Art & Design, City, Destinations, Interiors, Pattern & Texture

Top 5 Design Details: Venice

May 28, 2013 • By

You can’t recreate Venice – and why would you want to, unless you’re a Vegas tycoon who knows a good thing when he sees it?  But with some quiet time and a roving eye, you can absorb the layered details that make Venice so unique.  Many of those details can easily translate into design ideas for your own spaces.

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On my last trip to Venice, I snapped some photos that reminded me of the details that make Venice so beautiful and evocative.  My Top 5 Design Details from Venice are:

1.  COLOR:  Venetian colors are saturated, layered and aged.  The Venetian palette includes ochers, ambers, berry stains and gilt, as well as the deep blue-greens of the canals and the warm wood of the water taxis.  These colors are heavy and rich, like antique brocades. This is not the place for sweet pastels.  Venice is not a sweet place.  It can be called mysterious, sensuous, seductive, complicated – but not sweet.

VeniceMuralThe only pastel shades you’ll see in Venice are walls that have faded to a paler version of their original shade.  These are the intellectual pastels, archaeological colors, antiquities to be studied and deciphered.

2.  LIGHT – and LIGHTS:  In Venice, the color palette is enhanced by the light.  Venetian light is cool and filtered, which makes warm shades glow.  The yellows, reds and oranges of Venetian buildings press themselves into your mind because of how they react to the light.  When you’re creating your own spaces of course, you consider your light sources, both natural and imported.  It’s why you don’t pick your paint color in the shop – you test it out in your own light.

On the other hand, there is the light you bring into your home.  Venetians understand the drama of good light fixtures, be it chandelier or streetlamp.

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3.  TEXTURE ON TEXTURE ON TEXTURE:  The buildings in Venice are layered with age, dirt, paint and plaster, both inside and out.  A natural result of being surrounded by dampness, these layered textures add softness.  There are few flat surfaces or straight lines in Venice.  Instead there are crevices, cracks and lace-y edges.  The layers give you a peek into the past, a hint of a memory…a sideways glance at a bare shoulder.

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4.  VOLUPTUOUS METALWORK:  The (mostly black) iron grills, lampposts and balconies of Venice provide contrast –  a hard, masculine counterpoint to the soft plaster and saturated color.  But the metal is curled and curvy, too.  Straight lines appear only of necessity.

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5. MOORISH INFLUENCES:  Nothing’s more current in interiors than Moroccan and Moorish influences, which the Venetians obviously knew centuries ago.   The combination of Gothic arches, Byzantine architecture and patterns and shapes taken from the Arab influences on Moorish Spain, create Venice’s unique sense of place.

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6.  EMBELLISHMENT:  In Venice, nothing is left untouched.  Any surface or angle that can be embellished is lavished with attention.  The columns are carved.  The tiles are etched.  The door frames are gilded.  Even the arches have arches.

One special detail I noticed in my hotel (The Acqua Palace, more about that later), was the silk braid that lined the floor boards and staircases.

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The beauty of Venice is that it’s unique.  While you wouldn’t want to recreate a Disneyland version of Venice in your apartment, there are ideas that can come home with you.  Sensuous shapes, deep colors, good lighting, layered texture and surprising details may be all you need…

Of course, if you’re still not certain, you may have to plan another trip…

My husband has promised that one day, when I least expect it, I’ll get to spend 3 months in a tiny flat in Venice, on my own.  It sounds perfect – and when it happens, I’ll let you know!

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Top 5 Design Details of Venice, Italy - Rover at Home