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The Italian Art of a Beautifully Functional Home

08 January 2024
by Regan Hofmann
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When decorating your living space, choose style and substance the way Italians do 

Italians are renowned for their incredible style in all areas of life, from designer clothing to sleek sportscars. But there’s one stylish Italian industry you might not think of right away: home decor. Some of the most revered designers of furniture, lighting, and tableware of the last 150 years are Italian, from Gio Ponti to Ettore Sottsass. One of the most striking things that connects their work is that it’s stunning to look at while also being completely functional—never designed for design’s sake, but with thoughtful consideration for how it will be used.   

Giada in her kitchen

By American standards, many Italian homes are quite small; the average Italian home measures 872 square feet, compared to the U.S.’s 2,164 square feet. Apartment living is much more common in Italy, and space is so limited in the country that new homes are very rarely built from the ground up. For most Italians, this means they must make the most of the space they have. There’s no room for dining sets that are too uncomfortable to sit at every day, or wasted space in the form of junk drawers and storage rooms. Every piece must earn its place in the home! 

And even the humblest space is no reason not to live with beauty. Every Italian feels a claim to that national heritage of style and outfits their home with tools that do their job beautifully. The most iconic of these is the moka pot, the stovetop espresso maker that is a staple in every Italian home. A stunningly architectural aluminum vessel that’s lightweight, affordable, and nearly foolproof, it was invented in the 1930s by Luigi di Ponti, a metalworker from Piemonte. With no delicate parts to break or wear out, a well-cared-for moka pot can last for decades, and looks as gorgeous on a nonna’s stove as it does on display at MoMA 

If you want to give your home an Italian glow-up, consider these tips: 

Moor's Head Olive Oil

Choose form and function. Don’t settle for a piece that you can’t see yourself using regularly, even if it looks great. If it’s clunky or hard to use, it will most likely end up sitting on a shelf collecting dust. If it’s in your home, it should work for you!  

Make bold choices. Color, pattern, unexpected textures—all of these are hallmarks of Italian design. Never settle for the boring but “practical” choice; choose items that sing out to your particular sense of beauty. 

Don’t fall for disposable trends. Italian designer Achille Castiglioni said, “Design shouldn’t be trendy. Good design should last over time, until it wears out.” Don’t get taken in by viral home trends—if you fall in love with an item you see online, bookmark it and come back in a few months to see if it’s really meant to be. 

Flowers in a cherry vase

Commit to joy. Bringing beauty into your home can be as simple as adding a bouquet of fresh flowers or keeping the windows clean so they sparkle on a sunny day. It can be easy to fall into a routine and forget to make time for these little touches; make yourself a promise to keep your home feeling easy and beautiful in whatever way you can.  

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