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Classic Update: Toile

Timeless toile keeps it current with surprising colors and patterns 

Written by Sally Finder Weepie

Toile de Jouy has been part of traditional decorating since cloth-dyeing ace Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf turned his printing press loose on cotton fabric near the banks of the Bièvre River in 1759. His groundbreaking technology—with copper plates that allowed for fine lines and light and shade effects—opened up a world of design possibilities that went far beyond the era’s ubiquitous florals and geometrics.

Photo: Brittany Ambridge
Schumacher “Shengyou Toile” linen/cotton fabric in Iris covers the wall. Sonder Living “Kelly Occasional Chair” through ABC Carpet & Home. Tom Dixon “Beat Floor Light” in brass. 

Celebrated artists turned out pastoral scenes that captured the imagination of decorators in Europe and Colonial America. Centuries later, those classic looks remain a design staple. But traditional patterns and shades of red, blue, green, or black on a white background are no longer the only toiles in town. Fresh twists have reinvigorated this old favorite.

“Les Buveurs Fluo” by Pierre Frey

“It’s so clever to take a classic and energize it with unexpected color. I’d love to use it on ceiling-to-floor draperies to enjoy the large pattern.” 
—Catherine Davin, Pittsburgh

“Best Coast” by Cavern

“I really like this lovely whimsical approach to toile. I would love to use it in a pool house or a summer/beach house filled with lots of sun and happy light.” 
—Katie Lydon, New York City 

“Mandarin Toile” by Stark

“The soft, pretty colors make this toile very easy to use. It would be perfect on a sofa or club chairs ina living room to add color and interest.”  
—Shelley Johnstone Paschke, Lake Forest, IL

“Pampa” by Pierre Frey

“I love this masculine take on toile. It would make a phenomenal backdrop for a butler’s pantry mixed with a high-gloss finish and aged hardware.”
—Betsy Berry, Charleston, SC

“Dara” by Manuel Canovas

“This toile has an endless amount of options for a color scheme to complement it. We’d use this on benches, pillows, chairs—the list goes on and on!” 
—Massucco Warner Miller, Los Angeles 

“Cloud Toile” by Timorous Beasties

“The best way to use toile is to cover everything with it—walls and upholstery—to transform pattern into texture. I would use this peaceful toile in a bedroom, sitting room, or study.” 
—Susan Ferrier (McAlpine), New York City