When it comes to on-trend interiors, Italian brands have been at the forefront of the field for decades. Discover our pick of four of the best on the market. Two, Alessi and Fornasetti, evolved from inspirational homeware creators, while Missoni Home and Gucci Décor began as fashion labels. What they all share is a flair for flamboyance and top-quality craftsmanship
Italian style is not only centred on fashion; the nation’s interior designers and homeware producers are admired the world over. Part of their cachet lies in the way they celebrate the country’s heritage of skilled craftsmanship and in their use of exquisite materials. While popular design trends from Scandinavia and Japan are shaped by an innate sense of practicality, Italian interior design is based on altogether different and far more flamboyant aesthetics.
While popular design trends from Scandinavia and Japan are shaped by an innate sense of practicality, Italian interior design is based on altogether different and far more flamboyant aesthetics
Beautiful hand-painted ceramics and sumptuous silk cushions are inherent features, and Italians are never ones to shy away from colour or print. While some luxury homeware brands developed from the creation of individual pieces, others established a reputation in the world of fashion and then branched into interior design.
Piero Fornasetti remains one of the most famous Italian creatives of the 20th century. A Milanese painter, sculptor and interior decorator, he was famed for his humorous and eclectic style, and he is credited with creating about 11,000 products. His name has become synonymous with Italian interior design. Since his death in 1988, his son, Barnaba, has continued the family business and has maintained in-house production, which is an essential element of Italian craft culture.
The brand’s most renowned motif is the face of Lina Cavalieri, an opera singer of the early 1900s who was celebrated for her beauty and charisma. In 1952 Fornasetti saw her face in a magazine and was mesmerised. He went on to use her image in striking designs across a number of products.
A clown, a thief and an Arabian princess are some of the many interpretations of Lina Cavalieri that Fornasetti conjured on his famous porcelain pieces. Today, the house also produces rugs, lights, wallpaper, fabrics, tiles, jewellery, silk scarves, home fragrances and more.
Alessi had a more pragmatic start. It was founded by Giovanni Alessi in 1921 as a manufacturer of small copper, brass and silver household goods. The brand’s turning point into a company producing chic yet practical items came in the 1950s when Giovanni’s son Carlo took over the family business. Trained as an industrial designer, he began collaborating with external designers and architects, producing a range of products for hotels as well as individuals. Richard Sapper’s 1978 espresso maker was a particular triumph, as was Philippe Starck’s 1980s lemon squeezer, Juicy Salif.
Compared to its contemporaries, Alessi offered a very different kind of design for the home, fulfilling functional requirements while offering painstaking craftsmanship. Today, Alessi is not only Italy’s go-to brand for kitchenware; with a great selection of items such as clocks and lamps, it is also making waves as an international label for furnishings.
Some of Italy’s most renowned catwalk brands have expanded into homeware. One of the most notable is Missoni. Now run by the third generation of the founding family, the house emphasises the significance of family not only in its business but also in its designs.
Rosita Missoni, who co-founded the label in 1953 with her husband Ottavio, believes the home should be a welcoming space that offers an adaptable work/play balance. ‘Furnishing my way means creating a habitat that’s ordered yet informal, versatile and welcoming,’ she says. ‘My home is always open to encounters or people just passing through, the family’s comings and goings, and for when friends unexpectedly drop in.’ Born Rosita Jelmini, she has had strong links with fabric manufacturing all her life. The Jelminis own one half of T&J Vestor, the textile maker. In 1983 the company was the natural partner for Missoni when the interiors line Missoni Home was launched.
Missoni Home features the same colourful zigzag designs that made the original brand famous in the 1960s and remain its signature today. The gradient rainbows can be found on an array of accessories, furniture and bedding. One of the first Italian labels to make the transition from catwalk to couch, Missoni has proved that fashion for the home is as important as it is for the wardrobe. Today the company is one of Italy’s most successful interiors brands.
Gucci is another prominent Italian fashion brand to develop a homeware section. Unlike Missoni, with its long history of home design, Gucci took this step just last year, under creative director Alessandro Michele. As with his clothing designs, Michele encourages clients to customise pieces to their individual taste. As he puts it, he wants his designs to add a touch of ‘Gucci’s contemporary romanticism into the home’.
The Gucci Décor collection features motifs developed for the brand by Michele, such as bees, tigers, moths and snakes which are hand-printed on porcelain, candles, French screens, silk wallpapers and more, or embroidered on cushions.
Gucci, Missoni, Alessi and Fornasetti are four very different brands, yet they have a common attribute in an integral commitment to quality. Whether you’re looking for kitchen items or an octopus-print French screen, there’s a remarkable standard of craftsmanship when a product is devised by an Italian design house.