This post ran originally on 27 February 2009. I used to be a lot more blunt in my reader question posts then I am these days but I think if I were asked this same question tomorrow I'd respond the same way.
Help! I am in the process of gutting my first floor and I'm going to get a Tuscany dining room. I want to decorate the room with bunches of dried roses but I'm worried that they're not right for a Tuscany theme.
Oh man, there is so much wrong here I don't know where to start. Before you spend a dime, stop what you're doing. Stop and then take $1500 out of your budget and fly to Florence for a couple of days. Well, maybe $2000. Whatever it costs, it will have a value that transcends its price. You see, while you're there you'll gaze at what the real Tuscany looks like and hopefully you'll forget all about this dining room you have in mind. Oh, and as a point of order, Tuscany is a noun and Tuscan is an adjective. What you have in mind is a Tuscan dining room, not a Tuscany dining room. If I have anything to say about it you won't have either, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
This Tuscan thing that you see in your mind is an entirely American invention. It's not even an homage, it's a cartoon. Here's what a dining room in the real Tuscany looks like.
Note the lack of bunches of dried roses. There are no fake sunflowers or clots of plastic grapes either. There aren't any framed posters with nonsensical Italian phrases hanging on the wall, nor is there any faux painted brick. It's a basic, small table jammed into the space not already taken up by a tiny kitchen. It's neat as a pin, it's simple and it's orderly. But real Tuscan style isn't about decor or themed dining rooms. It's about views like this.
Or views like this.
Views like that beget a worldview that's entirely Tuscan and how things look over there are a product of that worldview. The real Tuscany is about making the best use of a small space. The real Tuscany is about embracing life, it's about authenticity, it's about quality over quantity in everything. There's no theme here, there's no attempt to recreate a magazine spread or a dream house from some Developer's unimaginative mind. The truth of the matter is that unless you can see the Arno river pass under your dining room window, no amount of clutter will give you a "Tuscany dining room."
Man! That room up there burns my eyes. Please don't do something like that in your home. Sorry to be so brutal but what you're asking is for some kind of permission to turn your home into a miniature Las Vegas and that's something I refuse to go along with.
Listen, your dining room and indeed your whole home should tell your story, not somebody else's. The things you decorate with should be your things and if you're going to buy a dining table, buy one that's classic enough and made well enough that you can pass it on to your kids. Then in 50 years when it's in your daughter's home that same table will tell your story as it passes into her story. I suspect that's the feeling you're after. A feeling of permanence and a feeling of knowing you belong somewhere. That sort of thing isn't a theme, it's a way of life.
So if you want to bring some Tuscan sensibilities to your dining room, by all means do so. But study the real place, not The Venetian or the Bellagio. While you're enjoying the quick jaunt over to Florence I so strongly recommend, have your photo taken with the Duomo in the background then get it blown up and framed. Hang it in your dining room. I don't think it's possible to get more Tuscan than Florence, and it'll be yours. Authentically.
If you like bunches of dried roses, go for it. Just be sure that you like them and that you're not just adding them to advance some kind of ill-advised theme. So instead of asking me if they're appropriate, the person to ask is you. What do bunches of dried roses say about you? If you're happy with the answer than hang them by the bushel. If you're not happy with the answer then don't. If you're not sure then don't do anything. It's pretty simple really.