Designer Ariel Okin shares how to take the Capri's signature style home through textured neutrals, Italian terra cotta and hand painted ceramic tiles.
Disembarking from a sometimes-bumpy ferry ride into the bright, bustling port of Capri is an experience unlike any other. Any sea sickness is quickly mitigated in one fell swoop after stealing a glance at the view: sherbert and sand hued stucco homes are crafted masterfully into cliffsides, jutting daringly over the sparkling Mediterranean sea. In short: you’ll be hooked.
During the time you spend on Capri—a bucolic island in the Bay of Naples and the once beloved vacation destination of eternally sophisticated sister duo Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwill—you’ll quickly come to realize why Caprese devotees return to the tiny cliffside retreat summer after summer.
With vibrant hand painted tiles and ceramics, paper-thin linens in all colors and iterations, and understated rooms that let the views do the talking, you will without a doubt want to get involved with some of the hallmark interior design flourishes that make Capri so undeniably chic. Below, a guide to achieving the sun-dappled, sipping-Sancerre-on-the-terracota-patio, seawater-tousled look.
Hand painted tiles in shades of blue, white, green and yellow abound on this tiny island of artisans. Inspired by the local flora and fauna (more on that later) almost every hotel room floor is graced with some version of these veritable art installations, including the impossibly charming Casa Morgano. The punchy tiles also serve a practical purpose – cooling down rooms from the hot Italian sun in the summertime. A gorgeous way to interject some color into an otherwise white-washed room, ceramic tiles should definitely be thrown into the mix in a Mediterranean inspired space—even if only as a bathroom accent or kitchen backsplash.
If these plates look familiar to New Yorkers, it might be because you’ve seen them at a buzzy restaurant before: Santina, that is. Much like the hand painted tiles that grace many a hotel floor (and also serve double duty as handsome street signs), Capri is known for its spunky, artisan-glazed servingware, which can be found underneath almost every bowl of spaghetti vongole on the island. Whether you’re in the market for a new set of plates, a mug to remember your trip by, or an entire dinner set, stores like The Sea Gull and L’Oasi Ceramiche carry enough colorful pieces to fill three suitcases. And don’t worry about breaking your newly treasured trinkets on the flight home: these specialists ship all over the world, even to the US.
Nurtured by Nature
While the architecture itself in Capri is quite acetic—serene white washed walls and warm terracotta porches dot every narrow alleyway—the local lemon trees and bougainvillea are the true stars of the show. Famous restaurant Da Paolino (literally meaning “the lemon trees”) in Ana Capri is arguably one of the best places to take in the beauty of Mama Terra’s bounty, and a walk through the center of town will greet you with some of the best potted plant arrangements you’ve ever seen. While it’s all but impossible to nurse a live lemon tree in a studio apartment with no natural light, Chasing Paper offers a spunky wallpaper print created by artist Kelly Ventura, perfect for a small space like a powder room or entryway. (Tip: this print pairs well with an aperol spritz.)
Paper Thin Linens
Linen is one of the primary exports of Capri after ceramics, and the masterful craftsmanship of island seamstresses shows. While apparel options are endless (think beach cover ups in the palest azure blue and white linen pants cropped at just the right break of your ankle), consider bringing home some accent pillows or tasseled throws woven in the sumptuous light fabric to round out your summer accessories at home. The same airy sensibility you’ll find in the wardrobes of natives also translates quite nicely to interiors.
If you search for old photos of Jackie Kennedy walking barefoot along the alleys off the piazetta, you’ll find an effortless ease in not just her outfits—mixtures of cream and white with beige and straw accents—but also in the way she carried herself. Capri brings out the best, most relaxed side of its guests, and the Caprese uniform of sorts: white jeans paired with a white linen button down and tan leather sandals or loafers – also becomes a recipe for a timeless, calming interior that never goes out of style. White linen slipcovered furniture, sisal rugs, a beach basket or two hung on the walls and a ceramic stool or two added in for good measure, and you’re in business.
While a trip to the Italian islands might not be in your immediate future, a home inspired by classic Capri style is never too far away. With these tips for inspiration, the world is your oyster (or clam, if we’re really talking summer in Italy).