When the room’s filled with tile and pizzelles in a pile, that’s amore.
Whether you draw more inspiration from the pristine marble sculptures of Michelangelo and the majestic travertine of the Colosseum, or the sleek skyscrapers and zippy Vespas of Milan, Italian design is all about passion and attention to detail. Just forget the “Tuscan” McMansions that have cropped up in the Valley over the last few decades, says Todd Zillweger, co-owner with Tim Harris of Relics Architectural Home & Garden.
“Red table cloths, big giant castles, just over the top… it’s on steroids,” Zillweger says. Real Italian homes, he says, “look more Spanish to me as far as the austerity and the very simple, clean lines. Not overly fussy, not a lot of iron work, not a lot of fabrics. It’s [simplicity] done well.”
Simplicity may come in the form of painstakingly preserved Italian antiques from Relics, like wooden chests or delicate chandeliers, or in straightforward marble and travertine tiles imported from Italy by Arizona Tile. “We’ve probably quadrupled the white marble offerings that we have in the last 12 to 18 months. We can’t keep it in stock,” marketing director Adria Harrison says.
Samantha Stinocher, Arizona Tile’s Tempe assistant showroom manager, says clients have been using marble and travertine tiles in every room, often in unique applications. “They’re doing decorative tiles that create a picture. On the floor you create kind of a mosaic look, or you can go really graphic. With Italian design I always think of how they like to tile up the wall, they like to tile up the floor, lots of tile.”
Of course, no Italian home is complete without a well-stocked cucina. Peppy and Joe Niccoli sell culinary accoutrements at Niccoli’s Italian Deli, from ravioli stamps to an intricate pizzelle iron, which turns sticky dough into lacy, anise-scented cookies. Peppy swears by their irons.
“I’ve been married for 50 years and I’m now on my second one – that’s how long they last,” Peppy says. “The secret is to put the dough slightly back of center. When you bring the lid down, it makes this perfect form.” Kitchen klutzes can buy freshly made pizzelles from the Niccolis’ bakery. “People say, ‘Oh, I love them, but I don’t want to spend the time.’ They understand that if they’ve been given them, it’s a labor of love.”
Niccoli’s Italian Deli
6102 N. 16th St., Phoenix
Mangia! Mangia! Outfit your Italian kitchen with a pizzelle iron ($75), mortar and pestle ($30), olive oil can ($25) and ravioli stamp and rolling pin ($19.95).
Relics Architectural Home & Garden
839 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix,
This Italian silver gilt and wood six-light chandelier, circa the late 18th century, was originally meant for candles but was converted to electric ($2,795). The hand carved wooden Eucharist box ($2,295) from the mid- to late-18th century has its original polychrome finish and key.
“It seems like for the really good quality religious pieces, they will always stand the test of time,” Zillweger says. “This piece would be something that you could build a vignette around. You could put something on top of this – a santos, or maybe a cross, a grouping of candles.”
Locations: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson
The “minimalist, clean lines” of Natuzzi’s Releve sofa are “indicative of contemporary, modern Italian design,” says Erik Nielsen, manager of Copenhagen Imports in Tucson. “It’s 100 percent made in Italy.” The sofa starts at $2,284 in fabric and $3,166 in leather.
14700 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale
The Venetian Listelle incorporates travertine and light and dark emperador marble (retail starts at $10.53 per listelle) for a decorative look.
The Waterfall series in Niagara “gives you that fun, more modern look without the intensity, even though it still has some dimension,” Stinocher says. Retail starts at $4.73 per square foot for 12x24-inch tiles.