The Tuscan style gained great popularity in the U.S. in the 1990′s, and there is probably no single American designer or architect more associated with this style than John Saladino, known for his romantic-classical take on Italian and Spanish Mediterranean styles. From the Veneto to the Tuscan landscape Saladino has distilled classical villa-style and Italian country house-style into a signature style of his own, informed by a thorough education of the classics and a passion for balance, proportion and harmony that integrates three distinct levels of scale.
There is nothing more welcoming than an entry with a burning fire on a chilly day. This entrance remains for me the epitome of gracious country house-style living, no matter the architectural vernacular: stone walls; contrasting floors of rustic tile (but they could be stone pavers or wood, too); ambient lighting – here with a parchment shaded table lamp and a pair of gilt wood sconces; a handy chair to warm by the fire; a skirted table, in this case hung with Fortuny fabric, which softens the hard edges; a plant stand – which introduces both another height and scale to the space and natural foliage; and a bench upon which to set your bag or hat. This entry enchants and hints at what’s to come and, I guarantee, you won’t be disappointed.
For a 1920′s house in California Saladino imbued the stone-clad living room, above, with Baroque and Renaissance ambiance tempered by contemporary upholstered furniture with clean lines covered in simple, solid fabrics. Though evocative of a Tuscan farmhouse one would be hard-pressed to discover a period dwelling in Tuscany, where rooms have the lofty proportions and grandly scaled windows as this. Saladino is famous for implementing three scales into large rooms – the monumental, the residential, and the human – to reduce the intimidation factor. Here he punched a sixteen foot steel-and-glass door into the monumental far wall while installing seven-foot French doors on the adjacent wall to reduce the scale to residential; then he floated a pair of sofas, with a folding Spanish leather screen behind one, to inject human scale. This layering of varying scales and implementation of the old and new, in the hands of Saladino, truly exemplifies “the art of the room”.
Saladino’s love of classicism is evident in a corner setting of the living room where his Balustrade Table and Beaker Lamp commingle with two antique Italian chairs, an iron urn, and a print of a world tour column.
The dining room possesses many attributes that I find compelling in a dining room of any style: varied sources of lighting (natural, from great expanses of glazing, which also allow access outdoors; table lamps for ambient light; downlights for drama; and candlelight via candlesticks, torchieres and a chandelier for romance); a conversational round dining table placed in a square room, with varying dining chair styles seamlessly joining an unmatched table; contrasting natural materials and textures as well as shades and hues; and a varying of scale and proportion from low to mid to high. The selections made here by Saladino typify rustic California-Mediterranean-style elegance at its best, marrying the romance of Old World European style with American ingenuity and a creative spirit.
Another all-time favorite room of mine is this kitchen, which is perfectly timeless by design. The contrast created between the sleek brushed stainless steel cabinets and refrigerator and the antique French center cabinet hits the mark of perfection in my book. It’s simple, beautiful and functional – exactly what a kitchen is intended for.
Another view of the kitchen opens up to the level above, with a balcony overlooking a seating and dining arrangement.
The master bedroom is a study in russet ocher and blue-gray. The collection of floating chairs feels very European, and I love how the mirror was hung with heavy rope. The bed is 17th-century Italian.
Quarters are maintained for the owner’s grown children who live on the West Coast. A former painter’s studio was transformed for their son into a guest suite which opens onto a garden corridor with clipped boxwood and roses. A most gracious and unassuming space that reminds me of the kinds of rooms you see in quintas in Portugal. It is perfectly welcoming, though I would perhaps switch out the garland hanging above the bed for a painting – perhaps a California plein air painting from the 1930’s in muted hues of smoky lavender, indigo, mauve, grayed blues and moss green enlivened by shades of whiskey and cognac.
A glass grid is all that separates the son’s bedroom from its adjacent bathroom. The pair of lamps with cone shades and the pedimented mirror hanging above the sink are clear indications Saladino has been here. This photo reveals the rustication of the original stone walls.
In the daughter’s bedroom suite a dressing table is skirted in buttery kidskin against a pale pink wall. Many signs of a Saladino room are present: layered mirrors against a hanging textile as art above a skirted table holding a pair of candlestick lamps; a quilted bedcover; an antique Italian iron bench; a modern version of a classical chest of drawers bleached pale, and a sleek chaise lounge of his design; and the colors of the Mediterranean.
What I miss most about California is the indoor-outdoor quality of life. Here, al fresco dining at its finest. Knowing the Santa Barbara area I can smell the eucalyptus trees without seeing them.
The gardens were designed by landscape designer Nancy Goslee Power. The heady fragrance of Mediterranean plants such as rosemary, lavender, citrus, gardenia, and rose were planted on the rolling terrain of the property.
Surrounded by lavender and olive trees, Power’s placed a 16th-century Italian wellhead at the center of one of several outdoor rooms.
In another garden room a stone fountain ingeniously doubles as a spa – simple, classic and functional.
Our tour, Under the Tuscan Sun, will end with a remarkable villa decorated by Michael S. Smith for clients desiring a taste of Tuscany in the Santa Ynez mountains of southern California.
Content for this post was provided by a feature, Impeccable Imperfection, written by Marilyn Bethany for House Beautfiul, March 1995, with photos by Dominique Vorillon, and from Style by Saladino by John Saladino.