With the rediscovery of Pompeii in the middle of the 18th century, a new interest in classic architecture and design captured the imagination of the architects, designers, artists and craftsmen of Europe.
The naturalistic flower motifs, baroque scroll forms, and the Chinese and other Oriental types of design that were in vogue at the time, gave way to pure classic design. This classic influence continued into the beginning of the 19th century, up to the early Victorian period. Fabrics and wallpapers of this type are therefore associated with the Adam and Sheraton furniture designs in England and in the Federal American period.
In the early 19th century, inspiration, for the most part, was still classic; the furniture forms and architectural motifs of the Napoleonic era were bolder, heavier and more masculine. They were based on the findings and records of the more pretentious and important palaces and public buildings of ancient Rome. The more subtle Greek-inspired lines went out of favour.
In the middle to late 19th century (the Victorian age), this period of decoration was almost identical in England and America. Designs for furniture adornment and architectural back-grounds ran the gamut from Gothic pointed arches and Turkish motifs to bad imitations of the curvilinear rococo forms of the Louis XV period in France. Anything was acceptable, as long as it was ornate and gadgety. Colours were either muddy or dull, or ran to bright reds and greens or to mauves (purples), which gave another name to this period — “The Mauve Decade”.
Fabric and wallpaper designs were composed of large vases heavy with flowers, large floral bouquets, twisting scroll forms, ribbons and bowknots, lace, shells (the abalone shell being the most popular), and swags. Broad stripes were also popular.
Contemporary designs in fabrics and wallpapers can be considered as little more than simplified or more stylised interpretations of the popular motifs of the past, whether of Chinese or classic inspirations, baroque, rococo, or anything else.
Once you know the type of motifs that prevailed during each of the earliest periods, you can go smartly contemporary with your period pieces of furniture and accessories by using suitable wallpaper and fabric motifs copied or adapted from these traditional designs and printed on new and interesting materials and in new and striking colour combinations.
Today, many manufacturers are making wallpaper and fabrics identical in design as companion pieces. These are particularly good for rooms that may have too many windows or irregularly spaced openings and where you want to create an illusion of unity. An unneeded window off by itself could easily be unnoticed if draperies of the same designs as the wallpaper were drawn across; the draperies become a
part of the wall background. These companion combinations are worth looking into.
Most characteristic of modern decor is the use of simple forms and colour. Large areas of plain-coloured walls are featured, possibly with a single impressionist or abstract painting, a piece of primitive sculpture, an Aboriginal mask, or a mobile’s pattern reflected against the wall. Colour is combined sometimes, with one wall in one colour, the remaining three in another colour (or two walls in one colour, two in another). Simplicity, large bold forms, low furniture, built-in cabinets and shelving, interesting colour schemes, large windows and dramatic indoor lighting are all distinguishing features. Modern designs in fabrics and wallpapers run from the geometric to the abstract, all having their rightful place in modern decoration.*
Today, fabric houses around the world continue to produce textiles of exquisite beauty from their archives of document prints, allowing today’s aficionados to continue to enjoy these beautiful designs. Several of the latest collections from some of the world’s best are reviewed here for your enjoyment. Since Marie-Antoinette first gave it her royal seal of approval, Toile-de-Jouy has never been out of print.
Toile-de-Jouy takes its name from the factory at Jouy-en-Josas, strategically close to Versailles, where the technique of machine printing fabric using engraved copper plates was perfected in the mid 18th century. Invented by an Irish printer, this innovation allowed detailed pattern, often in monochrome, with all the delicacy and shading of a line drawing, to be produced relatively inexpensively. Textile artists rose to the challenge, adapting and adopting scenes from paintings and popular prints, telling stories of romantic love, pastoral bliss, mythology and even recent history.
The launch of the new Manuel Canovas toile fabric and wallpaper collection, Cerisy, shows that after more than 200 years this is a style that has lost none of its vibrancy and charm. Reinterpreted in the unusual and sophisticated colour combinations so characteristic of this prestigious French fabric house, 21st century toiles by Manuel Canovas are more exciting and enticing than ever.
The new silk embroidery collection, Fernwood, from Colefax and Fowler is the interior design equivalent of haute couture: rich, glamorous and utterly covetable. Inspired by antique documents from the company’s extensive archive, these silk taffetas come in a range of delicate background colours, including dusky violet, rich cream and palest gold, intricately embroidered with sprigs, posies and bouquets. A more overt luxury can be found in Florentine, a glorious silk pile, velvet cut in a medium-scale damask design available in five rich colours. This is the only velvet in the new collections.
The quality of Colefax and Fowler printed fabrics is always exemplary, using modern methods to reproduce the depth and beauty of hand printing. One of the grandest is Chilcombe, a design adapted from a mid-19th century French block print showing generous bunches of lilac and roses against a wide stripe. After years of plain walls, wallpapers are definitely back in fashion. Colefax and Fowler Book IX offers a choice of patterns to suit all styles and scales of room, from the modest Fernwood or the splendour of Cranbourne to a damask fit for a drawing room or dining room. Jane Churchill introduces a fresh new look with the Sutton Collection — a stunning new range of fabrics and wallpapers.
Here is an extensive range of up-to-the-minute textures, pattern and colour that is as imaginatively varied as it is brilliantly co-ordinated. Inspired by a diverse mix of botanical drawings, fresco paintings and traditional English documents, this range reflects a new generation of homemakers who are looking for sophistication combined with a relaxed modern spirit. As ancient cultures, merchant traders and European nobility have known for centuries, nothing compares to silk. The lustrous look, unforgettable touch and rich reputation of silk are widely known to introduce an inimitable air of grace and glamour. Overlooking Venice’s Grand Canal, the sun-kissed valleys of Tuscany or a vibrant Roman piazza, the opulent interiors of lavish Italian palazzos were renowned for their sumptuous silk furnishings.
Today, it is the turn of the classic contemporary or clean-lined Australian interior to indulge in a luxurious look. Warwick brings spectacular silk chic back to the modern living environment with Palazzo silks. This versatile collection includes Valarie, an outstanding collection of silk plains designed to beautifully merge with the elegant damask prints and checks of Varese and stunning stripes of Valdo, presented in a brilliant range of precious colours including pewter, onyx, sapphire, amethyst and gold.