Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fringe Benefits

I'm trying to figure out the seating situation in my bedroom. (After I wrote that, I realized that this is a loaded statement.) I think it's nice to have a chair in one's bedroom as a place to sit and read. I have a temporary one in there right now. It was my childhood armchair and ottoman that is, well, a little dated. Both pieces are a bit low to the ground which is perfect for a child (of which I am no more...), and they're upholstered in a Colefax & Fowler check. It was great for the 1980s, but not so much anymore. Those two pieces will, I believe, be heading to the consignment store.

What I plan to use in its place is a hand-me-down wing chair that used to be in my parents' library. I adore a traditional, honest to goodness wing chair. You can dress them up, you can dress them down. I want this wing chair to be a little glam, much like those you see in the old movies. And if you look closely at wing chairs from the 1930s and 40s, you'll notice that many of them have brush fringe. I'm thinking of doing this to my chair. Perhaps a solid mohair or silk velvet with a contrasting brush fringe. The deal is, though, that the fringe needs to be short. After trolling my books for images of brush fringe, I noticed that one trend from this era was adorning everything- chairs, sofas, lampshades- in a long fringe. No, this is not for me. I think I'll just stick to a well-groomed fringe.

Billy Haines used fringe on this armchair for actress Constance Bennett. Check out the fringe on the lamp shade!

It pains me to write me this because in my mind, Frances Elkins could do no wrong. But...that fringe is a little too long for me. Other than that, it's really pretty stunning. (Living Room in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Wheeler, Lake Forest, Illinois, c. 1934)

A great example by Syrie Maugham in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Williams, New York. (Drix Duryea, photographer)

Leave it to Rose Cumming to make brush fringe so glam. This makes me want to upholster my wing chair in silk. Not the best choice for a home with a dog, but still... (Home of Mrs. C.S. Petrasch, New York City)

In the Beverly Hills salon of designer Adrian, Tony Duquette was enthusiastic in his use of brush fringe.

Image at top: Designer John Gerald trimmed this blue satin strie upholstered armchair in a beige fringe. I think this is a great example of what I may do with my chair.

(Image #1: House & Garden's Complete Guide to Interior Decoration. #2 from Class Act: William Haines Legendary Hollywood Decorator by Peter Schifando. #3 from Frances Elkins: Interior Design by Stephen Salny. #4 and #5 from The Great Lady Decorators: The Women Who Defined Interior Design, 1870-1955 by Adam Lewis. #6 from Regency Redux: High Style Interiors: Napoleonic, Classical Moderne, and Hollywood Regency by Emily Evans Eerdmans.)


  1. I love this look too. Cushion only might be best, You might like a small loop and as long as there are no cats in the house it should be fine. Go for the silk. pgt

  2. Nothing dates a room quicker than fringe, curtains and lampshades, they are so emblematic of the eras in which they are used. You can tell a room from the 40's purely by its lampshades.

    here is a link to see how Dorothy Draper used brush fringe in the lobby of Hampshire House in NYC, it's all still there too. The photo is black and white, but so is the lobby, the chairs being black damask.


  3. Gaye- I think I will go with the silk. Thanks!

  4. Quatorze- I agree. Lampshades are a dead giveaway. Still, I'm thinking that brush fringe has been "out" for so long that perhaps a little on the wing chair couldn't hurt!

  5. Cebu Adventure9:36 AM

    on the wing chairs the brush fringe looks infinitely better than on those really not very attractive club chairs... those chairs are also dated in appearance - so the fringe looks less attractive as well... I would go for the brush fringe on your wing chair - the first photo is quite attractive...

  6. For me, Frances Elkins was the queen of stylish use of brush fringe.

    That chimney breast designed as a stylized Ionic pilaster is way fun...

  7. Jennifer, I love fringe. You can really do so much! I have a silk rope trim on my cream wing chair and love it, it also goes around the cushion.

    Art by Karena

  8. Many of my clients still like a little fringe. I'm sooo loving looking at the old pics from eras gone by. There was such a classy elegance to the decor of the 30's and 40's. It's really inspirational and even a bit "trend-setting", don't you think?

  9. Hollywood ,, isn't it wonderful, all those wonderful designers doing set's. I like the chinese chip, best..

    great post

  10. "In" or "out", I love brush fringe and will undoubtedly always have it on something! I love those silk wing chairs with the fringe going all around the wings.

  11. OK, now we're talking. If my favorite bookstore, Prairie Avenue Books, hadn't been a victim of the economy, I would already have Adam Lewis' book, and therefore would already be familar with that photo of Mona Williams' drawing room, which I've never seen before. The room itself, with its fringed-trimmed antiques, I've known about since junior high, because there's a full-page color reproduction of Pierre Brissaud's watercolor of the room in another edition of the House & Garden book, which book is what got me hooked on this era's decor in the first place, which decor was already considered woefully passe when I first came across it.

    I don't know whether it was that book that imprinted moss fringe on my brain at an early age or--more likely--the fact that my grandmother's pine-paneled living room's chairs had worn sea green corduroy slipcovers trimmed with brown cotton moss fringe. Maybe it was the combination of the two things. Either way, I loved the stuff. Of course, moss fringe was totally out of style in the Atomic 5Os, but I had no way of knowing that, since the only decorating magazines I had access to were several decades old. Like they say, igorance is bliss, or at least, for me it was, right up till the day I walked into my grandmother's living room & ran smack dab into a pair of scary aliens from a hostile future--angular, spike-legged chairs upholstered in scratchy burnt orange wool tweed. Yikes! My childhood was over.

    Anyway, in or out of style--usually, out--I still love moss fringe. In fact, I'm getting ready to cover my Chippendale-style camelback sofa in some beautifully faded rose-colored cotton velvet that used to be a set of portieres, and its voluptuous curves are going to be outlined in thick beige moss fringe. "Dated?" That's the idea.

  12. Magnaverde- Absolutely, it's dated...and that's why we love it. When I was pulling images, I had flagged the Brissard watercolor, only to realize later that the actual photograph was in the Lewis book. Get the book- it's a gem.

  13. J --

    I love wing chairs in bedrooms, bathrooms kitchens -- everywhere. Anxious to see what you do. I know it wil be as stunning as that door of yours.

  14. Love the idea of the fringe on the wingback. It could be very fun. It was great seeing you last week. Hope you had a great weekend!

  15. And here's a strange coincidence tying together (sorta) this post and your last regarding movie sets; Clearing out my DVR and watching the horrible/ wonderful 1968 film "The Legend of Lylah Clare" and in one of the opening scenes, there is a room with persimmon chairs and sofas with this brush fringe on all the edges--I nearly spit out my boxed wine!
    (And do check the movie--it truly does have some "period" decor--I have no idea what the movie itself is actually about.)

  16. I was just in Florence, and bought a ready-made pillow at Valmar, because I loved the vintage silk, though it had a gold long loop fringe that was a little too much for me. We gave it a haircut into a short brush fringe, and not it's perfect.