In the 21st century, the average consumer has access to both contemporary and classic Italian furniture designs. Italy has long been considered a trendsetter within the furniture design world. From the early 1500s onward, Italian furniture designers have been recognized for their ability to balance classical styles with modern influences. Furniture designs include classically-inspired pieces reminiscent of Roman and Greek antiquity, fantasy pieces, Baroque, and Rococo.
Italian furniture designs first became popular during the 15th century. Designers of the time were inspired by Greek and Roman artwork. Themes including scrolls, shells, and other classically-inspired elements were increasingly popular, as were larger, more majestic pieces.
Experts in Italian furniture sought inspiration from Arabic and Oriental sources in the 16th century. Thanks to the dramatic, often grotesque, appearance favored by many furniture designers of this period, this century of furniture design history is often called the Gothic Period. Much like literature of the same name, Gothic furniture was inspired by the Arthurian legend and fantasy elements.
17th century Italian furniture design was heavily influenced by the Rococo and Baroque art movements. Furniture inspired by the Baroque movement still showed evidence of Asian influence. Designs that were heavy, ornate, and gilt were standard. Later in the century, Rococo replaced Baroque as the look of choice. While still ornate, Rococo furniture favored flowing, organic lines.
Furniture designs favored in previous centuries, such as the Renaissance and Gothic designs, were reborn in the 19th century. In response to the colonization of Africa, European and Italian furniture designers began to create designs with inlaid ivory and ebony. These materials eventually became harder to acquire due to restrictions placed on the gathering of ivory tusks from elephants.
During the 20th and 21st centuries, Italian furniture designs have favored a more modern look. Smooth, industrial lines, metal and plastic materials, and minimalistic designs are standard. Unique shapes and eco-friendly building materials have also appeared in the Italian furniture design industry. These influences have spread all over the world in furniture and home decor design as well.
Another important aspect of Italian furniture design during the 20th and 21st centuries is Italian accent furniture. Many of the famous Italian furniture designers specialize in accent furnishings, or furnishings that primarily serve a decorative purpose. Nested tables, benches, ottomans, and other accent furnishings have been re-imagined with a modern twist and add an interesting design element to any creative space.