Borrowing from the past and present
How to dream up tomorrow
I lived and worked in New York during the 1990s where I honed my skills as an interior designer and decorator. French formal and country styles were very popular. My primary job was to source the Decoration & Design Building and environs for home furnishings, for example, Aubusson rugs, French chairs, Lampas fabrics, and flowery motif 19th century cache-pots, to name a few. One client requested a Giverny inspired kitchen. It’s important to have a design concept to give direction and is especially critical for a larger home.
At one firm we would always do a Toile de Jouy themed room in each house. In the States, it’s frequently referred to just as toile. Toile de Jouy means cloth from Jouy, France, where these famous printed fabrics were born in 1760. Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf a naturalized French industrialist, had developed the technology for printing these fabrics with engraved boards. Later he received the title “royal manufacturer” by King Louis XVI. We may have had the fabric backed and then used it like a wallpaper. Upholstered walls are sophisticated and will warm and soften a room up quickly.
I recall using it in such a way in a dining room in blues and white for a New England Beach House. We used green and white Toile in a guest bedroom suite, red and brown Toile mixed with red Damask curtains for a lavish dining room for two separate Connecticut residences. A brown and white Toile for a guest bedroom mixed with brown checks in Southern Beach House.
Recently, I spoke with New York based interior designer Nitza Shawriyeh about Toile. She has continued to use toile, though sparingly. One of her favorites is named West Indies from Brunschwig & Fils in black and white. She has used this pattern multiple times, preferring to use the fabric as an accent rather than draping an entire room in it. In her creamy yellow living room, an upholstered sofa in a black and white check was accented with West Indies Toile pillows.
Pattern on top of pattern reigned in a Hampton’s Beach House bedroom where this same toile was used on pillows trimmed in a taupe ribbon mixed with a paisley in soft reds. For an Upper East Side New York apartment shared-bath she pleased three girls by using black and white toile in a wallpaper with hot pink towels.
Some may find Toile de Jouy looks dated or frumpy now with Modern dominating the interior design scene. Nitza felt that the popularity of Toile started to wane when the market became flooded with too many inexpensive accessories. Modern is starting to soften and what I hear over and over again Modern is all about the mix. When traditional interior design dominated, it was always about layering and maybe gilding the lily. Sometimes, a Modern room can feel a little sterile and lacking character. It’s also not as forgiving. Pattern fabric can conceal a multitude of wear and tear.
Another 18th century interior design favorite is Chinoiserie; the Chinese inspired and influenced European decorative Arts primarily from China, and Japan such as furniture, decorative painting and architecture. Characteristics may have included fantastic exotic landscapes, gardens, birds, flowers, trees, butterflies, pagodas, and dragons all giving the feeling of how wonderful the East was. It reached it’s peak in popularity during the Rococo period. An excellent example of Chinoiserie is the Monkey room at Chantilly monkey’s are depicted sporting 18th century costume. Another example is at Chateau de Haroué in Lorraine where the turrets are decorated in chinoiserie murals.
Today, Chinoiserie handmade wallpaper is popular concurrent with Modern. I asked Chiara Enrico, creative director of Misha handmade wallpaper her thoughts on Chinoiserie. Here we return to the source of Chinoiserie and thus to China. She was fascinated by the idea of incorporating of natural subjects into wall decoration to represent the garden. Traditional Chinese painting techniques have been maintained. Misha handmade wallpaper blends traditional Chinese painting techniques with a contemporary Italian design sensibility.
In this line of handmade wallpaper, traditional Chinese design elements are incorporated with the new. Traditional ones may include peonies, birds and blossoms, and new subjects of palms, magnolia and kaki trees, wisteria, and dragonflies. Misha offers about fifty different standard combinations of flowers and trees. They let their clients choose which is the most suitable for them. Their chinoiserie ranges from the romantic to the very modern and to the exotic garden. Each piece is unique. Client’s can ask for special colors, for a combination of different designs, adding or deducting elements from standard panoramic views to create a personal natural imaginary environment.
Animal patterns come and go in fashion all the time. Besides the exotic, the equestrian theme is one that wanes and waxes with popularity. Yet, in equestrian circles such as Saratoga, it is one that will never fade. Animal patterns might be incorporated into other patterns or woven into jacquards. It’s a terrific way to soften the hard edges in a modern interior. If you long for luxurious fabric you will be thrilled with the quite sumptuous Luigi Bevilacqua silk velvet Leopard or Tiger fabric.
One approach for incorporating horses into one’s interior would be with photography. You might like to consider a photograph of Roberto Dutesco who is renowned for capturing wild horses on the Island of Sable. Today, the island is protected as a national treasure of Canada. The horses need to continue to live free as they always have. The photographs are beautiful. He captures their wild beauty, raw, majestic, tender loving… their spirit. This approach not only adds beauty to the home but also substance. Photographs like his make me wonder what the world must have been like before humans.
Photography of endangered animals is not only beautiful but reminds us of our fragile eco-system. There are many exceptional wildlife photographers such as Rathika Ramasamy. She is easily India’s leading wildlife photographer and is passionate for photographing birds in particular. Photography is also her medium of choice to assist conserve nature.
To sum up, we may wish to use chinoiserie wallpaper or framed panels in the dining room, a tiger pattern silk velvet on a bench in the bedroom and an exceptional photograph of animals in their wild habitat in the foyer. Adding a little pattern and layering it with Art helps to keep your home lively, adds warmth and is more than just a conversation piece. It’s a reflection of you and your interests.
Here are a few of my favorite resources for exquisite fabrics and wallpapers:
Brunschwig & Fils + (1) 212 838-7878
Quadrille Fabrics + 1(212)753-2995
Scalamandre + 1(631)467-8800
Clarence House + 1(212) 752-2890
All at the Decoration & Design Building 979 Third Avenue, New York
Misha Handmade Wallpaper, Piazza Antonio Gramsci, 8, 20154 Milan, Italy, + 39 02 45 48 3229