italian + french renaissance // DESIGN HISTORY

While we plan to focus on the non Euro-centric ancient world in future postings, for now we will continue exploring European architecture, starting with the great cultural shift that was the Renaissance, more specifically the Italian & French Renaissance.

As trade routes expanded across oceans, exposure to new cultures and ideas sparked a period of unrivaled art and creativity.

The Italian Renaissance started in the 14th Century and came out of a rise in wealth and prosperity in the upper middle class.  Increased trade led to access and desire for new materials used in art and architecture.  Higher literacy rates led to a greater interest in the intellectual arts such as literature, philosophy and science.  We have a lot of wonderful examples to start with, but avoiding the contemporary revivals is more of a challenge.  Let’s see how we did.


Palazzo Davanzati in Florence + Ikat Wallpaper

While the exteriors of Italian Renaissance buildings tended to be simple, the interior was decorated with walls painted to look like tapestry, such as this room in the Davanzati Palace.  

Advances in wallpaper printing have made a similar look affordable today without hand-painting – this example shows a bold ikat design.  (BTW: We love the ikat design here at Fortunate1!  Check out the our latest collection.)


Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence + King Street Live/Work/Grow in Halifax

As Italy transformed from a mostly agrarian society to one with trade, banking and other business, the design of cities began to change as well, much like cities are changing today as people move away from the suburbs and closer to work.  The Italian guilds created the first urban live/work spaces in their homes: the first floor was used for business, the second for the family and the third for servants or rentals.

This live/work project in Halifax, Nova Scotia has 3 units: an office space for an architecture and contractor firm with equipment storage; a dwelling for a family of four with a dog and two cats; and a two-story live/work rental studio apartment.


Mantegna Mural + Faust Mural

The painted domes of the Italian Renaissance also featured trompe l’oeil, semi-circular arch and the appearance of a visual escape through the sky.  In the contemporary model the railing actually is real, while in the original by Mantegna was simply another illusion.

The contemporary mural by David Faust was painted on a recessed dome ceiling on the second floor, but is visible from the ground floor via a hole in the stairway.


Annunciation by Daddi + Cole & Son Wallpaper

Perspective in art is when something is drawn or painted to imply that it is in 3D.  This technique was seen as early as Etruscan frescoes, but it became more prevalent during the Renaissance.  Early versions were more rudimentary, but were enhanced by tapestry designs and colorful figures.

 This playful wallpaper from Cole & Son shows an Escher-like scene that also provides a sense of perspective, decorative tile and bright colors.  (By the way, if you like patterns and design, I highly recommend the Cole & Son website – hard to leave there without getting some inspiration for your next project!)


Loggia dei Lanzi + “Warde” art installation in Jerusalem

Art was an important part of the Italian Renaissance lifestyle so much so that public loggias where citizens were encouraged to view interact with art were very common.

Public art is also making a come-back in many modern societies.  “Warde,” a public installation in Jerusalem, even encourages public participation; the flowers open in response to a person walking or sitting below and close when the square is empty.

The French Renaissance started in 1500, growing out of an interest in the Italian Renaissance by French royalty.  Characteristics include those more Medieval like slate roofs, use of turrets and limestone exteriors and those more Renaissance like blind arches, balustrades and dormer windows.


Chateau Chenonceau + Manshausen’s Cabins in Norway

French Chateaux were often placed over water creating reflection and a sense of symmetry.  These lovely cabins in Norway are much more modern in style, but have the same effect.

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