Decorating in Italy – Asian Style: Adding Some Eastern Touches to Our Lake Como Home

When we moved to Lecco, we consolidated the contents of our household from Milan with Enrico’s parents’ stuff from their apartment in Rome (they were by then retired to a much smaller place on the seaside in Abruzzo).

In this way we acquired some beautiful furniture, fixtures, knick-knacks, and paintings – all lovely stuff, but… it wasn’t mine, and didn’t reflect anything about my life, nor even our life together.

I did have a few items to contribute, such as these paintings – the one on the left my mother commissioned for Rossella from Iowa artist Killy Beard, the one on the right Mom had done for me by a Thai artist many years before that.

Our ground-floor half bath also displays some of my Asian history (along with our collection of humor books, for those who like to read while enthroned).

There’s a Balinese mirror frame (from my stepmother, Ruth) and two Javanese shadow puppets (Samar, the dwarf protector of the city of Semarang, and Arjuna). Reflected in the mirror is a Kathakali dance mask I bought in India in 1980.

^ During my recent trip to India, at Dilli Haat I bought some leather shadow puppets, if I remember correctly they come from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The figures are (left to right) probably Sita, definitely Ganesh (who else?) and probably Lakshman.

But my favorite is this guy:

Ravana: there were several versions of him, but I couldn’t resist the shit-eatin’ grin on this one.

Finally, as you can see in the photo at the top of the page, I have hung outside a long string of Tibetan prayer flags that my classmate Teeran gave me for my birthday this year. I probably failed to observe the auspicious time and style for hanging them, but at least we are in the mountains!

post script: I later returned to Italy after a trip to the US (or maybe after I’d moved back to the US) to find  that Enrico had taken down the prayer flags. “The neighbors asked about them,” he said, “wondering if we were having a party.” Sigh.

5 thoughts on “Decorating in Italy – Asian Style: Adding Some Eastern Touches to Our Lake Como Home”

  1. Boy, do some of those pictures evoke memories! After returning from a work assignment in Sumatra, Indonesia in the early 80s, my house was full of batiks and other Sumatran goodies. I have a wayang (shadow) puppet similar to yours, though this one is a “bad guy” (I’ve forgotten his name) that was used morality skits for children.

    Over the years, the batiks have been folded away one by one as I’ve “decorated them out”, but they gave me years of pleasure. Now, they’ve been replaced in certain rooms with a parrot theme, which fortunately includes live parrots. 🙂

  2. EVERYTHING in my house reflects my life. As a survivor of a 30 year career as a designer, I have told people forever that the character of their homes should reflect them, not me. I reserved that right for myself, too. Even the few things I have bought since arriving in Italy are part of that, because they were needed to squeeze me into a house with no flat walls and no closets.
    I’ve always loved those puppets, but love them better for someone with a history that relates to them, like you. On the other hand, true love would do for a reason, too.
    The one thing I don’t like about middle class Italian style is the ubiquitous white walls. It makes too much contrast and is only historically relevant from the 1700s on. I love instead the colors derived from local earth and of course that Mediterranean blue that comes from faded cheap green.

  3. I should have mentioned that the Javanese puppets have an even older history, though it’s unknown to us: we found them on top of a wardrobe when my parents moved into a rented house in Semarang.

    I should get you up here for a consult on what to do with some of our walls – I’m bored with white, but am not adventurous enough to know what else to do!

  4. There is an amazing amount of culture (and fun!) in your home. The mashup of Indian and Asian themes makes a cool statement in the space. Our furniture forums are always abuzz with people trying to do better than what is widely available in commercial stores.

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