Traditional Italian furniture has been celebrated and cherished for thousands upon thousands of years. Italian furniture design is well-loved for its mixture of craftsmanship and style. It’s cherished everywhere from the world’s most famous museums to the homes of the rich and fabulous.
What is it that’s so beguiling about Italian furniture design?
Part of it is that Italian furniture helped create the idea of cosmopolitan style in the first place.
Does that mean that Italian furniture design options are stuck in the Renaissance then? Absolutely not!
Let’s take a look at how Italian furniture has evolved to help give you an idea of the current state of Italian furniture design.
The Roots of Traditional Italian Furniture
Traditional Italian furniture goes way back. Remnants of traditional Italian furniture have been unearthed from the ruins of Pompeii. It’s proof positive that Italian culture was already flourishing more than 2000 years ago.
It also shows that Italian furniture had not yet come into its own by that point. The furniture discovered in the ruins of Pompeii is nearly identical to Greek furniture from that era. The Italian furniture discovered at Pompeii was already showing traces of what would make Italian furniture so striking and world-famous, however.
Italian furniture from Pompeii was mostly carved out of wood or cast out of bronze like you would’ve found in Greece at that time. These Italian furniture designs were adorned with fine filigrees like ivory and tortoiseshell.
At this point in history, nearly everyone had the same furniture. A special kind of folding stool was used by the peasantry and Roman nobles alike.
Round tables featuring legs carved to look like animals were also widely popular. Many of these tables were carved out of wood and then topped with marble or shale.
Italian furniture designers were already innovating in their furniture designs. Some of the furniture discovered at Pompeii shows signs of turning, which is a type of lathing.
The true Golden Age of Italian furniture design wouldn’t begin for over 1000 years, though.
Italian Furniture: 14th and 15th Century
Much like the rest of Europe, there’s not a lot to tell about Italian furniture design during the Dark Ages. Most Italian furniture from that period is rough and heavy and carved out of thick wood.
The 14th Century brought fresh innovations, however. Technological innovations allowed artisans to make more lightweight furniture. Innovations in joinery allowed furniture to be collapsible, even.
The 15th Century is when Italian furniture came into its own, though. The 1400s saw the beginning of the Renaissance. This is a high point for Italian art and design. Italian furniture is no exception.
Some Italian furniture from this period rediscovered traditional Greek and Roman designs. Even simple designs were often filigreed with richly ornate embellishments. The embellishments often seemed more important than the function of the furniture.
16th and 17th Centuries
The 16th and 17th Centuries started incorporating influences from other cultures into Italian furniture. Near and Far Eastern designs made their way into Italian furniture from this period. These elements were incorporated alongside elements from fantasy and mythology.
Italian furniture began to diversify during these centuries, as well. The writing desk came into vogue during this era, for instance. Italian furniture from the Renaissance influenced most of the rest of Europe during the 1500s.
The 1600s were particularly lavish, even by Italian standards. The 17th Century saw the beginning of the Baroque period. This would take the embellishments common to Italian furniture to a whole new level.
Gold- and silver-leaf, shells, and intricate woodcarving are just some of the details common during the Baroque era. Marble inlays were popular, as well.
18th and 19th Centuries
The 1700 and 1800s is when Italian furniture broke from the rest of Europe. Other countries were entering their own decadent periods. The French were just beginning the Rococo stage. Italian artisans were simplifying, however, while everyone else got fancier.
Italian furniture makers traded in elaborate scrolling for simpler geometric shapes during this era. Vibrant colors were replaced by more neutral palettes.
This simplification wouldn’t last, though. The 19th Century brought a revival of Gothic and Rococo styles to Italian designers. The styles favored during the Italian Renaissance made a comeback during the 1800s, as well.
Modern Italian Furniture Design
There hasn’t been one comprehensive movement of modern furniture design in Italy. As is the case with the rest of modernism, the last 120 years of Italian furniture design has been a story of everything happening all at once.
There are certain trends that are particularly popular in Italian design, though. Beginning in the early 1900s, many Italian designers embraced the stripped-back minimalism of modernism. The pared down geometric shapes of the 19th Century would become even simpler and more streamlined as the Modern Age got underway in earnest.
Special attention is paid to the quality of materials, as well. Paired with the legendary Italian craftsmanship, it’s little wonder Italian furniture is still revered all over the world.
Modern Italian furniture is infinitely more customizable than its antecedents, though. You can now get luxurious Italian furniture for any space. You don’t have to have a villa to adorn your living space in classic Italian luxury.
Italian furniture has been the height of style for over 2000 years. It probably still will be, 2000 years in the future. Some things are timeless.
Looking For Traditional Italian Furniture?
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