Timeless charm: Why chintz is the height of chic once more
Far from a chance encounter, chintz is back on the scene.
Even the name has a lovely ring to it. Chintzy, ritzy, she’s the grand old dame of florals and vintage furnishings – and very much in vogue.
Originally from India, chintz (derived from the Hindi word ‘chint’) started life in the early-1600s as a glazed calico, often printed with oversized flowers. An intricate play on pattern, Portuguese and Dutch traders brought swathes of the stuff to Europe and by the late-1700s, such was its surge in popularity, English mills were producing European style florals on cotton cloth.
By the 1900s, the Victorians coveted chintz as much as their gin palaces. However, its grand scale prints fell out of fashion after the first world war, resurfaced in the 1940s and ebbed until the 1960s – when Jackie Kennedy famously renovated The White House and featured a bedroom in ‘orange blossom chintz’.
The pendulum swung again in the Eighties, and its country charm status was sealed with ruffles and frills galore, as we flounced through the beautiful world of Laura Ashley.
Having thrived for years, the iconic brand had to close its doors last year – but it’s back big time too, and a partnership with Next and a new collection has reintroduced some of Laura Ashley’s best-loved signature prints.
Laura Ashley Wisteria Pencil Pleat Curtains, from £60-£120, Next
Today, chintz is turning heads again, both in fashion and florals. “Chintz interiors are having a revival, with more time spent at home we’re seeking out stimulation and interest in our interiors like never before,” says Wil Law, partner and home design stylist, John Lewis.
“Highly decorative patterns on walls and curtains, embellishments on every furnishing, and shapely forms in furniture all liven the home, boosting its visual interest and tactility.”
John Lewis & Partners Fougere Wallpaper – Dusty Rose, £40 per roll; Classic Bobbin Console Table – Grey, £179; Bubble Ceramic Table Lamp, £62.50 (was £125), Moritz Velvet Dining Chair, £259 (other items from a selection), John Lewis
“Chintz also celebrates natural motifs that connect us to the outdoors in a different way to the ever popular houseplant trend,” says Law. “Ditsy florals, leaf trails and animal prints are at the heart of chintz patterns and feel very English countryside.
“Chintz has that English charm, often seen in National Trust or English Heritage properties and, as we’re unable to travel as freely, perhaps we’re leaning into interior inspiration closer to home.”
John Lewis & Partners Juliette Wallpaper – Multi, £40 per roll; Selva Organic Cotton Double Duvet Cover Set – Multi, from £60-£90, John Lewis
Beyond the literal definition of chintz, relating to floral patterns, Law suggests the broader interior style that captures its character has a relaxed feel, and prioritises comfort.
“It’s all about sinking into the deep, cosy sofas that are swamped in cushions and throws, and sleeping in beds that are layered with soft and charming textiles,” Law notes.
English Weekend Petal Stripe Duvet Cover Set, from £10; Vintage Floral Duvet Cover Set, from £10; Check Throw, £15; Pink Velvet Cocktail Chair, £75; Clover Cushion, £7; Berber Cushion, £10; Diamond Macrame Cushion, £12, George Home (available from late July)
If you’re beginning to work chintz into your home, first and foremost, Law says to choose some characterful patterns on your soft furnishings, and begin to layer these.
“For a more contemporary take on the trend, don’t go for the matching look. Instead pick distinct patterns and ensure you’re mixing different scales of design, from ditzy to broad, so that each can make its own statement, yet as a collection look harmonious,” Law suggests.
“Alternatively, for an easier to live with and arguably fresher chintz look, ensure you’re mixing in some block colours to set off the patterns and provide visual relief. Combinations like a patterned chintz lampshade against a bright wall colour, or a decorative wallpaper broken by a rich velvet sofa, can look joyful and bold, celebrating the charm of chintz, without feeling themed.”
Faded Glamour Vintage Green Wallpaper, £120 per roll (other items part of room set), Woodchip & Magnolia
Along with complementary furnishings, floral, chintzy wallpapers add texture and depth, and there’s a style to suit everyone. “We’ve definitely noticed a shift in interiors tastes and trends in recent years, with a move towards heritage designs centred around florals and nature,” says Nina Tarnowski, founder & designer for Woodchip & Magnolia.
“Period-style dramas like Bridgerton and The Crown have fuelled a resurgence in vintage styles, while trends like Cottagecore, a comforting blend of nostalgia and nature, have also soared in popularity.
“For an understated approach to the chintz trend, try introducing a statement wallpaper across all four walls in a calming hue, creamy whites or pale pinks work well and off set against brighter accessories for a pop of colour,” suggests Tarnowski. “If wallpaper across all four walls feels slightly daunting, wallpaper the lower half of the walls and paint the upper half or you could go for a full-on Eighties revival and opt for wallpaper borders instead!”
Lorene Armchair – Rosewater, £839, (£713 Soho Home members), Soho Home
For a bolder take on chintz, try working striking floral fabrics into your wallpaper scheme. “Choose a complementary pattern and upholster an accent chair or statement sofa in your living room, or if you’re decorating a smaller room, install a patterned roman blind or pair of curtains.
“For an old-meets-new scheme, use contrasting vintage inspired floral wallpaper, with a modern abstract pattern across your upholstery,” says Tarnowski.
Hampi Mint Cushion, £85, Tatie Lou
Beyond the flounce-filled heyday of the Eighties, Tarnowski says she’s noticed a shift in tastes and colour palettes, with the new generation of chintz lovers not afraid to mix things up, such as powdery pinks pairing beautifully with masculine dark greens.
“Indeed – greens, blues and yellows are all on the rise, offering a blend of masculine and feminine that suits today’s gender-fluid generation,” she says.
Pavilion Gardens in Sage Green, £120 per roll, Woodchip & Magnolia
Ben Stokes, founder & interior designer for KAGU Interiors agrees: “Over the last year, interior tastes have shifted, with many homeowners shopping for vintage pieces or embracing retro trends with a modern twist – chintz being one of them.”
Delicate Bloom Lampshade, £180; Chelsea Table Lamp Base, £189, Mind The Gap
“To incorporate this trend into your home, choose accessories in clashing vintage pattern, it’s an understated take on chintz that will keep your overall scheme relatively modern.”
Stokes says rugs are a great place to start: “Use this as a base for your colour scheme and tie in additional patterns with the same colour palette, through cushions and lampshades.”
Garrat Dark Chestnut 4 Drawer Console Table by Laura Ashley, £575 (other pieces from a selection), Next
“Finish your scheme with rustic style furniture; an oversized chest or low coffee table will work in a living room setting, whilst a standing wardrobe or vintage clothes rail are great additions for the bedroom,” adds Stokes.
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