Striped beach umbrellas overlooking the azure waters of the Mediterranean, lemon trees planted in terra cotta pots, hand-painted tiles, the perfect table settings, bougainvillea draped over the sides of buildings—Italian style is easy to aspire to. And though Italy’s borders remain closed to American tourists, there are plenty of ways to bring a bit of Italian style into your home.
Just ask the uber-chic Marie-Louise Sciò, who exudes effortless Italian style. After growing up in the backdrop of a Slim Aarons photograph at her family’s Hotel Il Pellicano, Sciò received a degree in architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design before returning to Italy and taking over the family business. For more than a decade, she has been the CEO and creative director of Pellicano Hotels, which consist of the aforementioned Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole on the Tuscan coast (you’ve probably seen it on Instagram), La Posta Vecchia—the former villa of John Paul Getty on the Mediterranean coast near Rome—and Mezzatorre (top photo) on the island of Ischia. Each of the three hotels exudes the timeless Italian style that is so hard to master. She also recently launched Issimo, an e-commerce and lifestyle platform dedicated to the best that Italy has to offer in design, fashion, music, culture, and travel.
“I think what makes Italian style unique is that it’s innate and effortless,” Sciò tells House Beautiful. “Italy is just a very aesthetically driven country and always has been, and I think if that is one of the senses one has developed, one grows up with a kind of innate sense of style and balance.”
Luckily for those of us who were not fortunate enough to grow up in Italy, Sciò believes that Italian style can be learned by training one’s eye.
Incorporate bold, natural colors
According to Sciò, adding some Italian style to your home is all about incorporating the vibrant hues found in nature. “Right now as I talk to you I’m sitting next to this sea of rosemary, this really intense green color and I have in front bougainvillea, which is this intense fuchsia color and then peach, and red, so I think color always says joie de vivre,” she muses from her perch at Il Pellicano. “We just did a collaboration with Lisa Corti homeware and she’s a very famous Italian homeware designer. On her classic stripe we put the bougainvillea flower, so the table is really colorful.”
Mix patterns and textures
“I think the more you layer, the more texture and depth,” Sciò says, emphasizing that Italian style is all about the mix. “Be bold with everything. A little bit of everything, but then it always has to have balance,” When setting the table, for example, you might combine wicker placemats with beautiful colored glasses and decorate with fresh flowers. And don’t be afraid to juxtapose patterns, like stripes and florals. “Stripes always call for summer,” she adds.
Invest in artisan goods and heritage brands
When designing her hotels, Sciò likes to source items from artisans around Italy. Some of their wares—such as hand-painted tiles—are available to shop on Issimo, and she plans to add more products such as baskets made by artisans in Ischia. While many small Italian artisans don’t sell their wares online, others—like Puglian ceramicist Enza Fasano—do. You can also look to heritage brands like Fornasettiand Richard Ginori—or channel that same attitude into shopping small businesses and independent makers in your own city.
Cultivate Mediterranean plants
Whether you have a sizeable backyard or no outdoor space at all, you can find ways to cultivate plants that will mentally transport you to Italy. You might buy a small lemon tree and plant herbs like rosemary, basil, thyme, sage, and mint. “I think small lemon trees are always very Italian. Rosemary is really Italian,” says Sciò. You don’t necessarily need a lot of space to cultivate herbs. Even if you live in an apartment without outdoor space, a small windowsill garden is perfect because then you always have fresh herbs on hand when cooking. For outdoor gardens, you might plant larger herb bushes, fruit trees, and bougainvillea.
Add some whimsy
Sciò loves to add a touch of whimsy to her interiors, like the pink pool umbrellas inspired by Italian director Luchino Visconti available to order on Issimo. Accessories like placemats and colored candles add a bit of fun. And nothing says whimsical Italian style like the hand-painted tiles you often see on the floors of homes and hotels throughout the Amalfi Coast and much of southern Italy. Even if you can’t retile your floors, you could add a colorful backsplash in your kitchen or even use hand-painted tiles as coasters.
Sciò’s most important piece of advice: “You don’t have to be too uptight. If you’re trying too hard I think one can tell. You should have fun with what you’re doing.” Now that’s a decor style we can get behind!
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