How to decorate with Fornasetti

Instantly recognisable and endlessly beguiling, the timeless mid-century work of Piero Fornasetti has enjoyed a revival in the last 30 years 

To encounter the work of Italian painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver Piero Fornasetti is to tumble into a surreal and kaleidoscopic world of flying machines, suns with moustaches, playing card cities, vegetable faces, birds and butterflies. Where Alice in Wonderland meets Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Where a chest of drawers looks like a neoclassical building, a chair back is a Greek pillar, a screen evokes a forest and a Doberman is an umbrella stand. Fornasetti's imagination knew no bounds...

1. Lend a playful tone to your interior scheme with architectural details, antique plaster or marble, and witty illustrated ceramics  

Walls painted in ‘Tallanstown Grey’, £42.50 per 2.5l, Paint & Paper Library. ‘Palloni’ plates, c1955, £6,800 for a set of nine, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design. ‘Sole’ table, £1,100, Themes & Variations.

On table (from left): Harlequin’ cup and saucer by Fornasetti, c1950, £1,500 for six, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design; antique books, from £30 each, Maison Artefact; set of plaster intaglios, £350 for 23, Lassco; ‘Casa con Colonne’ vase, £185, Milk Concept Boutique; ‘Labbra’ scented candle in a jar, £115, Amara; vintage Fornasetti tray, £95 for two, August Interiors. Marble columns, from £414 each, Retrouvius. Glass ball from ‘Still Alive’ desk set, £270, Amara

2. Arrange a coffee table with trinkets and trays, incense and books. Make it an interesting place to pause and gaze 

‘Greek Key’ rug, £2,795, Jonathan Adler. Vintage coffee table, £795, Emmett & White Antiques & Interiors.

On table (from left): gold-edged dish, £95 for two, August Interiors; ‘Flora’ incense box, £145, Milk Concept Boutique; musical coasters, £425 for eight, Emmett & White Antiques & Interiors; Fornasetti: The Complete Universe book, £180, Milk Concept Boutique; ring dish, £125, Emmett & White Antiques & Interiors; trinkets, stylist’s own. Leaf tobacco box, c1950, £500, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design

3. Curate a cosy and curious sitting room, starting with a backdrop of dark moody walls. Layer with Grecian and Roman patterns then accent the space with stylish gold and brass on mirrors or lighting  

Walls painted in ‘Down Pipe’, £39.50 per 2.5l, Farrow & Ball. ‘Greek Key’ rug, £2,795, Jonathan Adler. ‘Tango’ armchair in ‘Marble Butterly Jade’, £1,138; ‘Tango’ sofa in ‘Estella Teal’, £1,859; small cushion on sofa (just seen), £168, all Duresta for Matthew Williamson at Barker & Stonehouse. Fornasetti cushions (on sofa), £210 each, Milk Concept Boutique. ‘Celia’ cushion (on armchair, just seen), £72, Rockett St George. ‘Bristol’ easel floor lamp, £650, Jonathan Adler. Vintage plate (on lamp), £245, Emmett & White Antiques & Interiors. ‘Architettura’ console, £3,750, Milk Concept Boutique. Plaster capitol (on console), £114, Retrouvius. Pocket watch mirror by Fornasetti, £1,995, August Interiors. Vintage coffee table, £795, Emmett & White Antiques & Interiors.

On table (from left): Fornasetti chess board, £700; ‘T&V 1’ teapot, £325; ‘Cammei’ cup and saucer, £175; ‘Flora’ incense box, £145; ‘L’Antipatico’ gold vase, £840; ‘Pennini’ candle jar, £125; ashtray, £150, all Milk Concept Boutique

4. Entertain your guests with a humorous and captivating dining room. Introduce optical illusions into mirrors and rugs, play with scale on oversized vases and statues, and produce a 'peep show' of Fornasetti's famous faces

Main walls painted in ‘Tallanstown Grey’; top wall painted in ‘Morning Room’, both £42.50 per 2.5l, Paint & Paper Library. Geometric rug, from £165, Rockett St George. Rosewood Italian dining table, c1950, £850, Circus Antiques.

