CHALLENGE: I have been asked by a local historical preservationist
to recreate an Italian Renaissance Room in a client’s home.
Could you please offer some insight as to the history, dates and
styles of this period and any additional information you may have?
There is one large window in the living room area, which I know will be the focal point of the room. The window measures 15 feet wide by 10 feet high. The window is located about 12 inches from the floor and continues up with two feet of wall space above the window.
SOLUTION: I will start our history lesson by presenting the historical dates of this period. In 1277, Milan, Italy, came under the power of the Visconti family. Shortly after, in 1309, there was war in Rome and around a hundred years later, circa 1405, Venice began 75 years of conquests on the Italian mainland as the Visconti holdings broke up. These events played an integral roll in the future of Italy.
In 1423, Florence was blessed with a new style of art largely aided by the painter Masaccio. By the late 1490s, the famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci, “The Last Supper,” was completed. Religion, cathedrals and the love of art were central to the personality of the Renaissance.
Visiting the palaces of Venice today will give you a real feel for the style of this period. The impressive architecture using the Roman arch and column design such as the Corinthian order influenced almost every building’s facade during the Renaissance.
The years 1469 to 1498 highlighted the Golden Age in Florence. During this period, merchants sold their goods at the Mercato Vecchio or Old Market. Common items such as fruit and vegetables, and services such as hair cutting took place right in the middle of town. Another area called the Mercato Nuovo—the new market—was the place to go for richly dyed wool and silk, velvet, taffeta, damask, satin and cloth of gold. This is where the type of textiles and richly designed fabrics for window treatments were sold.
The Italian Renaissance continued to around 1503, when Pope Alexander VI and his son plotted war, but failed to win the empire.
As to the interior feel of the rooms during this period, they were usually large and massive in scale. The upper class designed their rooms with luxurious fabrics such as wool, silk, velvet and damask. The rich colors of the Renaissance were like no other. Colors of gold, deep red and blue adorned the walls and windows.
Your client’s room will provide an excellent structure for recreating designs from the interiors of the Renaissance period. The window you have described is an excellent candidate for the type of window treatments used in the Renaissance. I would recommend a large-scale gold-plated or brushed gold decorative rod with heavy ornamentation on the finials. Velvet pleated draperies in 300 percent fullness will be in keeping with window treatments of this period. I would continue the treatment to the floor and puddle the fabric.
Even though velvet is hard to work with at this fullness, it will create the personality of the Renaissance in Italy. Then, the window treatments were hand-sewn using very heavy threads. You may want to search for velvet that is lightweight, yet looks heavier than it really is. I would check with fabric manufacturers that specialize in period recreations. Also, furniture sources that specialize in period styles will be a real asset to your overall design scheme.
There are many sources in the Southern California area including: Glabman Furniture and Interior Design, Woodland Hills, (818) 340-7677; Italmond Furniture, Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, (310) 652-6664; Scalamandre Fabrics, West Hollywood, (310) 657-8154; and Duralee Fabrics, Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, (310) 360-0778. An excellent Web address for research is www.kfki.hu/ arthp/database.
The architectural elements in the room will have a great affect on your client’s space, much like the accessories in a wardrobe. Let's start with the ceilings:
Ceilings in the Italian Renaissance included large, squared copper ceiling ornamentation. It seemed as if everywhere you looked, applied design elements were present. Columns throughout the room were large in scale and scrolled designs continued throughout the space. Crown molding was very large as were Roman arches throughout the space. Heavy detailing on the walls included faux finish techniques with marbleizing.
Gold and deep red was used in many of the rooms representing status and power. Blue was another popular color mixed with gold textiles. Paintings would include dark wood frames with raised, gilded designs. The paintings during this period were large in scale to coordinate with the massive scale of architectural elements.
As for floor coverings, wood floors were adorned with large-scale tapestry rugs.
Overall, the richness and massive scale of the Renaissance period contributed many design ideas used today in window treatment designs and interior decoration. I would suggest creating a rendering of the room with suggested colors along with a color board including materials and textiles that will be used in the room. The client then will be able to change, pick and choose and offer additional comments before the design is actually created.
Sharon L. Anderson has more than 20 years experience in the residential and commercial areas of interior design. She is currently a faculty member at two Southern California colleges. Anderson has been featured in numerous books and publications.