Life Home & Garden

Friday 26 April 2019

In with the old...

Patterns, prints and motifs from bygone eras work well in contemporary homes, writes Kirstie McDermott, you just have to know how to use them

Pretty and decorative, this Transylvania Folk wallpaper, €150 per roll, is a perfect backdrop to a decorative home; mindthegap.com
Pretty and decorative, this Transylvania Folk wallpaper, €150 per roll, is a perfect backdrop to a decorative home; mindthegap.com
Candleholder, €33. We love the Marisol flower hair lady candleholder; wagreen.co.uk
Chair, €1,305. Subtle but just enough: the Kennett Chair; anthropologie.com
Planter, from €53. Interiors’ new queen: the Tole woven planter; matildagoad.com
Frida decoration, €13. No, you don’t have to wait until Christmas for this hand-embroidered Frida hanging lovely; iansnow.comspring
Mat, €20. Put it anywhere: the Carolyn Donnelly Eclectic Sahara Mat; dunnesstores.com

A few years ago, if you had asked most people if they'd heard of early 20th-Century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, outside of a knowing few, the recognition factor would have been low. Adding 'Eyebrows' as a clue might have helped.

But over the past few years Google Trends data has registered a steady upwards tick in global search interest in the artist.

Then last year, the V&A staged 'Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up', a massive, sell-out exhibition which ran between June and November and suddenly, it's a Fridaverse: everyone wants a piece of her signature naive folk-art style.

The love of all things Frida coincides with fashion's recent obsession with dark floral and animal print motifs (thanks, Gucci, Olivia Rubin and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi). Put it together with the move to modesty from full-coverage fashion brands like The Vampire's Wife and Batsheva and we're nicely prepped to translate a folksier feel into our interiors too.

For Roisin Lafferty, founder and managing director of Kingston Lafferty Design, it's all about the 360-degree view. "This is very fashion led," she confirms. "Often interior trends are led by fashion collections. There's a link between festival chic, nomadic travelling and adventuring as we enter the spring and summer months."

Kahlo herself was inspired by Mexican culture and its colours and symbols. And the same elements typify the folk art and design of global traditional cultures from the 18th and 19th centuries which are informing our decor tastes today. Think vintage Russian Matryoshkas, ikat and Hungarian floral patterns, chalky paint colours and hand-stencilling.

Lafferty agrees. "This trend is inspired by original blankets, rugs and embroidery details from bygone eras. Lots of original elements can be sourced online, in vintage and charity shops and flea markets."

Going direct to the original material is the thing to do to create an authentic look. "Avoid the newer items on the high street that reference this trend and instead opt for the original source," she says.

Pieces can be sculptural, functional or decorative - so, what should you buy? "Like all trends, I would advise treading with caution," Lafferty warns. "Trends are just that. I would encourage you to look at new trends and see if there are certain elements that really appeal to you. Part of the appeal of folk motifs are the textiles and natural materials that are usually associated with them," she points out.

That's a clue to look for rugs and wall hangings - things that will literally stick around in your decor. "This will mean there is more longevity from the pieces you do invest in," Lafferty says.

Prints and ceramics are another way to reference folk art in your home without it taking over - worth thinking about in smaller spaces. Online sources such as Etsy can be a godsend for both, as can eBay - provided you get your search parameters right.

  • Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of 'House and Home' magazine

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