bedroom by Nicky Haslam

"Chuck out the Chintz" the British were told in the 1990's by an award winning IKEA advertisement. Chintz has been unequivocally associated with traditional English Country House style decorating for over 150 years. The attempt by IKEA to move the British out of the traditional country house zone and into modern Scandinavian design was by denigrating a very old, and very traditional fabric choice. Chintz itself originally came from India, and was exported around the world from the 1650's. Eventually it was banned in France, aside from being able to be worn inside the French court, which of course only increased its fashionability. When the ban was lifted Chintz was used not only for clothing but eventually for curtains and soft furnishings, which is where you find it still used today.

Via Jean Monro

Chintz itself is any floral pattern on a white background, and by the 1800's these were glazed (initially with sugar, then with a chemical process which was used up until the 1980's when it was banned as being highly carcinogenic) to give a glossy sheen across the fabric. Many of the chintz patterns in production today stem from French documents, despite this being a quintessentially English style of decorating, but the past 15 years in decorating have not been kind - Fabric companies tend to discontinue unpopular fabrics, and as the fickle wheel of fashion turned venerable companies like Colefax and Fowler shed Chintz fabrics from their ranges, replacing them with more commercially popular alternatives. The printing of Chintz patterns onto cotton fabrics was also reduced, a softer finish on linen was preferred.

Quintessential English Country House decorating - Bowood by Colefax and Fowle

There are only so many variations on a theme however, the past 10 years of neutral colour palettes - raw linen and subtle textural contrast have left many designers yawning, and there is a renewed interest in ornamentation in fabrics. This started with the advent of digital printing (which has been the biggest change in fabrics in recent years) an conversely the swing back toward the artistry behind traditional fabric, with renewed interest in hand embroidery and Hand Blocking, and thus the resurrection of Chintz and a more traditional style of decoration.

via Jean Monro


Jean Monro is a small niche fabric company still exclusively producing Chintz in the UK, and is somewhat known amongst decorators seeking a traditional style that has been discontinued elsewhere. I still think of this company as "Mrs Monro" and this is because it used to be called that back when I worked in London 17 years ago. Mrs Monro has the distinction of being the oldest Interior Design company still in operation in England - it was started in 1926. The fabric side of the business was developed in the 1980's by the original founder's daughter. This was eventually spun off  and acquired by Turnell & Gigon in 1998 and given the slight name change to distinguish it from the Interiors business. They produce stunning designs full of blowsy flowers and foliage, mostly printed in England, and almost all hand blocked onto cotton chintz or linen. Everything old is new again, and there is a definite renewed interest in chintz, and the floral prints last seen so full blown in the 1980's.

Ham Yard Hotel - the Library featuring Jean Monro Chintz

Kit Kemp used some of Jean Monro's fabrics in her latest Ham Yard hotel, and it is the subtle hand made quality of the hand blocking that really is quite beautiful. Coupled with some of the more modern colour renditions that they've produced the designs from the 1860s look thoroughly modern.

I thought I'd leave this short video from their website for your enjoyment - it's the process that a length of fabric will go through... all 18 metres of it with the hand blocking being done. One design, Lucy's Roses, has 180 blocks applied to produce the design per pattern repeat, all done by hand by a master craftsman/woman who has completed a trade apprenticeship that lasts 7 years. As it is done by hand, there is a subtle difference to the designs produced by different hand blockers. The process has never been adequately replicated by machine. Whether or not you're ready to embrace traditional Chintz in your interior, you can admire the craft and perhaps gain more of an appreciation for the work that goes into these beautiful, textured, painterly fabrics.

   
MASTER SHORT from Doublard Design on Vimeo.

