Thursday, 8 October 2009

Patching things up

From The Sunday Times, September 20 2009 ©Dara Flynn

Every season, at least one dead trend is resurrected from the design graveyard, dusted down, jazzed up and resold as retro. Few of these revivals ever truly make it second time around. Fondue sets, Lladró figurines and dungarees spring to mind.

Sometimes, however, a design reincarnation is so well executed that we invite it in and let it stick around for a little longer. Soon, more designers catch a strain of the sentimentality bug and spread it about a bit. Before you know it, it’s officially a trend. The bigger design houses churn out their own versions until finally you awake one morning to find it in the Ikea catalogue. This year, that revival is patchwork.

Like it or not, mix-and-match pattern and print are back, and not in a down-home, Little House on the Prairie way. This is patchwork with the volume turned up high and the colour contrast set to maximum. Forget the pastel-hued quilt thrown over the back of the sofa. This season, it’s the sofa itself — or the chair or the table — that is patchwork, upholstered in hundreds of uniform squares featuring dozens of patterns and colours clashing and blending at random. The look calls for bravery, originality and a buyer’s ability to know when to stop — like all strong themes, it can be extremely effective if used correctly.

Unless you are a fan of the wrapping paper look, keep your statement piece of patchwork furniture away from bold printed wallpapers and fabrics such as curtains and blinds. The patchwork effect is loud — that’s half the point of it — so give it a wide berth and let it chatter away against a relatively neutral backdrop. The return of patchwork to interiors and furniture design may be partly explained by the economic climate. In times like these, people are attracted to the warmth and familiarity of handmade items and anything with an inherent history. The patchwork revival is the expression of a unconscious desire to return to our roots, back to the simpler things we cherished before we began measuring our worth by credit card debt, sleek leather sofas and new cars.

Squint Limited was one of the first to pioneer the return of the craft to domestic living rooms. Lisa Whatmough, its young founder, has been making patchwork sofas, dressers, chaises longues, headboards, arm chairs and accessories since 2005.

The fabrics used by Squint for its Heritage range include woven English damasks, as well as silver and gold satins, with Swarovski rose crystal and pearl detailing. The trims are from 18th and 19th century France with woven silver and gold thread.

Even the accessories range includes mirrors and lighting wrapped with Japanese ceremonial Kimono silks, embroidered and appliquéd with antique lavender glass beads. Sofas start at about ¤4,000 depending on the fabric chosen, while armchairs cost from ¤2,700. The bespoke range includes classic designer pieces such as the egg chair and chesterfield sofas. Each piece is unique, takes about 12 weeks to make by hand and can be shipped to Ireland.

Couch GB provides a similar service, but with a more uniform look, using Designers Guild fabric to upholster its antique furniture. The Baobab Tree, meanwhile, has been applying itself to the trend with a decent line of accessories, such as its luxury turquoise patchwork cushions (¤55) and monochrome drum lamp (¤185).

Patchwork is putting in an appearance at this year’s Tent London showcase (September 24 to 27), when The Quirico Company will show off the ten pieces of vintage furniture covered in antique fabrics by the Lebanese designers Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri of Bokja.

Just a few stalls away, Zoe Murphy, a funky young designer, will be showcasing her utterly original recycled interiors products, with a strong, fun use of the fabric patchwork effect on footstools, but also on wood furniture and wall decor, where the look is created using paints and other materials.

Indeed, patchwork has so confidently crossed the design threshold from country kitsch to urban cool that varieties of the trend are springing up everywhere. Amy Hunting, a Norwegian-born designer, has created Patchwork, a range of pared-back, raw furniture pieces using off-cuts and waste wood from factories. Fragments are glued together to form a wood patchwork effect by aligning the grain in alternate directions and pairing different shades of wood. These are eventually turned into lampshades, chairs and storage units.

Hunting’s project is a prototype for now, but it highlights that patchwork, as an appliqué, upholstery and building method does more than make us feel warm and cosy inside, but is also an innately green occupation.

On the high street, the availability of chic reincarnations of the patchwork trend has never been less, well, patchy. Ikea, needless to say, is in on the act. The company’s best-selling two-seat Klippan sofa (¤159) now comes with two new multi-coloured covers, Lappmon and Karrum (¤64) which, while not strictly patchworked, are the Swedish company’s low-cost nod at the trend.

For a slightly higher class of square, turn to Roche Bobois, the tasteful French designer store based in Beacon South Quarter in Dublin. Its Rythme sofa range featured a collage of plain and Missoni fabrics in bright, happy Autumnal colours. It costs ¤4,790 for a two-seater and ¤5,510 for the three-seater version. With sharp, modern appeal, it is as far from its Little House on the Prairie roots as patchwork can get.

1 comment:

  1. Happy to say that patching things are back. We can use again our sofa bed covers, curtains and bedsheets like those things.
    Jane Taylor
    vertical blinds in liverpool quick tips on selecting the right shape and styling your room


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