Friday, April 17, 2020

Decorating With Italian Florentine Furniture

Florence gave birth to the Renaissance in the 15th century and soon what started in Italy was spreading through the whole of Europe and especially France and Holland. During this time Florence was celebrated throughout Europe as a center of fine painting, gold gilding, bronze work, and furnishings inlaid with intricate designs. With their enormous influence, the Italian craftsmen's well styled and classic Florentine painted furniture was seen as a social status symbol. 

Fast forward a couple of centuries and you find that the fine craft reputation associated with Florence remained well-established due to Florence's craft guilds who were critical to the survival of these trades. Florence's recognized superiority in the fine arts led to rapid growth in the demand for craft products among tourists, particularly from England. "Florentine" gold painted wooden trinket boxes and picture frames were immediate hits and coveted by British Victorians as a way to have "a piece" of Italy.

Once again, in the 1940's, 50's and 60's the Florentine style came back into vogue in the form of Hollywood Regency. Florentine frames, plaques, jewelry boxes and reproduction Florentine furniture once again became popular

Florentine style crafts remain collectible today due to the "shabby chic" style of decorating in recent years. Now less "shabby", Florentine furniture is being sought after for use in Retro modern spaces as well as old world interiors.

The look that comes to mind when one thinks of Florentine furniture.

Florentine style, especially in items produced from the mid-19th century onward, reflected a contemporary interpretation of Renaissance art and furnishings that was highly in demand. Below is a bit more history about this style of furniture and how it evolved.

During the Renaissance Florence Italy was renowned as a center of fine art. Italian baroque and rococo pieces painted white and gilded were must haves for wealthy homes throughout Europe

The book Antiques in Italian Interiors, Vol. I, written in English by Roberto Valeriani and illustrated throughout with beautiful full page photographs by Mario Ciampi

The finest Italian wood carvers, painters and gilders of the period were used to embellish Florentine gold and white furniture.

Drawing Room in Attingham Park, Shropshire

The carving on furniture assumed the first priority. Then the painting, gilding, and veneering was applied either in relief or inlaid in elaborate arabesques.The pieces were usually covered in white guesso and the carvings picked out with gold for a luxurious effect.

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18th century Florentine painted chair

via Pinterest

The pieces like the chest above, which we usually associate with Florentine furniture, came much later and were made to resemble fine carved and painted pieces like those you saw previously.

Combining several styles such as French/English Regency and Neoclassic, several design lines were crossed in order to create the look that we commonly know as Florentine.

Amy Neunsinger Photography

Florentine side table Heaven! Initially popular in the 1940's, during the golden age of Hollywood, lovely painted Florentine pieces of the Hollywood Regency era are making a comeback.

Hollywood Regency's hallmarks were luxury, glitz, and sophistication. Florentine tables were a big part of the look making them one of the most popular pieces of Florentine furniture.
Hollywood Regency was known for its glamorous new twist on old classics. One of those classics was Florentine furniture.

Vintage Linens and Collectables on twitter

After the 60's Florentine furniture was quietly exiled to the scorned and rejected storage places in most homes.

That is until the Shabby Chic trend took off in England in the 1980's. The style evoked the type of decoration found in large country houses where antique furniture, art, and decor was admired for it's cozy handed down and aged heirloom appearance. Florentine pieces were part of the trend.

By the time the shabby trend hit America it had morphed into an all white vintage country cottage look that still worked well with a piece or two of Florentine furniture.

Jo Anne Coletti Photography

The reason Florentine furniture is so popular with the shabby cottage enthusiasts is because this style calls for painted furniture in white tones and of course the painted Florentine pieces were a natural fit.

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Those admirers of French country interiors also embraced the lovely painted Florentine pieces.

This Florentine piece shows how the furniture is composed of wood and gesso and is embossed with gilt in an ornate design.

This Italian handmade Florentine table would be a wonderful addition to a delightful interior decor! The gilding makes the piece look warm and rich and carving gives it old world charm that is apparent from the very first glance!


One of the darlings of the Florentine furniture style is the nesting table set.These little tables are ornate in appearance and imitate fine furniture.

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They are typically painted white with gold paint applied to resemble gilding. There were other colors available at the time but the white and gold seem to be the most sought after.

These little tables were a great way to have a touch of Italy in your home and not break the bank.

The Florentine crafts industry also supplied tourists with small pieces of “art” they could take back home. 

all images via Pinterest

These Florentine crafts were particularly in demand in the late 1800’s and were considered as good taste in pure Italian Renaissance style.

Here you can see a variety of Florentine crafts that were popular tourists items. All of these can still be lovely accessories for today's Euro eclectic home.

Another very popular Florentine collectible is the tray. There are so many wonderful shapes and sizes to choose from. Not all are white.....other lovely colors abound!

Fieldstone Hill Design

Florentine trays are used in many Mid-century Modern interiors since they were a big part of the resurgence of Florentine during the 60's.

Photography: Jarod Fowler; Styling: Margot Braddon.

A Florentine tray looks great displayed in a variety of design styles. These collectibles seem to fit in everywhere.

Barbara Falk Designs

Another popular item made in Florentine style and sold to tourists was the triptych. Made of wood and painted in Florentine gold these triptychs usually consisted of hinged tri-fold wood panels and featured paintings of nativity scenes, Madonna with child, and angels.

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Since antique Italian religious items are currently popular with collectors, the Florentine triptych is riding the trend wave once again.

This is a wonderfully lavish Italian chest of drawers made in the Florentine style with gilt decoration and foliate motif.

These elegant little Florentine pieces are still sought out for today's more chic, less shabby interiors. You can find them in antique and collectible malls, estate sales, yard sales, and auctions. They are very affordable.

Corner French Cottage

A piece of Florentine furniture still makes a great accent piece for most interiors.

Better Homes and Gardens

A lovely Florentine headboard that would look great in so many stylish ways.

A lovely Florentine bench makes an interesting coffee table.

A Florentine chest like this one provides an opportunity for creating a sophisticated interior with just the right amount of glamour. 

As seen in this image they can lend to a quite, refined, ......

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and old world sophisticated interior.

I especially like the Florentine folding screens. They make an elegant backdrop for a vignette or can stand alone as a focal point.

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Florentine pieces can hold their own next to other antique furnishings.

Painters perfected techniques for decorating wooden surfaces, gilding them and coloring them with a rich variety of designs and finishes. The Florentine techniques are useful for creating some very special accent furniture pieces.

And remember there are other colors that were used in the painting of Florentine style furniture. You can find blue, green, turquoise, pink and soft coral......all picked out in gold and all equally stunning!

I hope this post has convinced you that a piece of Florentine furniture, or maybe an accessory, will always be a wonderful addition to your interiors.

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A Florentine piece can be used in many ways and however you choose to use it you can count on compliments for your space.

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer
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