Mediterranean vs Tuscan decorating

chocolatebunnyApril 27, 2011

I am not sure how I got on to this debate with a friend today, so I thought I would ask here.

I returned a canister set that I just bought b/c DH didn't like it. He said it was too bright. He likes more earthy colors.

Anyway, I am telling my friend this and she asked if I was still into all the "tuscan" colors. I said no, that I like more "mediterranean" colors. She said there is no difference between the two and that the terms are used interchangably in decorating. She has hired a decorator before so maybe she knows something I don't.

I see the two as similar, yet very different. I may be wrong, but when I hear the term "tuscan", I immediately think Olive Garden. Wall art that has pictures of grapes, or wine, or Italian landscapes (or what I imagine are Italian landscapes). Kitchy things like plates with the word "cucina" on them. Dark colors.

Mediterraean to me means earthy colors too, but more blues and whites vs cream colors. I can't think of any other way to describe it.

My house is definitely more mediterranean than tuscan (at least what I think mediterranean is!). Quite frankly, I dislike tuscan stuff. To me it's a fad that's way overdone and should be on it's way out.

Like I said, my friend has used a decorator before so maybe I'm the one that doesn't know what the heck I am talking about. : )

What do you think?

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I think you are correct. "Mediterranean" would have a much broader scope than "Tuscan" as it could incorporate any of the styles of 13 European, 3 Middle Eastern and 5 African countries, all of which border the Med! So Mediterranean decor could have the vibrant colors of Spanish tiles, or the beautiful blues of the roofs, doors and shutters of white Greek houses, or the dark rich colors of Morocco for example. Tuscan style is also often described as "mediterranean", which it is!

For info, the Mediterranean countries are Spain, France, Monaco, Malta, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro. Albania, Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus in Europe; Syria, Lebanon, Israel, in the Middle East and Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco in Africa.
Loads of scope color and style wise there!

Read more:

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 4:15PM
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It's a fad and don't fall for it. Everyone today wants their rooms to look like Potterbarn and frankly, I'm sick of it. Ha. Do your own thing and create your own style and you will be so happy down the road that you did. When I grew up in the 60's it was lime green and gold mediterranean. How sad is that? Then the appliances started changing colors and now everyone wants a gray/blue wall that's the perfect color. I cried when a decorator in House Beautiful used my color (BM Richmond Gold) to do her house. Somebody copied me!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 6:20PM
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Tuscany is ONE section of Italy, mostly inland. It's fabulous artistic, but what I consider "classic rural Italian" decor. Faded colors, earthy tones.

Mediterranean, to me is the sea-inspired fishing village kind of decor you see all along the coast. More intense colors, more pure white and sunbleached blues.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 7:41PM
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Mediterranean = blue, for the sea and the sky, white buildings (sometimes pale beige/tan, occasionally very colorful), interior white walls, black metal/wrought iron gates, bannisters, balconies (but not usually inside decoration), and soft green for the olive and lemon trees and the sage, lavender and rosemary. Tile floors. Lots of fabrics in tapestry/geometric patterns used as wall hangings, rugs, and pillows. Thick walls to hold in heat in the winter and cool in the summer. Large kitchens with table and chairs rather than islands.

I lived and traveled around the Med for several years and always thought I would have this look. Alas, not here, not in Central CA!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 2:40PM
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sable - this is one of my all time favorite houses! I treasure my July 1996 Architectural Digest because of this house! I couldn't find a way to show all the other gorgeous photos in the article.

Here is a link that might be useful: California Mediterranean

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 3:14PM
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To me, Tuscan style is an off-shoot of Mediterranean, but does not define the genre. As noted above, there are many regions and styles that fall under the heading "Mediterranean". It is never out of style because it is too wide a definition to be a cliche. Tuscan has become known as a narrow niche and can be done in a "trendy" way that is already a little dated. One must be very careful not to do a Disney version of Tuscan these days.

