When Hillary Staats, interior designer and owner of Sanctuary Interior Design Build, returned from a recent trip to Florence, Italy, she brought back new visions of style.
The Capital of Italy’s Tuscany region and the birthplace of the Renaissance, “Florence is a city blessed with beautiful sun and age, and friendly people. Every corner in the historic district is enchanting,” Staats described. “You have these cobblestone streets, street lamps and flowers everywhere, yet, for its design aesthetic, it’s a clashing of modern and traditional.”
For example, she illustrated, you might see a cobblestone street with a red Ferrari racing down it, or an uber-modern piece of art in a gallery whose walls are three-foot-thick stone and stucco.
Small, eclectic boutiques line the streets, and whereas Staats reports that neutral colors are hip right now, it was the pops of color—the accents—that drew her eye, especially the reds. “Italians design with pops of color, they use it as accents and to define style—it’s lovely.” You find these red accents in the foods, clothing, design, décor, art, and everyday objects like dishes.
“I normally don’t use much red in my projects; it’s such a strong color,” she said. “But you can visualize how a red dress or a red pair of shoes can make a statement. When I think of Italy, I think of that red Ferrari, and can picture it against the background of the beige walls or streets, the green vineyards, or the neutral woods…an unexpected and exciting pop of color.”
The people of Italy aren’t afraid to show age, which is apparent in their traditional/modern design. You see it in the warm wooden beams on interior ceilings that show peeks of bright terra cotta roofs. You can also see it in the historic buildings, like the Florence Cathedral. “You have the feeling you’re living in this old century, and then are hit with lightning bolts of modernism.”
As a designer, Staats strives to bring these accents into her decorating, through flowers, paintings, pottery, or anything. “They bring life to the room; if you don’t have color the space looks emotionally cold.”
Selecting Accents for Your Own Home
How do you select the right accents for your own home? “Buy what you love,” she advises. “When you shop, slow down and look at each piece individually. It’s like looking at jewelry; you look at the whole case, but our eyes are trained to take in one piece at a time because each is so delicate and beautiful you have to appreciate it individually.” She recommends looking deeper into the details of accessories, whether it is lamps, bookends, or art.
“Think of it as gathering all the amazing ingredients for making a great meal—the best meat, vegetables, wine, bread, seasonings, and cream. Then put them together to create a fabulous feast. It’s the same with design,” she continued. “If you buy beautiful textiles, floor coverings, window treatments, and add amazing paint colors, your room comes to life in a rich way that has spirit. The rooms take on depth and warmth and are not flat.”
“When I shop, I try to find the most special item in the whole store—the thing that brings me happiness, changes my life, and one I can enjoy looking at every day, no matter how simple.”
Travel opens one’s eyes to new things—new cultures, new foods, and, in Hillary’s case, new uses of color.
Sanctuary Interior Design Build
109 Church Street NW
Vienna, VA 22180