21 comments:

  1. Well I am officially a keeper of the chintz flame because I never ever abandoned it in favor of greige. I love it so much. And I absolutely love that video. I wish it were like three hours and explained each step. I had no idea the process was like this at all. Have you ever designed your own fabric? I would love to do that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you remember that whole salmon pink/ grey thing in the 80's? I'm thinking the greige will be like that for our current period of time and we'll all look back and think how bland it all was.
      I loved that video so much!! I'm so glad you did too. It was mesmerising and quite soothing in a way to see people still crafting something like that.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for this blog entry it was interesting to read!! I watched the IKEA ad and all I could think was "how wasteful" all that perfectly good material being thrown out to keep up with fashion! I guess things have not changed that much - we still feel subtle pressure to stay "on trend". I'm personally glad of the "great chintz revival". We have fabric shops here in Sydney called No Chintz.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That ad was so dated looking - love the way the ad director credits himself with revolutionising English design! I remember No Chintz starting up in the 90's. If I remember correctly it was because the owner Chrissy was sick of doing Chintz curtains (she was a curtain maker), so wanted to showcase alternative fabrics. But I think she might need a rethink, as Chintz is definitely making a comeback!

      Delete
  3. Ah, so that's what happened to chintz - IKEA's influence!

    I recall we had very similarly patterned curtains in the room we used to watch television in (not the drawing room) growing up, to those of the cushions featured on the garden chairs. I wonder what happened to them? They lasted years until my parents moved house and selected a new fabric, that could be termed chintz I suppose (lots of poppies on it).

    Thanks for the primer and the memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think chintz has been popular in the UK because of the weather (or that's my take on it) - when it's gloomy outside, then having a riot of flowers inside kind of makes sense.
      re your parents - agree with you that it lasts a long time... my in laws had a 1950's Colefax and Flower chintz slipcovered sofa and armchairs. They replaced them about 10 years ago, but the fabric had held up remarkably well (shabby, but not unpleasantly so).

      Delete
  4. I love chintz. My office/parlour is filled with it. I think it's back with a vengeance!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely back Jen - you're right on trend!

      Delete
  5. I used to love those videos on sesame street showing how gum is made and this video was no exception. I am now getting greedy again and want that fabric to add to my stash that is still gathering dust and living in hope!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - this is just like a Sesame Street video!! They still do them too on SS - my kids used to watch the factory with conveyer belt type things not that long ago (although our preschooler tv days are over. Thankfully).
      Maybe you should go and work for a fabric company?! Although that may only fuel the hoarding, rather than cure it!

      Delete
  6. Very interesting and informative post Heidi. I last used chintz in the 80's still have a couple of rolls somewhere. IKEA such a huge influence, cheap and easy to use until it is washed. Doesn't last anytime at all, I am not a fan of anything IKEA. The quality of English fabrics is superb. Also loved Sanderson Linen, now that was a fabric that just improved with time. Great video.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree about Ikea - and not a fan of anything you have to put together yourself. We always get into dreadful disputes about what goes where. There usually seems to be something left over - and something missing! Our fault of course. G and I are not handy and hardly know one end of a screwdriver from the other. Ikea always looks as though it would get shabby (but not chic) very quickly.
      Last time I selected chintz was in the early 80s in Singapore. I loved it - beautiful fresh light large flower and leaf print on a white background in that shiny coated cotton. Who knew it was carcinogenic back then! It was for master bedroom curtains and bedspread in the tropics - perfect - so cool, fresh and pretty. Vive chintz!
      As usual, great post Heidi! Love all the back information on textiles and design.
      We attended the last day of the Pierre Frey wallpaper exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs - fabulous! And who do you think we met at the entry? Romy and Kim and Co! Pammie xx

      Delete
    2. Hi Lillian, lucky you to have some vintage Chintz hidden away somewhere - you should definitely pull it out! And agree with you about IKEA. I know a lot of people love it, but everything I've bought has not worn well - drinking glasses that looked exactly like more expensive and old ones I had all chipped within a year in the dishwasher... furniture needs regular rescrewing etc etc. There's a place for everything, and I do like their bookcases, but in terms of a decor style, it was the complete opposite of Chintz and traditional style. Sanderson is always good quality, and not so expensive as other English fabrics, so is a go to for me.

