In Full Bloom – The Return of Chintz

Pictures: the sitting room at Beaverbrook Hotel, House of Hackney  

Chintz was for many years shorthand for dated, overbearing taste.  But with the recent trend in craftsmanship and traditional designs, the floral pattern is back with a vengeance. The floral look doesn’t have to be frumpy – it can be bold, daring and very interesting indeed.

The name chintz comes from Sanskrit and means ‘coloured or spotted’, but today it is synonym for a floral cotton or linen fabric which has been glazed. Chintz was originally an import from India in the 17th century, but the mid-1800s, English mills were manufacturing the fabric on a large-scale, making it available to the middle classes. Over time, synthetic dyes replaced the original natural ones, and the designs become more westernised (and floral). The fabric became an indicator and symbol of wealth and refinement; the better chintz one could afford, the higher up the social ladder. In other words, the more chintz the better.

The decline of everything floral 

Chintz remained highly popular until the early 1990s when fashions changed. With the mass market embracing minimalistic designs, the glossy floral pattern no longer had a home. Indeed, the word itself became shorthand for frumpy, frilly and overbearing. Swedish furniture maker IKEA tapped into the sentiment and famously run an ad campaign in 1996 ‘Chuck out your chintz’.

The raise of maximalism 

In a world where minimalism is seen as a bit boring and devoid of personality, chintz has made a quiet return. Indeed, chintz can bring personality and warmth to a room and add a sense of nostalgia. But today’s designs are not the same as yesteryear.

In recent years, uber-cool House of Hackney have reinvented the chintz look, making the patterns bolder and bigger – and avoiding the twee factor. Their Dalston Rose is based on a classic English rose print, which has a subversive quality, making floral rebellious rather than the shrinking violet of the past.


Victoria & Albert Museum

Decorative Fair

The Guardian

House and Garden

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