Floral prints in the home are hit or miss: At best, they are the perfect complement to the color palette in a room. At worst, they can conjure images of shawl-draped little old ladies setting teacups on doilies.
But florals have made a comeback, and today’s best prints do not date homes. They’re fresh and modern but retain nature-inspired charm.
“I know people are a little hesitant because they’re thinking of grandma’s flowers and they’re not sure where to use them. But you really should open your mind and see what’s out there because what’s out there is really different,” says Renae Ahrens, managing director for Creation Baumann U.S.A. The upscale Swiss fabric maker has a new collection, “Silent Garden,” in which florals are prominent.
Cristin Bisbee Priest, an interior designer based outside San Francisco, says floral patterns didn’t go out of fashion, but their style and display has evolved.
“The head-to-toe saturation that some of the older generation grew up with may be a bit much for most people, but I do see a resurgence, even in wallpaper,” she says.
Among the unexpected places florals again are popping up are kitchen and bath fixtures, rugs and doorknobs.
One display that never really went out of style is drawings of botanicals in artwork, designer Priest says.
“Drawings are a great way to add a floral presence in a subtle way, and it’s timeless,” she says.
Plus, they don’t have to be expensive.
“You can get a botanical book and make color photocopies and frame those, or frame postcards,” Priest says.
Interior designer Betty Lou Phillips is the owner of Interiors by BLP in Dallas. She says today’s floral patterns have an edgier look than the stereotypical English garden scenes most people imagine.
“The palette is a little bit softer than the frumpy realistic colors that we used to see, and the depictions are more stylized, more harmonious,” Phillips says. “They might be overscale; they might be asymmetrical. Maybe a flower applique on the back of a chair that’s a little bit to the left or the right.”
To keep from overwhelming a room, mix floral prints with solids or other patterns, such as stripes, Phillips suggests. Even men can flirt with the garden look, depending on the color and the type of graphic.
“Some of the Asian floral prints are a little more masculine,” she says.
A small piece as an accent – a throw or pillow, for instance – can give a plain room some pizzazz, Ahrens says.
“Think of fashion, where you’re wearing a solid black outfit, but then you add a patterned scarf,” she says. “It really gives it that ‘wow’ look, and you can make a room pop the same way.”
But Ahrens likes big statements, too, such as floral curtains and sofas.
“Just think of how you feel when you’re outside sitting in a garden,” she says. “The light, the colors, the smell; it changes your whole mood. Why not feel like that in your home? … We all need some color, something bold in our lives to cheer us up.”
There’s a practical consideration, too, Ahrens says. “Patterns are a lot more forgiving. A footprint or a child’s grape juice – just, you know, life – it doesn’t stand out as much.”