Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pattern Play

For quite some time now, many of us have had a love affair with graphic prints. Perhaps we can blame it on the David Hicks revival, but the clear, strong prints were, at the time, a breath of fresh air. Today, I think we are starting to see some interesting trends develop in the way of prints and pattern.

Exoticism is once again creating a stir as evidenced by the popularity of ikats and suzanis over the last few years. Both are great, and I hope that this might lead to people rediscovering paisley and other prints with deep historical roots. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about The Gallery at The Carlyle, above, which was designed by Renzo Mongiardino. This "Turkish tea room" is exotic, albeit in a Manhattan kind of way!

Boldly mixing pattern (or perhaps mixing bold patterns!) is another trend that can be difficult to execute. The safe bet would be to add one bold piece to the mix like a wild pillow or a patchwork chair. However, look at the way designer Alidad deftly mixed various prints from his collection for Pierre Frey. No one print stands out so the overall look is a cohesive one, but achieving this does take a certain amount of skill!

"Christina" fabric by Clarence House

"Red Mermaid" Needlework pillow, inspired by an antique Cretan fabric

"Taika" salad plates by iittala, available at Vivre. The pattern was inspired by Nordic folklore.

A patchwork chaise from J. Roaman, East Hampton. The shop has garnered a lot of press for its colorful and inventive furniture.

Early 20th c. quilt from Suzanna Hamilton Antiques & Art

An elegant window display with a mix of prints and patterns designed by Alidad for Pierre Frey


  1. I love Paisley too, especially the Christina here. It will be interesting to see if Mongiardino-like rooms have a big revival.

  2. Courtney- Good point. I love Mongiardino's work, but culturally/economically/socially are we in a time in which people won't understand it?

  3. Anonymous9:37 AM

    Actually, the Gallery at the Carlyle was decorated by Gaser Tabakoglu, who was Mongiardino's American assistant in New York City. He died in 1991 at age 36. The wallpaper and folding screens in the Gallery were painted by artisans in Milan; the motifs, according to Tabakoglu's obituary in the New York Times (8 January 1991), were inspired by those at the Topkapi Palace in his native Istanbul. As to whether or not we are in a world that might not understand Mongiardino, remember that so much of his work was faked. He was a theatrical set designer first (he did the sets for the Elizabeth Taylor "The Taming of the Shrew" as well as the 1967 Zeffirelli film "Romeo and Juliet"), and an interior decorator second, so many of his most dazzling creations were nothing more than cardboard. Literally. "I am a creator of ambiance," he once said. When he decorated Daylesford for Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Mongiardino created a room whose walls seemed to be clad entirely in antique tooled Cordoba leather with elaborate motifs pressed into the surface; a later owner discovered that the the ravishing tooled and gilded "leather" was actually pressed and handpainted cardboard and ordered it ripped out. We live in a wonderful world of DIY, so Mongiardino's aesthetic trickery is just as relevant today. So too his occasional forays into Orientalism, given our still-current interest in Middle Eastern, Moroccan, and other Arabic styles in decoration. As Mark Hampton once wrote of his work, "He did not care about $2 million commodes that once belonged to Madame Adelaide. His rooms were all about creating a mood, by whatever creative means necessary."

  4. Anon- Thank you for the clarification re: the actual designer behind the Gallery. And this is very interesting information re: his design trickery, which I agree with you is just as relevant today. I think most of us fake it here and there, and who really cares if you end up achieving the desired effect. I'm just curious if those not familiar with Mongiardino will embrace his aestethic, or, would a watered down version be easier to handle?

  5. Anonymous10:37 AM

    I hope that some of today's homeowners will get into the Mongiardino groove. What's not to like? The interiors he decorated are often cozy, darkly glamorous, moody (why are people afraid of moody rooms?), mature, and they age well, ie in terms of fading, staining, et cetera. They are modern but utterly classical in that way, ie aging well. One of my favorite Mongiardino rooms is a dining room he did for Prince Stanislas Radziwill and his second wife, the former Caroline Lee Bouvier Canfield (Jackie O's sister). The walls were covered in square Italian scarves and were wonderfully handpainted too, so the room had a 19th-century Sicilian-romantic atmosphere, like something out of the novel "The Leopard."

  6. Anon- Yes, and his rooms are, in my opinion, slightly decadent- and that makes life a lot more fun too. Will need to see if I can find an image of the Radziwill dining room.

  7. The fun of "tuning in" each day is how much I learn - especially from you, Peak. What a great resource "Anon" was today - now I have a new designer to dig up. This is such a fresh post - I was thinking about trends lately - so many body parts showing up here and there! Oh, and I love the needlepoint pillow best. Of course.

  8. Patricia- I thought of you actually when I found that pillow! Check out the other ones on the site too.

  9. I, too, thought of Mongiardino's work for the Radziwills in London, but especially the living room that he created for them that had paisley on the walls. I'm probably dating myself, but when I saw the photographs I thought he had put Indian bedspreads on the wall! (For those of you younger than me, it was popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s to decorate with Indian bedspreads from places like Cost Plus.)I was amazed at his creative use of something so inexpensive. Speaking of which, the other room that comes to mind is, of course, the Paleys' sitting room at the St. Regis that Billy Baldwin decorated with shirred paisley. Personally, this is one of my all time favorite rooms. When interviewed by People magazine in the 1970s Baldwin called it "his most successful room" and said that the cotton was under $1. per yard. I agree with Anonymous--I hope that people today could learn to appreciate Mongiardino's style/aesthetic, though I'm not terribly optimistic.

  10. Morris- Yes, I am familiar with both of those rooms, but I especially love the Baldwin/Paley room too. It is too divine! It also proves that you don't need to spend a fortune to create something stylish.

  11. Anonymous1:19 PM

    To be balanced, you'll have to do a post one day on decorating with solids (as opposed to prints/patterns).

    I just finished reading "Sister" and wonder if Mrs. Parish ever used a solid fabric once in her entire career.


  12. PT- Now that could be interesting! Good idea.

  13. The sofa is to die for.

  14. Vie Chaotique- So glad you like it :)

  15. Anonymous7:00 PM

    Dear Jennifer,
    We just got in the chicest acanthus Chippendale mirror at frecklefarm. I thought of you.

    I know how much you love fine English furnishings. I wanted to send it over to you, and when I saw your acanthus light I said, "this is perfect for Jennifer!"

    While it is only available to members of the frecklefarm catalog, it is posted on the frecklefarm catalog request page for everyone to view. I hope you enjoy the mirror.

  16. Robin- Thank you!!!!!!! I'm off to visit now!!!!