PATTERN PLAYFUL: REFASHIONING THE RESURGENCE OF PRINT MIXING (AND HOW TO APPROACH AT HOME)
Design is all about moments, and right now we’re in the midst of a metamorphosis. It started with the spring-summer 2022 fashion shows. From New York to London, Milan and Paris, designers were seen shedding sharp shoulders and moody hues in favour of candy-colored chiffons, patchwork florals and psychedelic knits. Sherbet-hued, watercolour prints were mixed with ombre fringe and colour-blocked fur at Fendi. Swirling paisley, kaleidoscope blooms and mandala embroideries were sent down the runway at Etro. And Chanel gave a nod to ’80s excess with vibrant tweed sets and trippy blouses that look like butterfly wings.
Top interior designers are sipping the electric Kool-Aid, too. “Maximalist design is having a real moment,” says Melinda Marquardt, the founder and creative director behind The Vale London’s luxury wallcoverings and upholstery fabrics. Marquardt, whose home base is in West Palm Beach, Fla., these days, has been closely following the resurgence of the trend. “Print mixing is nothing new. It’s as old as the ballrooms and bedchambers at the Palace of Versailles. But in 2022, new boundaries are being pushed and the applications are getting more creative.”
This year's Kips Bay Decorator Show House is a stellar example of the industry-wide shift toward no-holds-barred design. Room by room, twenty-four top designers from around the country descended on the chosen 1920s Mediterranean Revival estate to show off their interpretations of Floridian flare. Marquardt was in attendance at the unveiling, a by-invitation event held in March. "The Kips Bay Show House solidifies the fact that interior design is heading in a wonderfully exuberant, more opulent direction," says Marquardt. "There are commingling shades of citrus in the drawing room, cobalt blue butterflies and chinoiserie in the powder room, and seven-foot floral sculptures in the dining room. It's optimistic, joyful and refreshingly current—and an indicator that there's an unabashed playfulness sweeping across the industry that is remarkably immersive."
Interior designer Katherine Shenaman, principal of Katherine Shenaman Interiors in Palm Beach, echoes that sentiment. “Interior designers are getting more comfortable with experimentation, where histrionics and embellishment mark a definitive point of view,” says the Ballinger Award recipient who is best known for combining classic design with a modern sensibility. “With everything from architecture to fashion to politics, the pendulum swings rather widely. Design is no exception. We went through a minimalist and 'transitional' phase for so long, with monochromatic rooms and all-neutral interiors, that people are tired of being 'safe.' They want something new! But as we all know, nothing is ever really new. Everything cycles back after a period of time.”
When it comes to mixing and matching from the Vale’s collections, Marquardt is fearless. “We’ve styled the Lily Stripe wallpaper with our Kubb fabric for drapery and our Mighty Jungle print for the furniture upholstery. People tend to be surprised how well organic prints pair with abstract and cubic patterns, but it’s within these contrasts – strength and fragility, masculine and feminine – that harmony emerges.” If you’re anxious about incorporating vibrant colours at home, Marquardt assures that pattern matching works well with earth tones, too. “For example, our Autumn, Earth and Chestnut colourways are seamlessly interchangeable. At The Vale, our collections always include natural colour variations that appeal to more muted temperaments – and ground bolder punctuations of colour.”
For her projects, Shenaman always considers the long-end game as well the aesthetic. “We use a lot of high-quality and classically proportioned upholstery, for example, an English rollover arm sofa. It can be freshened up with a brightly coloured Bullion trim, or recovered easily in another 7-8 years as a client’s taste changes,” says Shenaman. “Someone once called me ‘vanilla on vanilla.’ I was initially taken aback, but I realised that I was, and am, comfortable in classic and more edited environments. That being said, I love the opportunity to play with big patterns and bold colours. It can be done in a chic and tasteful manner with the right amount of thought and creativity.”
The Vale’s latest collection, Sloane, boasts a soothing colour palette that ranges from a frothy cream to a deeply saturated ocean blue, and all of the prints are complementary by design. “From the whimsical hot air balloons depicted on the Bagan wallcovering to our Sagitta print that features peaked arrows on repeat, everything blends together quite freely,” says Marquardt, who is all in for the return to nonchalant elegance. “For the last two years, people have been afraid to clutter their minds with too many prints and patterns. But now, we’re experiencing this beautiful awakening as the fog of the pandemic lifts, where designers and homeowners are looking at bolder colour combinations and prints with an artist’s eye.”