Tuscan home style design is as much about simplicity as it is about the strategic use of plaster, wrought iron, recycled wood and space. Vaulted ceilings, rich embroidered fabrics, tapestries, murals, plastered walls and old timber for frames and ceilings bring us back to Europe even if located in Ohio.
Interested in a Tuscan style house?
I can’t blame you. It’s fetching style. Also a popular one. It’s a sub-style of the Mediterranean style. After all, Tuscany is on the Mediterranean (see map of Italy below).
Tuscan style houses are defined by the exterior, landscaping, interior, furnishings and materials used throughout. We step you through each of these below.
On the face of it, the example exterior above (via Architecturaldesigns.com) is a great example of a contemporary Tuscan style exterior with stucco, stone and tile roof. The brick driveway is a nice touch as well.
Table of Contents
What is a Tuscan Home Style?
While southern Italy has Rome, Pompeii, Mediterranean beaches and tourist ships, further north in the province of Tuscany and entire way of living was embodied in an architecture and interior design style.
Today, most regions with a similar climate borrow heavy from the Tuscan Home Style, matching old world themes with climate-adapted forms and shapes to take advantage of natural benefits.
The result is a style of home that is at once recognizable for the region of Italy that provides the namesake as well as for its distinct European feel and look. With a combination of aged wood, plastered walls, embroidered fabrics and earth tone colors, Tuscan style is at once recognizable for its Italian and old world Spanish themes as it is the space and environment it creates for a homeowner. You too can have a home that literally borrows form the villas of winemakers, and you don’t have to deal with growing all the grapes in the process.
Exterior Style Features
When it comes to a Tuscan-style exterior, there is a range in that some fall on the rustic farmhouse style while others veer into a more ornate design with stucco and tile roofing. Check out the side-by-side comparison of two Tuscan-style houses:
One of the most vivid features of a Tuscan style home tends to be the home gardens and fountain areas.
These are shaped as outside primarypieces, with the fountain oftentimes a large placement for a specific view and enjoyment. The concept borrows from the old Moors style of outdoor gardens within the center atrium of homes, providing a personal paradise in a warm climate otherwise arid and desert-like.
Outdoors structural shapes will rely heavily on a stucco-style home wall surfacing and roofs capped with tile roofing, similar to other Latin countries.
The outside of homes oftentimes tends to look plain, with more of the detail attention going on inside. However, Tuscan homes are famous for their balconies fenced in by shaped wrought iron, easily allowing air to pass in through a window door but preventing someone from falling off.
Where distinct landscaping is involved, Tuscan homes are famous for squared-off pathways of stone tile or crushed granite lined by rows of cypress trees that sometimes get as tall as 20 or 30 feet in the air. Where there is lawn is kept green and well-cut, like a rolled out carpet for visitors to walk through and enjoy. Plants are typically potted, some in very large vases that are figure pieces at the corner of the pathways or stairs. Properties are often shaped with different levels, creating a layer effect on the overall home outside with the house as the centerpiece and the highest ground.
Interior Style Features
Tuscan interiors in a nutshell: Natural materials such as wood, tile, plaster and iron. Colors mostly earth tones. Natural with an ornate twist.
Yes, it can verge on rustic but can also fall on the other end of the spectrum being more contemporary. Check out interior features below along with photo examples.
Bare flooring stands out in a Tuscany style house.
Originally intended to make it easier to keep a home cool during the hot summers in Italy, the bare flooring styles lends to the old-style simplicity and also avoids the hassle of trying to keep a housewide carpet clean and stain-free. Oftentimes the flooring tends to be poured cement or dark stone large tile pieces, drawing the eyes to the walls and decorations whether it is brighter. Granted, it’s not all just cold floor. Area rugs, runners and covers are common and provide a softer path for heavy traffic areas. This then allows the rugs to stand out with notable patterns rather than being lost in a room with lots of features.
Flooring can also incorporate dark wood and planking. Often used in second-floor settings, wood flooring also gives a rich color with a bare surface, accented by rugs and walkway runners as a finishing touch.
Most notably, however, a Tuscan style home will have a significant amount of old wood framing and doors integrated within the structure.
Unlike fresh wood which either has to be stained or colored, old wood already comes with its own surface texture. The difference is immediately notable and distinct. While it might take longer to source, the approach definitely makes a home stand out and feel well-established even if it was just built a few months ago.
- Tuscan furniture is very much about natural elements, but what makes the style stand out even in a new home is the recycling of old pieces put to new purposes. A typical Tuscan kitchen might have a very old wood table topped with a thin granite layer top as the workplace for the food preparation. The table itself will be solid wood, distressed and showing time, but easily capable of handling the weight. An open flat stove area and oven hearth are a common style as well, blending a modern kitchen system with an old world fire oven for baking and cooking framed in brick.
- Wrought iron was not limited to railings or doors. In Tuscan style it is heavily used in all types of furniture as well. Bedside tables for example can provide heavy, sturdy platforms that remain fairly home for space and placement.
- Wall fixtures such as reshaped copper and metal mixes were often used to turn swords and tools into decorative displays. Modern versions of these displays are very much in vogue with a Tuscan home, providing an easy eyepiece for common rooms.
