What makes Italy synonymous with craftsmanship and quality? When you hear the words ’Italian furniture’, the first thing that comes to mind is handcrafted with timeless elegance. In a sense, that is true. |
Italians love to work with their hands. At the same time, they like to study and understand what would eventually be the basic principle of design, which is function before form.
Among all Italian style furniture pieces, none has come under more scrutiny than the beds. While many would say that Italian beds are similar to French beds in terms of functionality and features, there are distinct traits and factors that an Italian bed will have.
The letto, or bed, is often a massive structure with heavily paneled headboards and footboards, while the whole furniture is surrounded by cassoni standing or marriage chest legs.
While this is a common bed type, it does have a variant that is similar to the lit duchesse of the French style. It is called the letto con baldacchino, which is basically a bed with a heavily ornamented tester and canopy or baldachin.
Most Italian bed designs are less structured and evoke a sense of continuity between its structure and ornaments. Walnut wood is mostly used due to its abundance and molding properties. Straight lines used to be popular and was emphasized until it gave way to high relief curved carvings.
During the Rococo period, there was a constant interchange of both ideas and workers between France and Italy. This resulted into the Italians making their own variant of the French Rococo, namely the Baroque. This was characterized by large scale, bold details and sweeping curves. Unlike its Rococo counterpart, it evoked a sense of formality and ceremony, with only rich fabrics such as damask and jacquard serving as its breakaway from the severity.
Italian bed designs were soon geared towards formality in structure. This was in contrast to Venetian design, where the beds were designed with flamboyant, fanciful and ornamental designs. Often times, they were elaborately panned, gilded, japanned or possessed exaggerated bombe shapes.
As time passed, the ornate beds of the Italians became collector’s pieces since majority of them were handcrafted and detailed, while some have become more streamlined and practical to keep up with the style.
Whichever theme it suits, the Italian bed will have one defining character and that is its goal to provide the user with function before form.
Charles is an English interior design expert with over 25 years of experience in the industry. He is particularly interested in Italian bed designs and French beds.
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