Project Spotlight: Coming Home
The daughter of an Italian tile setter, Francesca Albertazzi knows a thing or two about tile and her childhood home renovation tells the story of both her European heritage and love of design. We're sharing more about this thoughtful designer and her home (including her Picket backsplash and handpainted Jardin Fretwork fireplace) below:
Here's a bit about Francesca:
My style can be described as…European, eclectic, traveled and curated. I find Europe as my go-to for most design work, even in very contemporary design, I look to the elegance and thoughtfulness of form that seems to be prevalent European (i.e.: Italian, UK) design.
My design philosophy is…That your space should be a reflection of you but also of the place. I consider both inside (who is the client?) as well as outside (where are we and what’s around us) in order to inform the style of a room, home, store, restaurant, etc. In essence: design should be true to person as well as place.
I got my start…In a somewhat round-about way but I also think every step of my career has been a step toward becoming a designer for interiors. I started off in theatre design - set and costumes, which shifted into exhibit design (for museums and cultural centers) which led me to work on the tv show Love it or List it Vancouver where I quickly became head designer. This then led me to where I am now: designer for Rudy Winston Design, based in Vancouver BC.
I find inspiration in…Travelling, mostly, going to Italy and the UK and, when I can’t get there - I comb the decor magazines I’ve brought back. But I make sure I shake off the ‘looking at interior designs in order to design an interior’ as much as possible. So many times a space can be inspired by a travel photo, a restaurant lounge, a sign. As a designer for theatre, and throughout my design career, one thing has remained at the forefront of what I do: there must be a strong concept in order to tell a story. And I think that is what design is, it’s telling the story of who you are and what you like, where you live. But you can’t tell a good story without a concept - you have to know what you’re talking about before you open your mouth.
I can’t live without…Plants. A space without plants, for me, isn’t a space worth living in. If a plant is happy in a space, then so will I (and most humans), because the space will likely have light (incredibly important to me as a designer) and a space is always made more serene and inviting with a plant (or five...) in it!
My best design advice would be…When starting a project, big or small, make yourself a plan and concept - harness what it is you want to do with your space and then go make it happen. There’s so much out there, product, styles, directions - so much great stuff - that it’s easy to get side-tracked and then you end up spending more money/time and get frustrated with an unfinished space and one that lacks direction. Not to say that things need to be done quickly, I’m all for collecting things, objects, furniture, etc. over time, but make sure you know what the end result should be if you do, your space will evolve naturally - quickly or over years - under your direction.
I love tile because…I’m Italian. I grew up with tile, it’s a natural element, there’s tile everywhere in Italy and my father was a tile-setter and we had tile everywhere in our home. Tile can be such a gorgeous neutral backdrop, reflecting light in a bathroom or it can be a statement of pattern or bold color. I love that it’s a natural material and it will return to the earth when we are all done here and that the process of making tile, in essence, hasn’t changed for centuries - I like something that has been around for a long time.
Tile Shown: Pickets in Frost
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do?
I am a designer of interiors. I founded a design and project management company called Rudy Winston Design with my business partner Emma Kelly. I did not go to design school or have a certification (that’s why I don’t call myself an interior designer) but I have something in me, an innate need to mold a space and to make it the best it can be, that has always been there and always will be.
Can you tell me about your home? Was this project a part of a remodel or renovation?
My home is where I was born and grew up, my parents bought it when they arrived in Vancouver (both from Italy) and it had been a work in progress my whole life (making structural changes, developing the garden, painting walls, laying tile, etc.). My heart is here and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in Vancouver but the house was getting too old to fix so we saved what we could (it was a renovation, but an extensive one at that) and made it into a home for both my husband, Sandy and I as well as my mother so we could carry on work in the garden and keep the soul of this house alive.
What is the overall aesthetic you are going for in your home?
The ‘concept phrase’ I used in the design of our home is ‘traditionally inspired, classically contemporary spaces’ - which is to say, we wanted a home that was rooted in traditional European design but that had a contemporary freshness with some classically modern elements.
Let's talk about the kitchen first. What were your goals for your space? What did you want to change?
The goals for the kitchen were to be functional (pretty is great, but if you can’t make dinner - what’s it all for?), and attractive (the kitchen is visible from the living room, hall and back deck).
We opted for an eat-in kitchen because that is the kind of people we are (nothing ‘formal’ about us!) and so the kitchen is galley-style with a 9’ solid wood table (made from the original old beams of the house) that serves as both dining table as well as island. The pantry (where the fridge is - highly recommend this) is not just for looks, it houses the bread and dry goods, dog food, serving bowls, everyday plates, etc. and we are in and out of the pantry all the time, often preparing things in the space as well. It’s a hard-working kitchen!
In terms of tile, what look were you going for?
For the backsplash, I wanted something that was going to hold its own with the saturated green of the cabinets without competing with it. I knew that the tile color had to be white but wanted a little fun with the shape of the tile and so the Picket was perfect for all this.
What made you choose Pickets in Frost? Were there any other contenders?
The tile choice was easy - though there were many beautiful tiles to chose from, the ‘picket’ shape was perfect because it was just fun enough but it also reminded me of an old, traditional shape… something that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tuscan kitchen.
Tile Shown: Pickets in Frost
Now onto the fireplace, what was your inspiration here?
With the fireplace, I knew I needed a tile that had more playfulness and a little bit of modern edge in order to juxtapose the very traditional wood surround and gas unit. Without this playful, modern touch, I risked having everything look far too traditional. We have a modern light fixture in the room for the same reason and this play of traditional meets modern all comes from the leather Wassily chair that my parents were gifted for their wedding - the classically modern lines of this chair inspired the room’s feel and the tiles were the perfect echo to this style.
Tile Shown: Jardin Fretwork in Cool Motif
What made you chose Jardin Fretwork in Cool Motif? Were there any other handpainted patterns you were considering?
I knew the color for the tile was going to be blue even before I saw the pattern, I think my mother fell in love with the pattern first and, once we got the sample, it was a clear winner.
Tile Shown: Jardin Fretwork in Cool Motif
How did the installation process go? Did you face any challenges?
I work with a ninja of a tile setter who is so incredibly skilled that I would be nervous at the thought of working with anyone else - the installation was a breeze.
Lastly, which of our colors/shapes/patterns would you love to use in the future?
I can’t even begin...I want them all!! I love the look of the hexagon and the star and cross and the cravat as well. And I adore all the colors, I look forward to working with the more saturated ones… and the hand painted collections… if you made plates then I could collect them all and eat off of them every day (seriously - is that possible?!) If I had to choose something to work with next, I would select a beautiful minty light green and work with the architectural molding you offer to do a bathroom wall, wainscotting height, all around a fresh white tub and pair that with a contemporary hand-painted design for the floor tile… I said it before: I LOVE tile.
Inspired by this home? Order color samples online now. Need some help? Simply call, chat or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly.