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Textiles for home design get a high-tech imprint

By Elaine Markoutsas
Universal Uclick
    Courtesy of Desigual -
    Courtesy of Christian Fishbacher - CHRISTIAN FISHBACHER
    The two sides of digital printing: one an ethereal cloudlike watercolor-y design called Clear Sky; and the other, street scenes inspired by the Netherlands, from Christian Fischbacher.
    Courtesy of Studio Kelkka - STUDIO KELKKA
    An almost ethereal butterfly repeat shows the artistry of Ulla Lapiolahti from Finland’s Studio Kelkka. The piece was displayed at Forum, an exhibit for design trends into next year, at Heimtextil in Frankfurt, Germany.
    Courtesy of Pierre Frey - PIERRE FREY
    An exuberant, splashy pattern taken from an original painting is smashing as upholstery. From the Aloha collection of Pierre Frey.
    Courtesy of Ankasa Legacy at Bea - ANKASA LEGACY AT BEACON HILL
    Embroidery on one of the hottest hues in textiles – indigo – is handmade in India. Part of the Ankasa Legacy collection from Beacon Hill, inspired by the marketplaces of India, Crawford Bead uses a traditional Bengali convent stitch for mesmerizing effect. Metal beads are sewn onto the fabric by hand on the up-the-roll stripe on linen ground. The fabric’s name is a nod to the Crawford Market in Mumbai.

More Information

  • Sourcebook

    Alessandra Branca for F. Schumacher

    Ankasa Legacy, Beacon Hill

    Black Edition, Romo

    Christian Fischbacher, (Switzerland)

    Manuel Canovas, through Cowtan & Tout

    Desigual USA

    Esprit US

    Essenza; some of the company’s bedding is available through Kohl’s,

    Pierre Frey

    Melli Mello website under development; check out its Facebook page

    Move collection from Frottana


    Studio Kelkka

    Lorna Syson

    Zoffany, through Sanderson

  • ‘Working’ fabrics welcome warmer days with color

    Bedding patterns and kitchen textiles, such as towels and aprons, have been positively exuberant the last couple of years, especially come spring and summer. That’s when the bright colors emerge.

    Expect that trend to blossom, in part due to the advent of digital technology in fabrics. Images have never looked so real – whether it’s a flower, wide-plank wood flooring, shelves full of suitcases or postcards from Provence. The large, narrow format of beach towels lends itself well to imaginative printings.

    Even monochromatic images look better because of the nuances of shading now possible. The sorbetlike pastels – pinks, tangerines, apple, lime and yellow, as well as a range of blues seem particularly fresh at this time of year.

    But overall, an explosion of color is welcome, and when we see them in tandem – hot pink, magenta, orange or indigo, turquoise and lime – it makes us practically giddy!

    Universal UClick

Like a piece of furniture, fabric can sit quietly in a room, barely noticed. Or it can light up the space, pulling the eye like a magnet to a vibrant color or distinctive pattern.

It’s the softer side of interiors – one that takes the edge off strong architecture or furniture. Fabric panels frame windows in a flowing or tailored way that quietly complements. For many designers, the colors in a pattern can launch a room’s palette, even a particular paint color to match. Textiles, by their hand or shimmer, can dictate mood. A cashmere, silk or velvet suggests lushness and elegance. Chenille and linen present a more casual, sporty vibe, even though these, too, can also be considered dress-up. In combination, they can be most dynamic, as foils to each other: supple to textural, shiny to matte.

From runways to living rooms, the influences of graphics, patterns and even styles are translated. A bold geometric suggests sassy, assertive and sometimes retro design. A painterly floral gives a romantic note. A photo-realistic graphic provides an urban vibe.

While color often gets top play in the news, what’s happening in textile design usually is celebrated as part of the story of a room’s interior, sometimes the footnote to a fashion collection. But it can easily be the star.

What’s trending globally started to unfold at two major international shows in January in Europe: Frankfurt, Germany hosted Heimtextil, a trade show showing thousands of fabrics, wallcoverings, bedding and home textiles – and even the artwork that inspires them. At Paris Deco Off a week later, high-end showrooms hosted retailers and designers to show off their newest lines, concurrent with Maison & Objet, a major home-design exposition.

If one chord was struck repeatedly at both events, it was the influence of technology, particularly digital, on design. Imagine the photorealism possible with even smartphone shots today – and the possibility of faithfully translating crisp, realistic images to fabric and wallcovering. Or intentionally out-of-focus images that have a painterly look. In fact, scanning original paintings or artwork adds still another dimension, as does the layering of images, like montages in scrapbooks. Add to that a range of colors and blends not even possible before and the capability of not repeating a pattern.

Along with graphics, texture was an important element. This was expressed in a variety of ways: embroidery and beading, embellishments such as tufts, and even dimensional materials, where pleats or weaves amplified a flat surface to 3-D. An appreciation of handcrafted looks or the perception of handmade is ramping up. So the chunky knits and crochets we’ve been seeing hints of the last couple of years in home design are making an even bigger showing – and sometimes in surprising materials, including synthetics with the hand of rubber.

At Christian Fischbacher, exploration of texture was showcased in a new fabric (and pillow design). The interlocking pattern appeared in relief, the result of adding a foam to the silk surface, then a layer of foil set with a heat adhesive, which lends an almost iridescent effect. It won an award for innovation.

Unusual weaves also extend to linens and wools, some of which show striking layerings. And sheers are adding a new wrinkle – “netted tulles,” for example, which offer a great option for window treatments that screen without blocking light – in an extensive palette, as well as wider grid fisherman’s netting, in a kind of macrame revival. In addition, metallic threads are lending a bit of glam to some fabrics.

What’s intriguing about the luxe looks this time is that they often were shown in combination with more casual, rustic fabrics – a trend that is recurring in home design. A room with wide-plank, weathered floors and linen upholstery, for example, might sport lacquered cabinetry and a crystal chandelier.

If you’re shopping for spring and summer textiles, here are a few things you might see:

Larger scale: Itsy-bitsy patterns seem so passé. Some motifs, such as tropical birds and palms, now are larger than life, especially on bedding and towels. Look for really fun beach towels with artlike photography and drawings.

Explosive images: Uber-huge blooms, like poppies, are splashed on bed linens. Digital photos are being scanned and printed on everything from T-shirts and bags to pillows, bedding and fabric.

Incorporating art: Paintings and drawings are adding artistry to textile design. In addition to photography, original artwork is being sourced, lending a whole new dimension – beauty as well as grit.

More open backgrounds: Less crowding really makes the designs pop, especially in pillows with single-image objects.

Layering: For some companies, such as the Spanish company Desigual or the Netherlands’ Melli Mello, exuberant pattern is the signature, and they don’t stop at just one.

Embroidery and patchwork: In addition to the real thing, there’s the trompe l’oeil variety, as in bedding from Esprit, which teams both in a convincing way.

Textile manufacturers are paying attention to those Pinterest boards and even Instagram. One of the keys to the spring line of Robert Allen is filtered color – a kind of washed look. Christy Almond, the company’s vice president, says that the more delicate iterations of colors reminded her of what people are doing on Instagram.

“This ‘filtered’ effect creates hues that are relevant in both fashions and interiors,” she says.

Concurrent is a trend for the threadbare look so popular in rugs, especially effective in velvet because of its natural nap.

For the most part, there’s a desire to tweak or modernize familiar, traditional patterns. Toile, for example, is captivating a new audience because of shifts in motifs from the 18th-century, allover pale pastoral themes to more vibrant colors with unexpected combinations and bigger, looser scale.

And companies with archives are digging deep to reintroduce or draw inspiration. At Pierre Frey, fashion-turned-interior and furniture designer Vincent Darre, peeked into 1940s and 1950s archives. Three designs were reissued – and they look every bit as current today. He reimagined three others in response.

Some motifs, in particular, seem to be resonating. Sea creatures will be huge. Coral designs on pillows or plates are almost perennial favorites, especially in coastal areas, but this year’s crop follows the big trend as well as expanding under-the-sea life.

Feathers and hints of southwest style also are starting to emerge. Eastern influences are making inroads, especially dragon motifs and pagodas.

At the Heimtextil show’s Forum, a provocative space putting forth trends for 2014-15, one look into the future offered this compelling concept: reprogramming bacteria and plants to manufacture materials – a biologically enhanced alternative for future sustainable living.

One picture may be worth a thousand words, but many designers will agree that textiles can truly be transformative.

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