Many years ago – in 1919, to be exact – the Cappellini-Chiti family opened a small embroidery workshop in Florence. The space was modest, but the talent within it mighty: the family had long been specialising in embroidery and needlework, creating their own designs and honouring the age-old craft one delicate stitch after the other.
In the span of a few years, the workshop had made a name among well-heeled Florentines. Then World War II broke out. Worried about the bleak scenario unfolding in Europe, the
Cappellini-Chiti decided to leave Italy for Brazil, pressing pause on their bottega in the hope for brighter days ahead.
Those days finally arrived in 1954. Back on Italian shores, the Cappellini-Chiti family reopened their shop steps away from Lungarno, where they continue to work today.
The name of their venture: Taf Ricami, which stands for Tovagliati Artistici Firenze (Florence’s Artistic Tablecloths).
If you’re into embroidery, chances are you’ve heard of them before (and if you haven’t, this is the story for you!). Over the past 68 years, Taf has become renowned around the world as the finest example of Florentine hand embroidery, and one of the best displays of true Italian craftsmanship. Today, it counts a clientele that spans royal families and heads of state, A-listers and refined tastemakers.
To learn more about it, we spoke with Silvia Cappellini, who runs the shop today, and asked her for some advice on how to create the perfect tablescape all’italiana.
What makes the selection from Taf Ricami special?
Their artisanship. All the products we make are created by hand, using traditional techniques and original designs developed by our family since the very beginning of the business. They are one-of-a-kind and true works of art, if I might say.
What about the materials?
Those are really important, too. Taf uses only the highest quality linen and organza. Those fabrics don’t age – actually I take that back: they get better with age.
Handcrafting must be quite a lengthy process. How long does it take to make a set of place mats?
Quite a long time! It depends on the design and the complexity of the work, of course, but I’d say three months for placemats and six months for a tablecloth. Usually one artisan does one piece, to ensure continuity and consistency throughout the needlework. That’s also why our products come in limited numbers.
Who’s part of the Taf team?
A crop of very talented female artisans. Most of them have been embroidering for us for decades. Recently we’ve also received interest in joining Taf from younger people, which goes to show that love for artisanship is still strong in Italy.
Let’s talk about the selection on ISSIMO! What would you say works best for what?
There are our Cocktail Napkins, which come in an array of different prints and can be mixed and matched. Those are perfect for aperitivo, or as table markers if you’ve got a big group of friends over.
The Lavender Embroidered Set is a homage to our beloved Tuscany, and conjures up images of a warm spring evening. I’d use it for a colazione of fresh pastries and freshly brewed espresso, or a light lunch alfresco.
For a more festive occasion – even Christmas dinner – the Flowered Embroidered Placemats are just the thing. I love how vibrant the colours are, with the red and yellow complementing each other perfectly. The overall effect is bold yet delicate at the same time, which makes for a truly unique tablescape.
Lastly, the Sailor Embroidered Placemats and Napkins are essentially an ode to summer, Italy and the Mediterranean. Take them out for Sunday lunch, or anytime you feel the winter blues and need a little pick-me-up.
Do you have a favourite?
I’d have to say the Sailor! My husband designed it, so there’s a personal component to it. Plus I love the nautical theme – it almost looks like those boats are moving over the water, don’t you think?