On table (from left):Harlequin’ cup and saucer, c1950 by Fornasetti, £1,500 for six, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design; antique books, from £30 each, Maison Artefact; ‘Still Alive’ desk set by Seletti, £270, Amara; ‘Campana’ urn, £1,650 for two, Lassco. ‘Ionic’ chair, c1970, £4,950; ‘Sole’ chair, c1950, £12,000, both Holly Johnson Antiques & Design. For a similar violin try Hobgoblin Music. ‘Gstaad’ chair, £3,500, Themes & Variations.

On mantelpiece (from left): glass ‘Morpheo’ candelabra by Seletti, £135, Amara; Italian green pressed glass vase, £80, Lassco; ‘Losanghe’ candle jar, £125, Amara; ‘Sole’ vase, £225, Milk Concept Boutique; antique confit pot, from £145 each, Cubbit Antiques; pyramid storage set, £398, Jonathan Adler. ‘Dionysus’ plaster figure, £800, Cubbit Antiques.

On wall: ‘Cammei’ mirror, c1950, £6,800, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design; plates, £200 each, Milk Concept Boutique

 5. Mix and mismatch both old and new pieces. The monochrome colour and quirky illustrations will hold the look together 

‘Mykonos’ place mat, £28 each; ‘Nixon’ napkin ring, £128 for four; ‘Malachite’ napkin, £28 each, all Jonathan Adler. ‘Keytlery’ cutlery by Seletti, £245 for a set of 24, Amara. Porcelain plate, c1990, £450, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design. ‘L’Antipatico’ cup and saucer, £150, Milk Concept Boutique. Owl tray, £980, by Atelier Fornasetti, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design. Monkey candle holder, £29; black candle, £2.95, both Rockett St George. Find a similar glass for flowers at Rockett St George. Mid-century Italian cocktail glasses, from £35 each, Lassco. Vintage Fornasetti coasters, £95 for two, August Interiors

6. Enrich your scheme with clever decorative illustrations to enchant and charm the viewer

Walls papered in ‘Malachite’ (77/7024), £90 per roll, ‘The Fornasetti Collection’ at Cole & Son. Woodwork painted in ‘Studio Green’, £39.50 per 2.5l, Farrow & Ball. ‘Diamond’ runner, £60, Rockett St George. Vintage Fornasetti ‘Spinoni’ umbrella stand, c1950, £5,750, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design. ‘Libri’ magazine rack by Fornasetti, £1,200; umbrellas from £25 each, both Amara

7. Sculpt yourself a space for creative exploration that is anything but sterile. Decorate the walls with a textured malachite paper and introduce colour with vintage seating, lighting and accessories 

Walls papered in ‘Malachite’ (77/7024), £90 per roll, ‘The Fornasetti Collection’ at Cole & Son. Woodwork painted in ‘Studio Green’, £39.50 per 2.5l, Farrow & Ball. ‘Sole’ chair, £12,000, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design. ‘Compass’ table by Matthew Hilton, £1,110, SCP.

On table (from left): Bronze ‘Dionysus’ Italian sculpture, £2,200, Lassco; ‘Porta’ bookends, c1950, £1,250, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design; antique books, from £30 each, Maison Artefact; ‘Gedeo’ clay, £8; ‘Gedeo’ modelling tools four-piece set, £7, both Hobbycraft; ‘Strumenti Scrittura’ pen pot, £150, Milk Concept Boutique; red tools, £4 for a set of four; similar canvas, paintbrushes and pencils, all Hobbycraft; plaster intaglios set, £350, Lassco; vintage flags tray, £195, Emmett & White Antiques & Interiors; early porcelain lidded jar, c1960, £580, Holly Johnson Antiques & Design. 1960s Italian floor lamp, £875, Cubbit Antiques.

On wall: framed architectural prints, £125 each, Emmett & White Antiques & Interiors

The full feature on decorating with Fornasetti antiques appeared in the February 2016 issue of Homes & Antiques. Back issues are still available. To purchase a copy click here

Photographs: Katya De Grunwald 
Styling: Ali Bradshaw


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