BTW - just because someone has "hired" a decorator, that does not confer all the knowledge of a decorator onto her.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 4:32PM
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Sis3 - Thank you! That is "almost" it, but a bit too modern, but wonderful nevertheless. I would need to round off those sharp corners and replace the red pillows with rich geometric tapestries. Also, a couple of pots of wild rosemary. When I was younger and living overseas I assumed that someday I would have a small white villa with a view in Greece, would be a writer, never marry, God forbid (lol), go about in gauzy caftans and exotic jewelry and entertain many friends and lovers. Really did believe that.

Your beautiful A.D. veranda could easily be in Greece or Turkey or Lebanon or Israel. Can't you feel those Med breezes now?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 12:03AM
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Sable I have been searching for more photos of that Greek style house for you and for chocolatebunny. It is called Villa Pacifica and was designed by Marc Appleton. If you click on the link below and then click on the thumbprints you will get a better sense of the house. It was designed to resemble a small Greek village. I am with you on the pink pillows being out of place.

Here is a link that might be useful: California Mediterranean photos

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 10:58PM
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Thanks everyone. I know someone that redid her kitchen last summer and she did a tuscan theme. I laughed out loud when I read Diannalo's "Disney" comment, because that's exactly what this person did! She has a tumbled travertine tile backsplash with some accent tiles with grapes on them, a rustic looking range hood with some artificial vines and grapes on them, all sorts of wine bottles and more vines above the cabinets, and probably the ugliest Waverly valance I have ever seen. I know there were other "tuscan" touches but those are the ones I remember off the top of my head.

I really do love the blues and whites of the mediterranean. I am trying to incorporate more of that into my own house, but I still have a lot of earthy green and red, and I am really sick of the red!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 12:56AM
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sable - this is one of my all time favorite houses! I treasure my July 1996 Architectural Digest because of this house! I couldn't find a way to show all the other gorgeous photos in the article.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 2:01AM
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Thank you for posting those pictures, Sis3. Yes, that house is a near-perfect Mediterranean house - wonderful architecture with very simple rooms. My favorite interior room is the dining room, with its strong neutrals plus the books and paintings. The house could use some more greenery, along with lots of bougainvillea outside and those lovely herbs of the Med region. But you can see how different it is from the Tuscan look that Chocolatebunny describes.

Max - looks like Sis did the job for you! Guess I should look around some used book stores to try and find that issue of A.D.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 2:47AM
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Sable on the photo of the terrace with arches you can see bougainvillea plants outside. It will look great if all those plants have now spread to cover walls and pergolas! I think the idea of the pink pillows was to repeat the color of the bougie!
The first picture of Villa Pacifica I posted was from an online store for old magazines. They sell the July 1996 AD for $5. Of course the shipping makes it costly!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 9:20AM
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About "Mediterranean" design: what comes to mind immediately are the houses in Greece designed by John Stefanidis. His own house, on the island of Patmos, is the focus of his latest book, An Island Sanctuary: A House in Greece. Just lovely!

As for "Tuscan" style in the way that you all are describing it, while I've never eaten in an Olive Garden, that pseudo-Italian restaurant style certainly sounds horrid. I want my wine bottles in a wine cellar or in the fridge, and then emptied and in the recycling bin -- not ranged along the tops of my kitchen cabinets! As for fake vines, I actually had fake ivy running along the tops of the cabinets in our old house. A lame attempt to add some softness and color, and to liven up a not-very-good kitchen and all I accomplished was weaving a dust and grease catcher up high where it was hard to reach. When I finally took it down and placed the fake ivy where it belonged -- in the donation room at a local thrift store -- the kitched looked much, much better. There is something to be said for "honesty" and authenticity in houses, and I think a good part of that means decorating and designing for the geographic and cultural place in which you live.

Anyway, I see I wandered OT. To go back to the original issue, in my mind there is a distinct difference between Tuscan and Mediterranean styles, especially as interpreted by Americans.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 9:54AM
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