      Pammie - the carcinogenic part of the glaze was in the manufacturing. I'm sure unless you ate it you'd have been fine! Apparently no one (even in China with the lax environmental laws) will do the glaze anymore. So it's a look that will stay in the 80's I think. So lucky to see the Pierre Frey exhibition! Romy posted it on instagram, and said she'd bumped into you! Such a coincidence (although not really considering you both share similar interests!). xx

      Delete
    3. Glad to hear it wasn't carcinogenic for us as we used it in the bedroom for a couple of years, but left it behind in the house in Colombo. It didn't belong to us as it was bought as furnishings for a house that came with the job. The previous curtains and bedspread were really old homespun cotton that had fallen into dreadful disrepair - holes and long tears. But that chintz was clearly terrible for the poor factory workers. Had no idea before. I learn so much all the time from your blog.
      Have always liked Sanderson linen - seems a classic of pretty fresh English country cottage style.
      Should probably do something about getting onto Instagram, Though internet here is truly frustrating and painful - apparently because where we are there are so many travaux (we can see these for ourselves) the line just keeps dropping out ALL THE TIME! Better go before it happens again. Pammie xx

      Delete
    4. There is so much manufactured in the third world that is so bad environmentally - leather is a big one. So much degradation in the Ganges from the very toxic leatherworks. The love of marble recently is another - everything the last few years in homewares is marble and knowing the conditions in the Chinese quarries it is quite stomach churning to think of what is going on there. We all talk about fast fashion, but in construction and building there is an awful lot going on that is similar, or worse, that is not considered by the majority of consumers in the West.
      I think Instagram would be an excellent fit for you Pammie - you do take lots of photos, and that is what instagram is made for! You don't have to write overly long captions underneath either. So glad to hear you're enjoying the Grand Tour, despite internet problems! xx

      Delete
  7. Fascinating. Back in the day we all loved chintz. I have fond memories of Laura Ashley dresses, which however, had an unfortunate tendency of matching the wallpaper. Shabby Chic, Bali chic, Country style, Tuscan, Leather modular... etc etc etc. The fashion cycle in furnishings is almost as short as that for clothing. Your post last year about the re-invention of William Morris fabrics shows that traditional styles can be updated and kept fresh. Perhaps we'll soon again smell the perfume of some freshly harvested chintz roses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a floral Laura Ashley dress in the early 90's Judith! Yes, it was very granny. but that was the kind of look at the time I guess. You're right about fashion cycles in interiors. Not quite as fast as clothes, but nearly there!! I think anytime they recolour and resize the archive prints they turn out so well. I love what they've done with William Morris, and it's definitely given a new lease of life to it all.

      Delete
  8. Thank you for writing this as I learnt so much. I love florals and our chintz armchair from 23 years ago has survived marriage & kids etc and sits in living room. The matching 3 seater sofa which was regularly made up into the sofa bed died from overuse, about 12 years ago. Den xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do think that patterns are a great option for high use areas Den - the patterns do hide a multitude of sins! I think that having everything in solid pale colours in the last few years has been hard to maintain, so this may also be a good reason why there's been a renewed interest in it xx

      Delete
  9. Bowood is my all-time favourite fabric. It is evocative of English Country Houses, Chic French Boudoirs and timeless elegance. I've never lost my love of it. I'm glad florals and prints are becoming "en vogue" again...And more eclectic, joyous interiors. Love what Kit Kemp does. Maybe people will stop editing their homes to a sterile state of non-decoration and enjoying the comfort that beautiful fabrics and colours can bring! Love this post. That Jean Munro film is divine! Caroline xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I snuck that Bowood in because it's my all time favourite too Caroline! One day I'll put it in a room somewhere... although Mr AV hates florals, so I'll need a spare room he doesn't go into in order to get it through the door.
      Agree with you about joyous interiors - I think that's a great term. Living with neutrals is safe, but never going to inspire joy. Maybe calm? And order? Which is perhaps why it's been popular in the recent past. But colour and pattern are a more forgiving, personal way to live in an interior. I think everything in design is related to the mood of the era, so there is something perhaps nostalgic and comforting about using florals. So glad you loved the film! xx

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Search This Blog

About Me

My photo
Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
Powered by Blogger.

Follow by Email

Follow this blog with bloglovin

Follow on Bloglovin

Followers

Things to read....

.