Toile de jouy fabric originated in France in the 1760s. The original patterns usually depicted pastoral scenes; today there are many pattern choices and colors available. Here are dozens of ways to use toile to enliven a room, including decorating tips.
The French patterned cotton fabric known as toile de Jouy got its start in 1760 at a textile factory in the village of Jouy-en-Josas, southwest of Paris near Versailles. "Toile" simply means "cloth" in French, so that toile de Jouy literally means cloth of Jouy. But known more commonly by its shortened name, toile doesn't refer to just any cotton print from that region of France. Toile has a distinct look, even though it is available in a range of colors and patterns. The original 1760s patterns usually depicted pastoral scenes of the French countryside. Then more exotic Chinese themes became popular, as did famous moments from history. All were hand-drawn in a curvaceous style with fine detail that was then etched onto wood blocks and printed onto the fabric.
The red-on-crème toile that covers this guest bedroom's walls and accents its daybed as a skirt and neck-roll pillow incorporates hunting dogs into a leafy background, which repeats as a lattice grid to give the pattern a geometric order.
Tip: Take toile to the walls to create major character in a plain box bedroom, then repeat the pattern in tiny doses--on the neckrolls and bedskirt--to knit the space together.
By Candace Ord Manroe
Multi-colored toiles are the exception to the rule--toile, in its most recognizable form, is a single color on a cream background.
Tip: Select a multi-color toile when you want a fuller palette with more options for accent hues.
One of toile's charms is the sense of nostalgia evoked by the patterns.
Tip: This hot-air balloon toile is a good option for a dining room wall, with its neutral but tawny parchment background shot with blue and red.
This classic blue-on-crème toile represents the bucolic scenes of French people at work and at play in the 18th century.
Tip: Try slipping a blue-and-white toile into a room designed with blue-and-white geometric and floral fabrics to enrich the mix of patterns and add a soft note of whimsy.
Toile isn't just about nostalgia and whimsy. Used in the right coloration, in the right room, and in the right way, it can actually elevate a space's sophistication.
Tip: Used as a wall covering, a black-on-crème toile complements the elegance of a room's ebony floor and white woodwork. It completes the graphic effect of the contrasting neutrals, but with a slight, pleasing softening. This colorway's neutrality makes it an ideal candidate for public rooms such as the living and dining spaces.
As a celebration of light and air, sunrooms often impart a crispness of character. Toile, with its highly figured forms, may not seem too likely a companion for this clean room. But toile's presence becomes a plus when used with some restraint.
Tip: Leave the windows bare to bring in the sunroom's light, then upholster a comfy circle of seating in a single toile pattern. When it's not competing with the light and the views, toile adds elements of coziness and visual interest that make the sunroom more pleasing. To keep the look clean and not confusing, don't include any other patterns in the design.
A sophisticated kitchen pays homage to a European influence with toile-covered barstools that suggest the French countryside.
Tip: Consider toile as an upholstery choice for small accent pieces like barstools, when the goal is to make a subtle French statement.
To ensure that toile isn't too much of a good thing, choose your colorways wisely. This red-on-gray fabric keeps the decibels down, lending itself to use on the both the walls and a chair in an elegant living room.
When toile covers the walls, a break may feel good at the windows. This window treatment is especially effective because it repeats the subtle hues of the toile for visual continuity, but in a demure striped fabric that provides a respite from too much toile.
A pale blue-on-crème toile, on the other hand, is so easy on the eye that it doesn't feel like overkill to continue it at the windows. This toile drapery gains depth when lined in a checked fabric. The checks also are used as welting at both the top and bottom of the cornice.
Toile doesn't have to saturate a room for a design to succeed. Red-and-white toile curtain panels make a dramatic statement flowing from ceiling to floor, eliminating the need for even a single toile pillow. The toile curtains are integrated into the room through color, not pattern-the red throw, red table skirt, and red pillows.
Not all toiles are designed equally. This one features an unusually large amount of cream background, with the red figures and scenes lightly saturated.
Tip: A swinging-arm curtain rod provides a clever solution to draping a French door.
Toile's complex designs can visually crowd a room when displayed on every surface. A favorite for the bedroom, toile can be easily reined in by something as simple as choosing a neutral palette. Then feel free to slather it on everywhere.
Chinese patterns are a mainstay theme of toile fabrics. The pattern shown here becomes especially pretty with its birds and nests and leafy branches.
Tip: Choose a restful hue like this pale green to cover a bedroom's walls, and select a toile pattern with minimal density and more "air" to keep the bedroom feeling open.
Toile creates intimacy in a bedroom with soaring ceilings and abundant square footage when taken all the way to the beams and repeated on a bed canopy.
One of the biggest fashion trends in bedroom design is upholstered headboards. Introduce toile to the bedroom in a small dose by including it in this up-to-the-minute manner.
Another way to update a room designed with classic toile is to introduce a second pattern with more currency, such as the leopard rug in this bedroom.
Pleat toile as a bed skirt to introduce an elegant, more tailored finish to the well-dressed bed.
For a visual break from the monochromatic palette of a neutral-hued toile, add the same pattern in a different, brighter color as a small accent-like the toile coverlet and bathroom curtain added to this brown-on-cream toile bedroom.
Soften a bathroom's dressing area with toile-covered walls, and create privacy at the beautiful arched window with a pair of short, jaunty toile panels.
Toile often is stereotyped as a feminine fabric. For a more masculine feel, select a pattern in a dark tone that features a more active theme, like these horses.
In a vintage bathroom, cover a standard sink with a toile skirt to make a design statement.
When used as an accent like the pillow shown here, toile is an assured standout in a bright red bird motif. For the greatest impact, pop the warm pillow against a cool-colored backdrop, like the green-and-white-striped chair.
Think outside the box in all matters toile. These toile lanterns add just the right amount of unexpectedness to any interior.
Take your favorite toile pattern and reinvent it in paint to make a plain white cabinet a piece de resistance.
In a departure from toile's classic bucolic patterns, this fabric features city scenes.