An airy, elegant home with decorative tiles and nature-inspired murals, where the outdoors blends seamlessly with the indoors, would be an enviable property by today’s standards.
But those fashionable ingredients are contained in a Roman villa of 2,000 years ago, the centrepiece of an exhibition focusing on a latter-day tragedy, the eruption of Vesuvius.
Life And Death In Pompeii And Herculaneum, the exhibition at the British Museum until September 29, brilliantly lays bare the lives of the residents of the two cities who were smothered under a blanket of burning volcanic ash.While it’s fascinating to view the perfectly-preserved remains of a lost world, it also demonstrates the enduring and classic appeal of Roman style.
Mosaic tiles, frescoes on wooden panels, busts and replicas of artefacts from Pompeian homes are among the most popular buys from the collection of products available at the British Museum shop.
“Visitors to exhibitions are often hugely inspired by what they have seen in the displays and want to echo this in their own homes by way of a precious memento. Many of the sculptures and relics on display can be bought as replicas,” says Angela Pountney, retail buying manager at the British Museum.
“We have many customers who like to take home a replica bust of a Roman goddess, for example, which makes a stunning interior design piece for their home.”
If you don’t want to mimic the look of a lost empire there’s a wealth of homeware treasures on offer at other museums.
“People like to have a beautiful art work or an item which can evoke the emotions they felt when they viewed priceless collections,” Judith Mather, buying and merchandising director for the National Gallery.
“Nowadays they want distinctive pieces which are different from anything that can be found on the high street, and have a history and design credentials. Museum pieces fulfil that requirement.”
Here’s a guide to conjuring the grandeur of Pompeii’s style plus a selection of inspiring buys from other museums.
Imperial ambition: Evoke the splendour of a Roman home with a Pompeii Luxury Wallpaper Panel, from £40, featuring a trompe l’oeil effect of Italian plaster-style columns, Decor Wallpaper (www.decorwallpaper.com/0845 056 5435).
Palatial floor: Floors with intricate mosaic designs were a feature of the grand homes in Roman cities. Lapicida’s custom-made floors, from £375 per square metre, can be made in a variety of stone, including limestone which is hand-cut by water jet and the pieces painstakingly hand-crafted. Lapicida has showrooms in London and Harrogate (www.lapicida.com/020 3012 1000).
Alternatively, Ann Sacks has intricately designed mosaic tiles, Piccolino Fishscale Mosaic, £1,329.52 per square metre (www.annsacks.com/0203 0550 802).
Majestic mirror: An Ephesus full-length floor mirror, £495 from the French Bedroom Company, has a shape reminiscent of an archway to a Roman temple (www.frenchbedroomcompany.co.uk/08456 448 022).
Roman baths: Romans taught Britain how to bathe and a Maximus bath, from £4,750 from BC Designs, is an impressive example of a modern-day interpretation (www.bcdesigns.co.uk/01206 827 100).
Set the scene: Capture the beauty of a Roman wall panel with a fresco of a garden on wood by Bottega Artigiana Tifernate, £199, from the British Museum shop (www.britishmuseumshoponline.org/0800 218 2222).
Magic of mosaics: A large tile-design mosaic, £55 from the British Museum shop, comes in a range of designs including birds and a heart, inspired by those found in Pompeii and Herculaneum (www.britishmuseumshoponline.org/0800 218 2222).