Tag Archives: velvet

Tricia Guild: Colour Deconstructed

Day one of the Meet the Blogger conference that I recently attended wrapped up with an exciting visit to the Designers Guild showroom in Amsterdam. Entering the showroom was like stepping into Aladdin’s treasure room. The furnishings, textiles, wallpapers and accessories were a colourful treat for my eyes. After a long, yet enjoyable day, I immediately felt my energy-level perking up. The prosecco and nibblies, so generously offered by the agency’s employees, added a much-needed pick-me-up too. Thank you!

Pink Orange Mauve Grey

Top: L) Orsoglio Fuchsia cushion, Monceaux Saffron throw. R) Caviglia Fuchsia fabric. Bottom: L) a macro view of Zambelli Damson fabric R) Regent Ivory cushion, Stothard Teal and Alexandra Amethyst fabrics from the Royal Collection

There were a number of colour stories displayed at the showroom. They included shades of blue; emerald green mixed with accents of fuchsia and bright yellow; and a classic combination of black, grey and ivory. I am sharing a few of my favourites with you.

This “living room” beckoned me to sit and stay awhile. The graphic stripes and bold floral accessories bring energy to the relaxing warm-grey, muted-green and soft-purple colour scheme. Do you like the burst of mustard yellow on the one cushion? I think that it adds a nice bit of zing.

Tricia Guild Colour Deconstructed

Top: Cushions from L: Caviglia Moss, Astrakhan Noir, Padua Noir, Alesandria Amethyst. Bottom: L-Roncioni Moss Velvet Fabric on Chair Back; R-Padua Amethyst Cushion

One of my favourite textiles from the new Designers Guild collection is the ‘Roncioni‘ velvet in Moss. It’s the fabric seen on the back of the custom ‘Julep’ chair in the above left photo. The seat is in ‘Cheviot,’ a felt. This yin and yang mix of colours, textures, a solid and a pattern is one of the things Tricia Guild and her team at Designers Guild do so well.

Of particular interest to me is the company’s use of new technologies. I appreciate things made-by-hand and the artists, artisans and craftspeople who make them. At the same time, I think that digital technology can add to the creative process. Tricia Guild mentioned that all Designer Guild digitally printed patterns start as hand-painted designs. The Kashgar, Alexandria and Patio patterns shown below in the “blues” grouping are digital prints; a dynamic combination of the artists’ skills and cutting-edge production techniques.

Designers Guild Tricia Guild Colour Deconstructed

Top: Kashgar Cobalt Cushion, Alexandria Lapis Wallpaper. Bottom: L) Designers Guild Savine Cobalt Wallpaper, R) Patio Pattern from Christian Lacroix Carnets Andalous Wallpapers Collection for Designers Guild

My reaction to the colour combinations presented in the showroom reminded me of a statement Tricia Guild made earlier in the day during the conference:

“Colour makes the heart sing, touches the soul and gives joy to the spirit. Searching for this special feeling is my life’s passion.”

Indeed, colour has a transformative effect on our psyche. Yellows can excite or agitate (perhaps read my earlier post about Van Gogh’s love of yellow). Neutrals can soothe or bore. The secret is finding the right mix of colour, pattern and texture. Interior design books such as Tricia Guild’s latest,”Colour Deconstructed,” help us to find what works best for our unique personalities and spaces.

As part of the showroom event, Tricia Guild was on hand to personalize copies of her new book. Meeting Tricia Guild in person was a great experience for me. I admire her work and adore the Designers Guild line. Well-known for her impeccable sense of design and style, Tricia Guild is also a savvy business woman.

I purchased a copy of “Colour Deconstructed” (or in my case, “Kleur Ontrafeld,” no, I don’t read Dutch, although perhaps I will one day) at the event and am quite enjoying it.

To start, the book is beautifully constructed. I appreciate the attention to detail Tricia Guild gives to her books. This one has a colourfully stitched binding and brightly edged pages. So far, I’ve taken note of three different cover photos. The English-language version features indigo shibori; the German, a blue floral; and the Dutch, a red and blue floral, with touches of orange. Isn’t the ombré end-paper fabulous? It has the look of the Guild’s ‘saraille’ wallpaper.Colour Deconstructed Tricia GuildTricia Guild fills “Colour Deconstructed” with design inspiration and insights. Our responses to the different environments and images presented in the book offer clues as to the design elements that we would most enjoy having in our own homes.

We see how a few special touches create that “wow” factor. The interior layouts mix contemporary with classic, botanicals with stripes and concrete with linen. Tricia Guild skillfully combines colour, pattern and texture in a way that suits the space; merging her clients’ preferences with her unique style.

Perhaps best known bright palettes and bold patterns, Tricia Guild balances these elements with neutrals and solids. Here are some snippets from inside “Colour Deconstructed.”Colour Deconstructed BlackTricia Guild Colour Deconstructed BlueColour Deconstructed Tricia Guild BlueTricia Guild Colour Deconstructed Turquoise and Pale GreenColour Deconstructed WhiteIsn’t the photography in the book stunning? James Merrell is the photographer.

