the Italian villa. “Neutral colors reign, but you can still add pops of color by keeping them soft and muted, like a blush pink or sage green,” Heights House Hotel co-owner Sarah Shepherd notes. She also brings in color with natural materials, such as ceramic tiles, stone tables, plaster columns, and wood bookshelves.
Turn To Ancient Techniques
Limewash paint has been used since ancient Roman times and Shepherd suggests incorporating it in your home for an Italian villa effect. “Limewash paint gives a beautiful texture to your walls, it's the perfect backdrop to start with if you're aiming for the Italian villa aesthetic,” she says. “You can even apply it on drywall to give them a plaster look, which is of course a primary material used in Italian villas.”
While there’s room for modernity, it’s not all that surprising that a key element of the Italian villa aesthetic is embracing older pieces. “Hit up your local antique shops! You'll find hidden treasures to add among your newer items in your home,” Shepherd says. “Keep an eye out for marble top wood tables, oil paintings, vintage (low pile) rugs, gold-framed mirrors, and traditional chandeliers.”