Toile Tales, Part II: A Fabric Always in Fashion!

by Amitha Verma Interior Design, www.amithaverma.com

In my last post, I went back in time and explored the history of my favorite fabric of all time, toile du Jouy.

Toile has been around since the 1700s, but it hasn’t lost any of its charm and elegance… in fact, I think it looks even more beautiful today, in the context of entirely modern interior designs. The airy, pale fabric, with its highly detailed pastoral scenes, adds a certain je ne sais quoi to every room that I use it in!

(Source: Chris Dee Designs)

As most of my projects have a French inspired flavor to them, I enjoy bringing in authentic touches like French antiques and vintage, antique pieces. Toile is the perfect blend of old and new – it is steeped in the old-world charm of eighteenth century Europe, but it works well within any kind of modern home, whether it is a bedroom or a comfortable sofa in the family den.

(Source: The Enchanted Home)

I just love, absolutely love rooms that are covered in toile wall-covering and fabrics like the one above. One day, this will work it’s way into my house. I adore working with toile, and usually incorporate it into my best designs.

(Source: Amitha Verma Interior Designs)

Recently, I used a delicious caramel and cream Braquenie, toile print on a beautiful dark wood chair. The contrast of dark and light, and the contemporary use of the vintage-style toile, created a stunning effect.

(Source: Country Living)

Toile is also perfect for use in less formal settings too. The French country style, which embodies cool, laid-back rustic charm, is also a great backdrop for toile-upholstered pieces. I love this toile bedding in a cheery red and white, which looks so simple and pretty on a cast-iron bedstead.Bright or subtle, upholstery or bedding, you can’t really go wrong with toile!

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Toile Tales, Part I: A Design Tradition in the Making

by Amitha Verma Interior Design, www.amithaverma.com

One of my all-time favorite fabrics – and I mean real, love-it-like-crazy, can’t-do-a-project-without-it favorite fabrics – is toile.

Toile, or toile du jouy (to give it its full name) is a traditional fabric of French design, featuring one-color pastoral scenes on a white or cream background. The word ‘toile’ literally means ‘cloth’ in French and its origins can be traced back as far as the 1700s when it was first produced by a commercial plant in the village of Jouy-en-Josas.

Subtly elegant and still popular today as a home décor print, toile has a fascinating history that sets it apart from other materials on the market.

Traditional black and white toile pastoral print (Source: Interiors Etc. Details)

Toile was first produced in 1760 in the Oberkampf factory on the banks of the Bievre River. It was printed using wooden blocks that were only about 10” big, each one engraved with a mirror image of the finished design. But the method was long and tedious, the price high, and only the rich and royal could afford the material.

Soon designers started looking for other, more viable, methods. In a stunning example of industrial espionage, textile entrepreneur Oberkampf discovered in England the secret of printing using copper-plate rollers, and smuggled the information out by writing it on cotton fabric using ‘invisible’ ink.

Christophe Oberkampf, founder of the first toile factory (Source: S9 Biographical Dictionary)

With the new method he had learnt, Oberkampf expanded his business and even earned a Legion of Honor from Napoleon! Ironically, his hard work was eventually to be destroyed. In an unrelated but gruesome twist of fate, British troops ended up destroying his factory in Jouy-en-Josas, and the printmaker died soon after, brokenhearted by the destruction of his life’s work.

Entrance hall papered in toile print (Source: Zeospot)

Today, toile fabric, paper and even ceramics are still hugely popular with designers and decorators, and the engraving-like quality of the prints remains, as well as the pastoral themes and patterns. These patterns are usually made up of joyful country scenes with a sense of frolic and carefree abandon. Oh, how I wish I could commission a custom toile, depicting a modern day in our lives! I  would be under a tree in the garden, with my two boys, our pets and my iPad or laptop of course!

More to come, as I can never run out of things to say on this topic…

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