Friday, April 30, 2010

5 Design Ideas from Italy

The beautifully vibrant artwork in last post got me thinking about my own trip to Venice with the in-laws a few years back.  It was a great experience and I enjoyed sharing it with our family.  Even my sis made an appearance... perfect timing to take this picture!

So I went back through  my photos for a chance to relive it and I started noticing some themes.  I decided to pull out photos that represented applicable architectural lessons... ones I might use in my own residential work. I found 5 design ideas that you might find interesting too...  

1.  Real Working Shutters:

Nothing feels more European (and vacationy) than operable blackout shutters.  They add depth and texture to a facade that could never be replicated with fake shutters that we see all over the US.

Facade in Venice

The mahogany doors behind them contrast beautifully with the dark green shutters.  And the detail work on the railing is pretty sweet too. 

Here are the shutters on the windows and doors of our hotel room that looked out to the balcony.  I love when you can black out your room... but you better ask for a wakeup call!

Hotel Ala in Venice

Here's an interesting track detail in lieu of hinges.

Shutters found on our walk down from San Miniato, Florence
2. Handmade doors

I took a lot of pictures of doors because they can offer so much character to a place.  I love the richness of this material and the simplicity of the design.  It's hard to tell if they are new or have been there forever.  I like that in a door.

Doors somewhere in Venice

These are more modern but just as rich in material.  As you can see, I like the horizontal board look.  

Storefront doors across from the Duomo in Florence

I particularly like the lean steel edge detail seen here...

Storefront doors across from the Duomo in Florence

Okay, so I'm cheating on this's from another trip to Italy.  But it's such a welcoming entry I couldn't help but include it.  Nice 6 panel doors and a charming wood framed terracotta awning...

And from the same trip... this balcony is amazing for so many reasons!  The generous glass door, real working shutters, and a terra cotta ceiling, which leads me to my next idea...

3. Brick Ceilings:

The ceiling is often an afterthought, but with one like this people will be sure to notice.   This would make a beautiful porch ceiling or maybe a rustic kitchen ceiling.  Create your very own Tuscan villa!

Small covered alleys in  Radda in Chianti

I happened upon this store and got all excited about the great shoes and then... I looked up!  And I love the little window with the deep angled return. 

Shoe store in the small town of Radda in Chianti

4.  Architectural Use of Foliage:

This lush pergola creates a welcoming shaded area to sit.   It was located on the grounds of a Murano glass factory.  One of their pieces is thoughtfully displayed in the arch.   

Who doesn't love lush window boxes?! Again this feature adds depth to the facade and at the same time bringing the outdoors in close view from inside.  
Residence in Venice

What a lovely balcony fringed with geraniums.  They softened the edge and frame the beautiful views beyond. 

 View of the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence

5.  Clever Skylights

This isn't really a skylight but rather a way to ventilate the heat created from the glass production.  Can you believe such an amazing timber framed clerestory structure would be located in a factory?

Glass Factory on the island of Murano
I thought this was such a fun little skylight.  At the time, I was working on a project where I had a low sloped roof and this might have been a unique solution to bring some light into a bathroom.  I found this skylight tucked away between buildings in the Uffizi Gallery.

I hadn't noticed at the time, that there is a flood light above that can give you the same effect at night! Makes a great little oculus feature in a small exiting hallway of the gallery.  

Speaking of oculi (what a great word!) ... this is the best one I've ever seen.  So I'll leave you with it... the one place I will never tire of visiting.

Pantheon in Rome

Where have you travelled that has made an impression on you and how you live?  A place where you just want to bottle it up and bring it home!


  1. Well, I have gathered so many ideas from our regular trips to the Jersey Shore... (HA! Cracking myself up with that one!)

  2. I'm with you all the way. Most of my great design ideas get their start somewhere on the Boot!

  3. Emily- That sounds like a blog challenge! I just might have to take the good camera on our trip to O.C. I bet I could find some inspiration...

  4. Paul- Your comment had me going back through your blog to find some of your posts on italy...great stuff! I want to go to Villa la Terrazza right now!