Home & Garden

Design Notebook: Where contemporary meets Old Country

Marisa and Ryan Fortini, part owners of Fortini Home, Garden & Design.
Marisa and Ryan Fortini, part owners of Fortini Home, Garden & Design.

When San Luis Obispo’s Fortini Home, Garden & Design opened in 2004, it was somewhat misunderstood.

“Because of the name, we were kind of stereotyped in the beginning with having just Italian things,” said Marisa Fortini, who owns the store jointly with husband Ryan Fortini, who handles landscape design, and Ryan’s mother Anne Fortini, who heads up the interior design staff.

Since then, the store has developed its own distinct style that the Fortinis like to call “California contemporary with a nod to the old country.”

Marisa, who is the buyer for the store, defines this as clean lines and Old World craftsmanship, combined with natural elements such as rough-hewn wood furniture crafted from salvaged materials, vases filled with moss-covered branches, textural baskets, and woven seagrass rugs. You’ll still find Italian pieces, but it’s only one element in an amalgam of styles that encompasses modern, Asian and transitional.

Another element that has evolved at Fortini is its price points. “When we opened, we were definitely high-end. We offered pieces where the craftsmanship and materials meant they were going to be an investment,” said Marisa. “But we’ve now tried to bring in furniture lines for people who want good quality for mid-price points.”

They’ve recently added a line of mid-priced upholstered furniture, including eco-friendly pieces by Lee Industries made from sustainably harvested wood and recycled fiber and soy-based fillings.

As the holidays approach, Fortini will be concentrating on gifts for less than $50. Gift items are a growing category for Fortini. They recently added a children’s area that offers coloring books, melamine dishes, books and puzzles.

The core of the Fortini look is still distinctive items that you’re not likely to find elsewhere. Many of their furniture pieces and accents are imported. But, according to Anne Fortini, the family is selective about the imports they carry.

“Where a piece comes from should be true to fact — it should look like the country where it originated,” she said.

Currently in the showroom, there are hurricane lanterns woven from vines in the Philippines that have a glass candleholder insert — picture a trio of them suspended from a tree branch above a garden seating area. There are Guatemalan “santos,” or saint statues, that are hand-carved and hand-painted. Indian temple bells offer a nice alternative to wind chimes, offering up their sweet songs in a garden or entryway.

You’ll also find a lot more color at Fortini these days. In contrast to the soft earth tones of years past, the store now sizzles with burnt oranges, vibrant turquoises, reds, fuchsias and mauves.

Marisa acknowledges that the new color palette at Fortini is her own personal style coming through — not surprising for a store that is a fusion of three very bold and creative personalities.

“We buy things we like,” said Marisa. “We mesh it all together to make it cohesive. And it works.”

Fortini Home, Garden & Design is at 3021 S. Higuera in San Luis Obispo, phone 542-0500.