Colour Deconstructed Tricia Guild Texture Photo

The text translates as: texture, plaster, driftwood (according to google translate “wrakhout” is wood wreck, google image showed driftwood, a picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case, a better translation), marble, stone, decayed, glory and patina.

Inspired by book, I put together a photo collage for a home decor project that I’m contemplating. A bit of reverse engineering since I already have the textiles and searched through my photo files for shots that tell the story of the fabrics. Colour Desconstructed CollageThe purple-blue and white colours of the Passiflora caerulea or Blue Passion Flower are symbolic of heaven and purity. Poetic stucco and iron-work are sharply contrasted by the geometric lines of the shutters and shadows. A glorious rainbow cuts across a soft, yet stormy spring sky and a patch of sunlit landscape beckons us. The luxurious bolts of velvet are Designers Guild’s Varese, a wonderfully thick cotton velvet with a luxuriously dense nap. I’ll be combining the velvets with the vintage Japanese silk textile to create something (undecided what that something will be – suggestions?). In Japanese culture, the crane is symbolic of longevity and good fortune. The flowing water reminds us that life is fluid and ever-changing.

It was fun putting the collage together. I hope you create one (or a dozen) too. After all, the premise of this blog is to explore the world and bring beauty home in a way that is meaningful to you.

Additional Blog Recommendations:

Here are a few more posts about Tricia Guild and “Colour Deconstructed” that I think you’ll enjoy:

  • Stepping it Up (elliecashmandesign.com) Ellie Cashman, wrote her blog post before attending the Meet the Bloggers Amsterdam event. I came across her gorgeous moody large-scale floral wallpaper design on Pinterest months before meeting her.
  • DESIGNERS GUILD…(mademoisellepoirot.com) Carole Poirot is a gifted writer and photographer who also attended Meet the Blogger. Her passion for all things related to interiors, cuisine and craft is beautifully reflected in her blog.
  • Book Review: Colour Deconstructed by Tricia Guild (starrybluesky.com) Rhiannon Connelly is a talented photographic artist and entrepreneur. Her background is in textile design. Before focusing on photography, she created hand-painted textiles carried by Liberty of London among others.

Lusting After Venetian Velvet

Silk velvet, the ultimate luxury textile, arrived in Venice via the Silk Route traders during the 13th century. By the 15th century, Venetian guilds were the global masters of velvet production.

Silk Velvet Italian early 15th c. Photo: Vrangtate Brun

Silk Velvet Italian early 15th c. Photo: Vrangtate Brun

Venice Palazzo Sagredo Bedroom

Bedroom from the Palazzo Sedgrado on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Photo: Matthew Thompson

The guilds operated under strict quality controls. The regulations went so far as to require inferior production to be burned. Given it took days to hand-loom a few centimetres of velvet, the economic implications of poor quality output could be devastating to a producer. Each area of silk velvet production became highly specialized, from sericulture through marketing, with apprenticeships lasting 7-8 years.

Competition to create the best textiles was fierce.  Companies developed proprietary dyeing and weaving methods, making the production environment ripe for espionage. To guard against trade-secrets getting out, craftspeople couldn’t readily move from one employer to another.

Venice’s silk velvet was highly desired by wealthy Venetians and throughout Europe during the Renaissance period. In paintings by the Venetian artists, such as those by Tiziano Vecelli (better known as Titian), you can see exquisite renderings of velvet gowns, robes, furnishings, coverlets and wall hangings.

Titian Portraits of Lavinia and Jacopo Soranso

Portraits of Lavinia (1561) and Jacopo Soranso (1550) by Titian.

The demand for velvet was driven by more than its sumptuous beauty. Velvet became a status symbol. Newly wealthy commoners sought to upstage less well-to-do nobles by draping themselves and their homes in velvet textiles. This rich display of luxury goods was intended to blur the the lines of class distinction between commoners and the aristocracy.

In their quest to maintain lavish lifestyles, people became heavily indebted, often to the point of bankruptcy. The increased rates of insolvency severely reduced the tax coffers. In response, Venetian legislators enacted sumptuary laws, restricting the use of velvet and other luxury goods. Under these laws, the right to wear clothing made from velvet was limited to high-ranking Venetian nobles. Restrictions even dictated that only plain velvet could be used in upholstery. The laws were moderately successful. Those who could afford to pay the high tax levies for disobeying the regulations did so rather than forgo the banned luxuries.

Globally, few companies produce pure silk velvet today. Silk backings are often used with less expensive rayon or viscose pile, making the material accessible to a greater market. High-end, highly durable velvet is also available in mohair and linen fabrications, sometimes blended with silk.

