Paige Minear loves frills.
At the style blogger’s Atlanta home, a ruffled skirt with a green bow print adorns a bedroom vanity. In the family room is a chintz ottoman with a ruffle at the bottom; ruffled cushions rest on the armchairs.
“I think the ruffles just add that edge,” said Ms Minear, 52. “That little bit of fantasy.”
You could call it a comeback: ruffles and their close cousin chintz — the often shiny floral fabric with a shiny finish — are making a comeback, partly in rebellion against the minimalist aesthetic that has dominated interior design for so long.
Anna Marcum, an architectural historian and curator in Brooklyn, laments the recent “gray wash” of interiors paired with modern minimalist decor. “There’s nothing about that kind of monochromatic gray that brings people joy, in a way,” she said. “There’s a lot more joy and interest to be found in a more maximal interior.”
Those looking for so much joy and interest need look no further than ruffled pillows from new brand Shabby Chic and frilly linen towels from British interior brand Amuse La Bouche. Ditto shower curtains at Perigold and duvet covers at Serena & Lily.
Where there is a frill, there is probably chintz.
The sight of a chintz-covered room with ruffled embellishments might conjure up flashbacks to ’80s excesses. Whether it’s the high-end maximalist approach of designer Mario Buatta, also known as “Prince of Chintz”, or Laura Ashley’s cozy cottage style, ruffles played a prominent role in the English country-inspired aesthetic of the era.
In the ’80s, “everything was cut, and the ruffle was a cut shape,” said Susan Crater, president of Sister Parish Design, a wallpaper and fabric company in New York City. Mrs. Parish, Mrs. Crater’s grandmother, began decorating during the Depression and had high society clients in the 1970s and 1980s. She was known to take, say, rose and peony patterned chintz fabric, and use it to make curtains and chair coverings for the same room. Ruffles were often thrown into the mix.
Eliza Harris, Creative Director of Sister Parish Design (and Ms. Parish’s great-granddaughter) said: “When you add a ruffle to a curtain panel or a ruffle to a bed skirt, you can separate the fabric and use whatever you want. and apply it in an interesting way.
For Ms Harris, chintz, which originated in India as a hand-painted fabric and became popular in Victorian England when it became mass-produced, represents ‘the anti-trend’. “It’s something that’s just been tried and true,” she said. Whenever she sees designs from a traditional brand like Colefax and Fowler, “I instantly feel comfortable and at ease.”
How ruffles made their way to America
When Mrs. Marcum thinks of ruffles, she is inspired by the French Rococo period which began roughly in the early 1700s and lasted until the 1770s. Ruffles did not necessarily adorn curtains and shams of the era, but the era was known for using natural elements like flowers and seashells in an ornamental and bright way and dresses of the era featured ruffles. (See: A Marie Antoinette).
English country style was influenced by French Rococo, Ms. Marcum said, and the English aesthetic inspired much of the ruffled decor in the United States. “Something that I think the English country style does is kind of bring it down to a more approachable and natural level,” Ms Marcum said. “It makes it a lot more romantic.”
Ruffles were most popular in the United States during the Golden Age and the 1980s, Ms. Marcum said, and the common thread between those periods is the increased wealth gap associated with the two eras.
“It’s interesting how this excess has spoken to them,” Ms. Marcum said, referring to upper-middle-class American consumers. “But also, it was when the excess was in some ways more easily accessible to the general population. In the Victorian era, for example, people could order chenille and ruffled draperies from catalogs.
“Some Kind of Shock”
Ruffles win over even the reluctant to ruffles. Atlanta interior designer Nina Long grew up with a Laura Ashley bedroom. “I had the matching wallpaper and the curtains and bedskirt had ruffles on it.” Like so many others, she then avoided those bed skirts for a while, but “now I love them again.”
Today, Ms. Long and her design partner, Don Easterling, have found that the 30-plus kids of their longtime clients are asking for the traditional style they grew up with.
“They want the ruffles. They want mixed mahogany pieces. They want antique art,” Ms. Long said. “At one point it was a shock to me, and now I’m kind of used to it. I love the style myself, so it was fun to be able to do this for other people.
While nostalgia may be a factor for many, some are more recently initiated steering wheel fans.
Keila Tirado-Leist, 37, did not grow up in a home steeped in chintz. Instead, her childhood was spent in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where her home aesthetic mirrored the setting.
Ms. Tirado-Leist now lives outside Milwaukee on a five-acre farm. Her home is colonial in style, and its historic nature inspired Mrs. Tirado-Leist, who owns a natural dye business, to lean into a traditional decorating style. Pandemic-related delays have made it difficult to source new furniture, which has brought her to estate sales and vintage boutiques.
“There were lots of beanbags or sofas and floral and chintz pillows, and I feel like it’s a fun way to add color and softness to a room,” she said. said Ms. Tirado-Leist. The centerpiece of her home library is a chintzy ottoman with a pink, cream and green print filled with a ruffle along the bottom.
“I don’t see a lot of people who look like me styling houses like that, because it’s kind of considered old Americana,” she said. She felt it was important to incorporate her heritage into her decor by using cheerful yellows, golds and greens.
Much like the style itself, the popularity of ruffles has rippled over the decades. But for people like Andrea Bernstein, the founder of Linen Salvage and Co in Los Angeles, they’re a permanent fixture. Ms. Bernstein has long had an affinity for a soft, romantic style and creates products like the square ruffled pillow in tattered silk velvet and ruffled silk velvet throws.
“I think like any trend, it will probably die out eventually,” Ms. Bernstein said. “And we will continue to make ruffled bedding.”