Italian Renaissance Interior Design


The design of the Italian Renaissance -- which encompassed the centuries from approximately 1400 to 1600 -- resembled the classical style of ancient Greece and Rome, but it was more than just a copy of their interiors. Artists and craftsmen drew inspiration from the classics to create their own furnishings, art and decorations. Many ideas about the home interiors of the Italian Renaissance come from the paintings done by artists during the period. These realistic works of art show the elegant furnishings and detailed decoration found in the spacious rooms of Renaissance Italy.

Heavy Furnishings

  • Massive and regal define the furnishings of the Italian Renaissance period. Four-poster beds, trestle tables and storage cabinets were imposing pieces of furniture that often anchored a room. The cassapanca, a twist on the traditional dowry chest, became a place to sit with the addition of a back piece and arms. Different chair styles also appeared, from the sedia, a boxy, throne-like armchair, to the savonarola, a curvy side chair with an X-shaped base. Many furniture pieces were made of rich walnut, which was then intricately carved with architectural details and village scenes.

Detailed Walls

  • Wall decoration in the Italian Renaissance provided color and texture in the room. Painting the walls with elaborate geometric patterns gave the appearance of wallpaper. Other techniques included trompe l’oeil -- painting that looks like real objects -- which added interest with its intricate details and realistic scenes. In addition to wall surfaces, the moldings on door frames, fireplace surrounds and other woodwork were thick and sculptural, adding to the grandeur of Renaissance interiors.

Ornamental Ceilings and Floors

  • Attention to detail continued on the floors and ceilings of Italian Renaissance rooms. Many floors were made of brick, tile or marble laid out in geometric patterns. Ceilings were high and ornamental, with beams frequently stretching across the room. The most decorated spaces featured deep, coffered ceilings, often with detailed carvings or paintings inside each ornamental square.

Lavish Textiles and Accessories

  • Adding to the opulence of Renaissance interiors, various textiles and decorative accessories were widely used. Tapestries, or embroidered wall hangings, often depicted important events in people's lives, a prelude to modern-day picture walls. Draperies, bed linens and seat cushions helped soften the hard lines of the wooden furniture. Often made from silk, velvet and damask, these textiles also added more color and warmth. The deep reds, purples and greens were well-suited to the richly appointed rooms. Other decorative pieces found in most affluent interiors include musical instruments, sculptures and candlesticks. Each of these would feature the elaborate and detailed design found throughout Renaissance houses.

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