Thursday, September 2, 2010

Keeping your florals fresh

Although chintzy florals are not exactly the rage right now, I still have maintained a fondness for them. Coming in a myriad of colorways, florals are generally awash in color and, often, provide a depth that other patterned fabric cannot.

When we were kids, my sister and my bedroom featured twin beds crowned with coronas from which flowed a beautiful chintz floral, I believe by Brunschwig & Fils. It was like being a princess! (Our house, which my mom designed, would make Albert Hadley proud!)

But, as I've grown up and my ideas about style have changed (although I still love feeling like a princess), I wondered, "How can an almost antiquated fabric be made to feel fresh?" In this post, I will explore that question by taking a look at both the traditional and more contemporary usage of florals.

In each picture below, imagine if another fabric had been used in place of the floral. That, to me, is the best way to really see the impact that even a small quantity of this fabric can have.

The elegant living room above was designed years ago by Albert Hadley and features a subdued Schumacher chintz. This room shows how timeless traditional design, and floral fabrics, can be.

The photos above and below were taken in a room designed by Suzanne Rheinstein at the Greystone Estate, the site of Veranda's annual showhouse. The floral here, a classic yet neutral linen called "Garden Roses", is part of Hollyhock's (Rheinstein's L.A. store) collection for Lee Jofa. The floral gives the room a warmer feel than might have been achieved with neutral solids alone.

The bedroom above, designed by Susan Zises Green and featured in House Beautiful, takes a more feminine, while still traditional, look at florals. Green goes all-out girly with a heavy dose of pink and scalloped edges on the duvet.

The floral in this lovely bedroom, designed by Michael S. Smith, adds just a hint of warmth and coziness to the cool, sophisticated furnishings.  

The living room above is from the late Yves Saint Laurent's Moroccan house, Villa Mabrouka, which was designed by Jacques Grange. Apparently YSL was a big fan of chintz and requested a different color of it in each room. Grange said, "It was like decorating a house for people out of a play by Tennessee Williams." Ha! I think, here, we begin to see how to use this traditional fabric in a not-necessarily-traditional space.

Another elegant bedroom featured in House Beautiful, this one by Frank DelleDonne, shows how the restrained use of florals can have a big impact. Think if he had used a shimmery, dressier fabric on the pillows (like a silk taffeta), the room would be overly formal. But the floral gives it just a touch of softness, especially in this serene blue colorway.

These last few pictures feature rooms by Joe Nye, the fresh and fabulous designer and author of the new book, Flair

I'm not exactly the entertaining, dinner party type, but I absolutely loved this book. The explanations of different tablewares (glassware, flatware, serveware) are easy to understand (even for a novice like me), the decorating tips are helpful for even when you're not entertaining, and the pictures are downright gorgeous. 

This first picture shows the bedroom of a home designed by Nye, the Montecito Estate, that features a chintz by Colefax & Fowler ("Lilacs" in turquoise). The palette of this room is already soothing, but, again, the floral adds the perfect amount of pattern and color essential for creating warmth.

Nye's Beverly Hills residence (shown above) is one of my overall favorite spaces. It is bright, colorful, warm, comfortable, artistic, and refined. Nye is a true aesthete. I love the limited, yet poignant use of the florals here, especially the blue fabric on the wallpapered screen (which is an antique) and the design on the ceramic lamp base.

There are probably even more modern examples of the use of traditional florals, but I hope this post gives a few good illustrations of both the variety of uses of florals (drapes or pillows, bold or neutral) and, also, of how they can create warmth in any space.


  1. Em! I want a starburst clock like the one in that first photo. Give me a buzz if you see one in your browsings. that, and my round chair. :)

  2. Trish, here is one classic, vintage option on Etsy:

    It is a bit small, though. You really need a diameter of at least a 24" to get the right effect. I will look around here to see if I can find one.

    Now what about this round chair?.....