Saturday, November 22, 2003

Decor lines evoke Tuscany romance

By Sadie Jo Smokey
The Arizona Republic

Tuscany is romance in olive groves, colossal cypress trees on hilltops, medieval stone churches and rustic wood tables that seat a dozen. It's your home, your neighbor's home or the street where you live. The allure of all things Mediterranean is evident inside and out of many homes.

Because of interest in the historic hilly Italian region, applying Tuscan decor to your home can be as simple as saying "buon giorno" or pouring a glass of vino.

Decor options now are expanding with the introduction of the At Home in Tuscany Collection of furnishings. Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun (Broadway; $15), collaborated with home-furnishing designers who created the collection. Shoppers can buy oversize furniture from Drexel Heritage, hand-painted kitchenware by Vietri, chandeliers and lighting by Wildwood Lamps and luxury linens from Sferra Bros. The book (now a movie starring Diane Lane) is Mayes' memoir, a celebration of her experience renovating an 18th-century villa.

If the new home furnishings line delivers Tuscany's "soft, warm ambience" as promised, homeowners will snap it up, says interior designer Gabrielle Roeckelein.

"Eighty percent of my clients want Old World casual. A comfortable feel, but brand-new," Roeckelein says. "They want hand-carved, masculine furniture distressed so it looks like people have been eating off of it for 100 years."

Designers say Tuscany is defined by earth colors - subdued and seductive sienna, golden yellow, serene blue, warm sage green and natural stone.

"It's so befitting our terrain," says Phoenix interior designer Robert Calvin Carr. "We have Italian cypress trees and olive trees here; a lot of mountains, tile roofs; we use stone. The look has been around (the Valley) for a long time because it all goes together so beautifully."

Those who visit Italy say being there put them in a state of mind that finds beauty in things cracked, chipped, unpolished, rough and distressed.

"In all my trips to Italy, I've noticed the people of Tuscany work to live," says designer Dennis Hopper. In "our culture, we live to work."

Create Tuscan atmosphere

If new furniture or a trip to Italy is out of the question, here are inexpensive ways to enjoy Tuscany:

Books by Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany and In Tuscany. Part memoir, part travel, part cooking, each book offers a glimpse of life in Italy. Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany (two-book set, $21) and In Tuscany ($24.50) are available in bookstores and online.


Enchanted April (1991), starring Miranda Richardson, Alfred Molina and Jim Broadbent. A drama set in the 1920s at a Tuscan villa where four women enjoy the weather and countryside.

Stealing Beauty (1996), starring Liv Tyler, Jeremy Irons and Rachel Weisz. A modern coming-of-age tale set in the rolling hills of Tuscany.

Tea With Mussolini (1999), starring Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Lily Tomlin and Cher. A drama set in Florence pre-World War II.


A Night in Tuscany ($24.99), a concert video starring Andrea Bocelli, the famous Tuscan tenor. The video of the 1997 concert features footage of the Tuscan countryside and songs from Bocelli's albums Romanza and Viaggio Italiano.

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