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Chintz: The Print with Serious Staying Power

2nd August 2020

Love it or hate it, chintz has played an important role in design history, from rebellious fashion statements to being a classic interior staple. It has seen somewhat of a decline over the past decade, though current trends suggest it's experiencing the comeback it deserves.

We take a look at the fascinating history of chintz and its place in contemporary interior design…

The History of Chintz

The term chintz was originally used to refer to glazed calico fabrics, in particular those sourced from India. They typically featured elaborate botanical motifs printed onto a plain background.

Chintz fabric first appeared in 17th century India and were woodblock printed, painted or stained with the design. It was then used as bed covers, blankets and curtains. 

Chintz soon made its way into Europe via Dutch merchants. It eventually became so popular that by 1680, more than a million pieces were being brought to England every year.

The influx was such that both France and England began to view the imports as a threat to their local mills. This was because they could not produce the fabric. As a result, a ban was placed on the wearing and use of all chintz textiles. Not everyone obeyed this law however, notoriously the Court of Versailles saw fashionable young courtiers continue to wear chintz garments.

Vintage Chintz Fabric

Chintz (India), 18th century.

Chintzy

Jacket in chintz, 1750-1800, skirt               in wool damask.

Floral Chintz Fabric

Seventies bedroom decorated with chintz.

By the mid-18th century, the details of how to manufacture chintz had reached European mills. The ban was therefore lifted. As the years went by, the western world began producing its own versions, experimenting with different colours and floral chintz patterns.

They applied these to a variety of fabrics as well as wallpaper, crockery and other items. Nowadays, the word chintz is more commonly used to describe the pattern itself, rather than the original fabric.

Chuck Out Your Chintz

Despite its fascinating history, chintz has acquired a bad reputation in recent decades. In 1996, Swedish furniture retailer Ikea launched a campaign urging British homeowners to, 'chuck out your chintz'. This was a bid to get the UK market interested in their flat-pack furniture and modern approach to design.

Despite being disliked by traditionalists, the campaign was a huge success. Many people turned their backs on the flowery interiors that chintz epitomised which were now considered fussy and old-fashioned.

What followed was an era of minimalist design, favouring simple furniture styles, neutral colours, and graphic patterns used sparingly. There was no place for chintz in this new age, and as no one bothered to upgrade it, it fell by the wayside. It was seemingly destined for a life confined to historic manor houses and stuffy tea rooms. 

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The name ‘chintz’ (plural of ‘chint’) is derived from the Sanskrit word chitra, meaning

A Chintz Revival?

There is some hope for chintz-devotees however, as recent trends within the design world show a move away from minimalist design. Instead they favour a return to using colour and pattern in abundance. This has been dubbed 'Maximalism'. 

Chintz Fashion

Fashion houses in particular seem to be championing chintz, with it even being touted as a key trend for Autumn/Winter 2018. Many labels have placed these climbing florals at the centre of their recent collections. This trend has spanned catwalks from Erdem to House of Holland. It has also been seen from high street retailers such as Topshop and Zara.

H&M's recent collaboration with GP & J Baker includes a number of prints from the Baker archive re-imagined as a range of stylish separates. This proves that these vintage florals have a very important place in modern design. 

Chintzy

Chintzy Interior Design

Within interiors, we’re seeing chintz-like designs appear in more and more fabric and wallpaper collections. Design houses are helping to banish preconceived notions by producing beautiful patterns.

There has also been a move to more accurately represent the original Indian designs. This has been championed by emerging brands such as House of Hackney, Liberty Art Fabrics and Timorous Beasties. Their maximalist approaches to decorating present chintz as a usable pattern for both modern and traditional interior styles. Moreover, as one which can be applied in a fun and daring way.

This has proved an instant hit with the younger market looking to create bold interiors that still maintain that fashionable edge.

Some of Our Favourite Chintz Designs…

Do you harbour a secret love for this statement floral? Why not take a look at some of our favourite designs and embrace the un-chucking of chintz today…


 

Image credits: Header image and Chintz (India), 18th century - Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Jacket in chintz, skirt in wool damask 1750-1800 - Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be. Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons | 1970’s chintz bedroom - ‘Chintz Explosion’ by Bill Bradford, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Please note: Prices correct at time of writing but may be subject to change.

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