Tuscan Decorating

Built to last centuries, patinated with age, and brimming with warm daylight -- these are the hallmarks of Tuscan decorating. To re-create the glorious mood of sun-washed Tuscan houses, be savvy with architectural choices and playful with furnishings. Here's how you can have the flavor of Italian life without using your passport.

Age Your Rooms

A few fool-the-eye tricks can introduce a centuries-old look, no matter how new the room. Instantly gentrify a space with ceiling beams, whether they are salvaged from an old barn or are built from wood-look resin. To create the design effect of the thick walls that help keep Tuscan rooms cool, choose wallpaper or a paint finish that has the texture and color variations of old plaster. And for the floors, install large brick pavers or ceramic tiles with tumbled edges for the most authentic look. If you choose wood floors, don't install anything that is too slick and polished; instead, pick a medium-tone wood, such as oak, and a finish that gives the appearance of having weathered over time. Area rugs with tapestry-inspired motifs, such as Aubussons and kilims, conjure a historical aura. To mimic the look of seating that has been comfortably worn over the years, choose upholstered pieces with slipcovers.

Connect to Nature

Whenever possible, draw a link between your home and its surroundings, even if you don't have charming Tuscan vineyards and majestic views to enjoy. Patio doors -- their appealing link to the outdoors -- are a good start; set up the patio with dining and lounging furniture for a truly cozy outdoor experience. Artwork that features nature, such as agricultural landscapes or floral still lifes, also contributes to the look. Most importantly, choose a palette of colors that echoes the Tuscan countryside, such as the golden tones of rippling fields, the soft green of olive-tree leaves, and the burnished copper of the setting sun.

Adjust the Volume

Tuscan homes were built to beat the heat in the days before electricity, let alone air-conditioning. Their high ceilings and large windows and doors were necessary cooling elements. Create the feeling of volume and amplified scale in your rooms by hanging curtains from high-mounted rods to enhance window size. Draw the eye upward with iron chandeliers, oversize paintings on the mantel, and tall lamps. A bed that reaches high with an exaggerated headboard or a canopy will give your bedroom the impression of stately size.

Keep It Simple

At heart, Tuscan homes are simple country places. Wood furnishings are built for utility -- kitchen tables are used to roll out pasta dough and armoires store extra linens, for example. Decorative items are also purposeful, such as pottery vessels that are used to tote water. Keep this in mind when choosing accessories for your home. On the wall, hang plates and platters that can be pulled into service on the table as well. Select an island with a butcher-block top as a handy cutting surface. Add color and vitality with a potted lemon tree in the corner of the living room, or plant a tray of herbs on the windowsill. Besides the decorative benefits, you also can reap the harvest.

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