- Lamps with carved pattern bodies are a standard for table and living room lighting in a Tuscan home and would fit nicely along with light wall colors and sofas being offset by the dark wood color of the lamp body.
- Table runners and similar embroidered fabrics frequently provide the finishing touch to otherwise simple Tuscan furniture, giving a sense of richness to the entire display.
Materials Frequently Used
If there is one material that stands out with Tuscan style homes it tends to be wrought iron.
Whether it is used as the handrails for stairs, the fencing for balconies, or the barriers to block of intrusion into a fountain or garden, or even to guide one towards entranceways wrought iron is regularly used in Tuscan style architecture. If one looks closely, the material can be found in the curtain rods inside room, the door handles and even being used for the bed frames. There was never a shortage of the basic metal in old Italy and the same style demands a commitment to the material in new homes today.
Tuscan style homes are also famous for recycling old wood and putting it to new use. Many Tuscan home designs have reutilized heavy timbers from barns, churches, ships and beams. Many homes incorporate arching wood trusses across the interior of rooms to support vaulted ceilings, opening up the inside of a home to a grand style sense of being. The wood itself may be hundreds of years old and been used more than once, but it fits seamlessly into a Tuscan style home freshly constructed and ready to live in.
Walls in a Tuscan home come with a very distinct feature of plaster finish.
While the core wall might be other materials from wood to cinder block to even drywall underneath, the plaster surfacing gives a Tuscan home an old world feel when plaster was the go-to material for finishing an interior design, not paint. Combined with cornices, crown molding and old style paintings, one can be forgiven for momentarily thinking he or she just got zapped back in a time machine to old Europe.
Frescoes painted on strategic large walls in main rooms are also an occasional feature. It may be a map, an old world style religious theme, or even a landscape, frescoes add an additional feature no one is going to find in any new company built home model. In the same vein, murals also add an additional style and touch to a bedroom, such as the kids’ playroom for example. And tapestries also color and liven up blank walls, especially long draping runners hung from the top of ceilings or stairway tops.
Coloring of the internal décor also doesn’t follow a plain shock white like what one might find in Spanish countries. Instead, Tuscan interiors lean on a number of different natural colors ranging from an almost rich orange-brown to light beige.
Painting treatments that try to come close to these colors and plaster textures typically involve sponge applications of paint or cracking to give the surface an aged look. Other colors often found in Tuscan style homes include deep gold yellows, olive greens, deep rust reds and copper highlights.
Other Styles that Mix Well
Anyone who loves carpentry is going to appreciate the Tuscan style home. Wood blends well with the approach, as mentioned above with recycling old pieces, and plenty of hand-crafted applications can be nestled into a Tuscan design without being overbearing or out of place. In fact, The Tuscan style was so influential, it even traveled north and many of the carpentry ideas can be seen in Bavarian style home structures and finished in Southern Germany.
Natural lighting features such door style windows, as well as soft lighting lamps with yellow shading, will go well in a Tuscan home, complimenting the style instead of contrasting with it. And for those who love fireplaces a the main living room of a Tuscan home will be a great place to have an open simple hearth as a source of warmth in the cold months, heating up the room and traveling upward in a vaulted ceiling to an upper floor if opened strategically.
A Brief History of the Style
Tuscany has long been attributed as the birthplace of the design trend, but Tuscan home style design really began to be established in the 1600s due to early tourism. As visitors often brought by trade to Italy noted the local architecture, they began to draw the ideas down on documents and bring them home to their locales.
The first Tuscan home in England appeared approximately 200 years later in about 1840, but it was a momentary fad. Most disappeared again or were built over by the 1860s. It was early private home architecture in the United States that began to bring the trend back into vogue again, especially during the 1930s and 1940s. Millionaires would could travel and acquires whole pieces of churches and buildings they would come across began to cobble together mansions in the U.S. with amazing pieces.
These in turn inspired architects to study where they came from, becoming exposed to Tuscan design in the process. The result were homes in places like Cincinnati, OH and Los Angeles, CA being the birthplaces of American Tuscany style as a renaissance of new-old style unique home building. From there the story reaches today.
Why Tuscan Style Continues to Stand Out
The emotion component of Tuscany style feeds into our movie-instilled ideas of old Italy and vineyard dotted hillsides with villas overlooking the work and the winemaking. So, when a home comes together with all the ideal shades of color, unique design and exterior build as well as interior distinct look, many fall in love with it right away.
Dubbing the style an old European look is a bit of a misnomer but most know what the speaker is talking about regardless. The wrought iron placed into white surfaces and plaster interior surfaces give a sense of something very different, brought over the ocean and relocated versus pure American.
Add in the wood or stone tile flooring, the terra cotta roof tiling, and the strategic use of murals or tapestries, and more than one Tuscan home in Southern California has been used repeatedly as an ideal movie set for a storyline set somewhere else in the world. So again, it looks great partly because we’ve been programmed to recognize Tuscan style by Hollywood influence, but also because it reminds many of us of our deeper roots back to the old country and more austere way of living.