Velveteen, velvet’s poor cousin, offers better durability than velvet due to its shorter nap. However, lacks velvet’s sumptuous drape and texture. Velveteen is produced in a wide-range of colours and designs. The print used on the Lee Jofa velveteen shown below, is reminiscent of woven Renaissance silk velvet patterns.

Lee Jofa Textile

Modern Lee Jofa Printed Cotton Velveteen Textile.

Established in Venice in 1875,  Luigi Bevilacqua currently produces luxurious silk velvets for interior applications. Skilled craftspeople still operate the hand-looms dating from the 17th and 18th century. The company is also known for their beautiful brocades, satins, damasks, lampasses and trimmings.

Hand-looming textiles is a labour intensive process. Luigi Bevilacqua produces only a few hundred meters of the hand-loomed fabric annually. Since the 1930’s, the bulk of their textile manufacturing is done using mechanical technology. Whether hand or machine-loomed, the fabrics created are based on selections from Luigi Bevilacqua’s exclusive library of 3,500 designs, using only the finest quality dyes and threads. One of their hand-loomed velvets is the fabulous Tagliato Tigre, having a pure-silk pile and a 50/50 linen and silk ground.


Photo Source: luxurymadeinvenice.it

Another name associated with velvet and Venice is Mariano Fortuny. Originally from Granada, Spain, Fortuny relocated to Venice as a child in 1889. By his early thirties, Fortuny was well-recognized for his creative and innovative talents. Among them were painting, photography, stage lighting and theatre design. Today, he is probably best remembered for his forays into textiles and fashion. Assisted by his Parisian wife, Henriette Negrin, Fortuny designed and created the uniquely pleated silk dresses known as Delphos gowns. He also created fabulous hand-printed silk velvet evening coats.

In 1927 New York interior designer, Elsie McNeill Lee, saw Fortuny’s dress and coat fabrics in a Paris museum. She decided they would be perfect for use in interiors. Working with Fortuny to expand his line, Elsie McNeill Lee was instrumental in bringing his fabrics to the United States. Her business savvy also saved the company from receivership during the Depression.

Shown below is an example of one of his early fabrics for interiors. He based the design on a woven 16th century Italian textile and printed it in gold and silver. Eventually, due to cost, Fortuny opted to only use cotton as the base for his furnishing textiles.

Fortuny Velvet

Photos via: (clockwise from top L) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, V&A Museum, 1st Dibs

Sadly, like the Fortuny Delphos dresses, the evening coats can only be acquired today at auction or through vintage resellers, if at all. Wouldn’t the patterns Fortuny used for the splendid silk-velvet evening coat (circa 1930) and purse be wonderful for an interior application?

Mariano Fortuny, looked to the past for his design inspirations. However, his printing techniques were innovative. Using purchased plain off-white fabrics, vegetable-based dyes and a little alchemy based on his knowledge of photographic processing, Fortuny developed uniquely printed textiles. The patterns were created by layering hand-blocked stencils with hand-painting and were often highlighted with gold and silver. For this work, he became known as the “Magician of Venice.”

Today, the Fortuny product line, under the leadership of the Riad family, includes furniture, tableware, mosaic tiles and notebooks. As in Mariano Fortuny’s day, the company prints upholstery fabrics using secret techniques and no two lengths are exactly the same.

One modern-day textile designer, Mirella Spinella, hand-prints velvet fabrics in her Venice studio. With a background in painting and set design, she taught herself how to create beautiful printed velvet textiles. Given the secretive nature of the industry, Mirella Spinella researched old craft treaties and then experimented with pigments and mordants.

Working with stencils and woodblocks, she meticulously hand-prints her designs on white velvet. Mirella Spinella’s patterns have historical references to Venice. However, she adds a unique bold, theatrical flair, creating fresh interpretations that fit in well with today’s preferences for eclectic fashion and interior design. Shown below are two patterns from her on-line catalogue, ‘Chinese Flowers’ and ‘Hunting Lion.’

Chinese Flowers

Chinese Flowers. Photo Source: mirellaspinella.com

Hunting Lion. Photo Source: mirellaspinella.com

Hunting Lion. Photo Source: mirellaspinella.com



Brown, Patricia Fortini. “Behind the Walls: The Material Culture of Venetian Elites.” Venice Reconsidered: The History and Civilization of an Italian City-State, 1294-1797. John Jeffries Martin & Denis Romano, Eds. JHU Press, 2002. 295 – 338.

Coleman, Brian D. Fortuny Interiors. Gibbs Smith, 2012.

Facelle, Amande E. “Down to the Last Stitch: Sumptuary Law and Conspicuous Consumption in Rennaisance Italy.” April 2009. http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1333&context=etd_hon_theses

Gregorin, Cristina. “Velvet, Damask and Brocade. The Luigi Bevilacqua Silk-Weaving Mill.” Venice Master Artisans. Grafiche Vianello srl, 2003. 38-45.

Watt, Melinda. “Renaissance Velvet Textiles“. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/velv/hd_velv.htm (August 2011)