Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Top Ten Fabric: La Portugaise




A while back, I wrote about the much loved Le Lac print and its popularity with designers. Well, with so many wonderful prints on the market, Le Lac is not alone in the pantheon of iconic designs. What other prints seemed to have passed the test of time? Why, La Portugaise by Brunschwig & Fils, and it's one of those prints that seems to pop up over and over again.

According to Brunschwig & Fils Up Close,
La Portugaise is reminiscent of indienne prints and is "a nineteenth-century adaptation made up from the borders of a palampore formed into stripes." And in Keith Irvine: A Life in Decoration, Irvine notes that the print, one of his favorite fabrics, used to be available at Rose Cumming's shop before Brunschwig & Fils began to offer it. Just another tidbit to add to the print's illustrious history.

Now, I know that many of you might look at this print and think "No way!"
La Portugaise is certainly not for everyone. I like how the print has been used in the rooms below, but would it work in my home? Probably not. Still, there is a delightful quality to this print that lends to its allure. And as it is a favorite of so many design legends, it certainly deserves recognition as a top ten fabric!





How can you argue about a print that is found in THE most famous room in the history of American design, Brooke Astor's famed oxblood lacquered library designed by Albert Hadley. (My tip to you: save any photos you can of this glorious room- just in case the new owner decides to disassemble this masterpiece.)




Keith Irvine has used La Portugaise throughout his career. It seems that this print as well as Le Lac are his two favorites.




Jeffrey Bilhuber used the print on an upholstered chair in this room; it's a nice counterpoint to the hushed neutrals used in the rest of the room.



And that charming, erudite Mark Hampton used the print in the living room of his Hamptons home. With a painting like this, who needs a photograph?

Image at top: A close-up shot of a La Portugaise upholstered chair in the library of the late Brooke Astor.

23 comments:

  1. "La Portugaise" really is a splendid fabric. Much loved by Billy Baldwin too, who used it at his house in Nantucket, as I recall, at least in one of its incarnations. Some people have the most extraordinary aversion to it though, which I fail to understand. It is so flowery yet so orderly at the same time. Perhaps that could be part of the problem, its merging of the two.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gorgeous fabric -- look at all of the colors to work into the whole room! Great posting -- LOVE the chair in the top photo -- just right for reading! LOL!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jennifer, I used to have an image of Alexa Hampton as a teen -- from Vogue or Bazaar -- on that sofa in her parents' Hamptons home. Plus there are pictures of it in an old design book my godmother gave me. At the moment I can't find either and it's driving me crazy!

    Anyway, I love the print. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Aesthete- I still have not seen photos of Baldwin's Nantucket home. Shame on me! But you're right, a lot of people really can't stand this print. Interesting point about the print being orderly and flowery. To me that is its charm!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Jan- Another good point- so many options in terms of color. You could bring out the colors of the floral part of the print, or you could tie in to the brown stripe.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Courtney- I'd love to see the photo if you can find it. Having all of these books and tearsheets can be great, but trying to find specific things can be a chore! It's a problem I have often :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jennifer - this is one of my favorites, too. It would be in my den right now if it weren't for the Le Lac hanging in my living room.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Patricia- I think Le Lac is still one of my favorites ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous10:55 AM

    Any chance the photos of Billy Baldwins Nantucket house will appear here?
    Love the idea of the top ten fabrics, can wallpaper be next?

    ReplyDelete
  10. La Portugaise is an unsentimental chintz, and surely that is what made it so attractive to the decorators on this impressive list.
    Yet it must be admitted that the bold brown stripe makes it difficult to work with. Billy Baldwin eschewed piping on his seat cushions, feeling that it would interrupt the pattern in an unfortunate manner.
    As a footnote: La Portugaise was surprisingly cost-priced at $8.oo per yard (in the early 1980s) but the very moment Billy Baldwin's Nantucket cottage was published, the price tripled, leading up to the stratospheric regions~ where it remains today.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great shot of the Astor library...such a design masterpiece! I hope and pray the new owners recognize the importance of such a room. Great post, such an interesting history for lovely fabric!

    ReplyDelete
  12. TW, yes, it is unsentimental ... it is, of all things, a very masculine chintz ...

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is truly a timeless fabric. And it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I posted about fabrics on eBay today and the seller has some vintage French fabrics that evoke the same feeling. I almost included it in my post! Check out my post here:

    http://eclecticentertaining.blogspot.com/2008/05/ebay-today-antique-fabric.html

    then check out the similar fabrics on eBay here: http://cgi.ebay.com/Antique-French-Valance-Fabric-floral-bed-surround_W0QQitemZ110251926138QQihZ001QQcategoryZ38001QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    ReplyDelete
  14. in the new Charlotte Moss - there's a chintz that looks a lot like this without the stripe - it's on a bedroom canopy. There are so many classic fabrics and reading the Moss book has reinforced to me the value in continuing to use them and not abandoning the classics in favor of the "flavor" of the month. Glad you're back - very interesting Peaks this week!
    Joni

    ReplyDelete
  15. Exactly, it's a man's chintz. And Brooke Astor's Library has always been my favorite room in an American home too.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anon- I'll work on the wallpaper ;)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Yes, good point everyone. It is a masculine chintz which does broaden its appeal.

    ReplyDelete
  18. It really is lovely, although I'm not sure if I could personally live with it. It looks fab in the Bilhuber room...

    ReplyDelete
  19. Forgot to mention a bit about Brooke Astor's Library. If you like the rug on the floor, the Kellogg Collection in Washington DC carries it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I recently wrote a blog post on the Bessarabian rug in Brooke Astor's library. The rug and La Portugaise were originally in the drawing room designed by Sister Parish. When Albert Hadley transformed the drawing room into a library he kept La Portugaise and the Bessarabian rug because they went so well with his famous red lacquered shelves. The Bessarabian rug never made it to Sotheby's sale of Brooke Astor's estate. I have not been able to find out what happened to it. The blog is at: http://info.asmarainc.com/blog/bid/63364/The-Mysterious-Bessarabian-Rug-in-Brooke-Astor-s-Cozy-Library

      Delete
  20. magnaverde11:18 AM

    I think of "La Portugaise" less as a masculine chintz than as a really aggresive one. Either way, though, I like it, but only in this colorway with the brown stripe. My camelback sofa had it in an orange/red/hunter green colorway that was nothing short of lurid, but considering that it had a down cushion & fretcarved mahogany legs--and, too, factoring in the fact that said sofa only cost me $100--I figured I could live with the garish fabric for a while. Turned out I was wrong. After a week, I was going crazy, so I painted the fabric red. Desperate times require desperate measures.

    Obviously, designers with better taste than that of my sofa's first owner prefer the brown, but it's interesting that Keith Irvine eliminated the stripes in his curtains by careful spacing of the pleats.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Magnaverde- The colorway you describe does not sound attractive at all! (Thank goodness the rest of the sofa was worthwhile). Obviously, brown is the way to go! (And lucky you to get that sofa for $100)

    ReplyDelete
  22. When I was in high school, I had to do a fully integrated design for a home. In looking through an issue of House Beautiful, I found Mark Hampton's chocolate brown living room. I fell in love with every aspect of the room and started looking for every Mark Hampton room I could get my hands on. I only received a B on my project. "The walls are brown. Who has brown walls?" Thank you for this beautiful blog!

    ReplyDelete