Design 101: Tuscan-Style Decorating

Evoke Tuscany with natural stone, wood, and marble

A Tuscan-style villa

 BrilliantEye / Getty Images

Homes decorated in the Tuscan style are inspired by elements of nature. Crumbling stone walls, intricately wrought iron accessories, sun-washed hillsides, rustic stone farmhouses, marble flooring, and sturdy hardwood furniture are just some of the fanciful elements of this decorating style.

Tuscan-style decorating is popular for its peaceful, countryside feeling. Perhaps its greatest appeal is its simplicity. By combining comfortable, worn, loved pieces, a room becomes warm and inviting without pretense.

From ancient Roman times, people moved to the beautiful hills of central Italy to remove themselves from city life, escape the intrigue of politics, and embrace the idyllic culture of the country. They enjoyed the beauty of nature and incorporated these elements into their villas.

In a Tuscan-style home, you can expect wood, stone, and the use of earth-tones as important elements.

Consider the Construction Materials

A traditional Tuscan home's exterior is most often built of sandstone or limestone using natural materials found in that part of Italy, which are available in a wide range of hues. Terracotta roof tiles are used throughout Tuscany. Marble, which is also found in abundance near Tuscany, is used for decorative interior details such as flooring, arches, and pillars.

Interiors, usually designed using sturdy materials that can stand the test of time, still manage to have a rustic, warm, and inviting look. Nothing looks shiny and new. Deep-set windows framed by sandstone are often protected with rustic wooden shutters. Natural stone walls are left natural. Stuccoed walls are colored with Venetian plaster, color washing, or faux painting techniques to give a worn, well-loved look.

While old-style Tuscan rooms may have been small and dark with low ceilings, modern Tuscan-inspired rooms often use wooden beams, plastered ceilings, and feature an open, airy feeling. Windows are left uncovered to take advantage of natural light.

Wooden surfaces such as cupboards, door and window frames, shutters, or ceiling beams are often left with a natural patina. Homes incorporating a Tuscan-style decor often use flooring of wide wood planks, timber boards, rough stone, unevenly-colored terracotta bricks, or clay tiles. Antique rugs add warmth and color.

Use Color

Colors in Tuscan-style decorating come from the earth. Terracotta, brick, ochre, greens, and golden yellow are seen everywhere. Blue and green are added to contribute a visually cooling effect in areas with hot weather. Surfaces that have been painted add a dash of color even when the finish wears off.

Often walls are painted with a soft white or gray, while accent colors and natural woods and stone provide the interest. Ceilings have dark open timbers. Venetian plaster is a technique for adding texture and color to new walls.

Decorating the Interiors

The furniture in a Tuscan style home usually employs straight, simple lines made from rough-sawn local woods. Accents of tile, wrought iron, and marble are common. To achieve the worn look, new pieces of dark woods or pine are often distressed at the factory.

Open cupboards and armoires are used for dishes, linens, and clothes and display ceramics and pottery. No Tuscan-style kitchen is complete without a long, family-style wooden table. A kitchen sink is made of natural stone or porcelain. Cabinet and sink hardware are often of dark wrought iron. Install a copper range hood surrounded by tumbled marble tiles at the stove area.

Display copper pots from a wrought iron rack, use terracotta containers as accents and storage, and add color with majolica dinnerware.

Incorporate Tuscan themes as an accent in your kitchen with displays of pasta in glass jars, a braid of onions or garlic, jars of olives, and flowers.

Design the Outdoor Space

Water is a critical element in Tuscan decor. Many homes have a water fountain in the central courtyard surrounded by beautiful, wildly growing greenery. Marble statues grace outdoor spaces. Exteriors are often decorated with tall, graceful cypress trees, that you can imagine swaying in the breeze.

Walkways, driveways, and garden paths are set with stone or brick. Nature takes its course and grass grows between the stones adding to the home's charm. Door fronts are often left open with chicken wire.