Timorous Beasties

It’s #tbt (aka Throwback Thursday’) and today we are focused on another interior design-related throwback that is making a comeback.

toile: noun, \ˈtwäl\: an 18th century French scenic pattern usually printed on cotton, linen, or silk in one color on a light ground

Toile experienced huge popularity in the 90′s and today we’ve got some fresh takes on this trending classic pattern. So, what is fresh and new about toile, you ask?

Color & Subject Matter

We love the departure from the traditional French Country hues. Toiles are appearing in trending colors, like this pattern from Schumacher’s new 125th Anniversary Collection:

Shengyou Toile

(F. Schumacher Shengyou Toile, color: Iris)

Love the color combos of these prints from Manuel Canovas:

manuel canovas

Manuel Canovas, Bengale, color: Paprika, Lutece, color: TaupeTortuga, color: Safran

…and we are seeing more contemporary subject matter, done in the style of the classics. For example,  these patterns from Timorous Beasties depict modern city life; one scene in the London Toile depicts a mugging.  (These definitely aren’t your grandma’s toiles!)


Timorous Beasties Edinburgh Toile, London Toile, New York Toile

Here’s a great Brooklyn-themed toile designed by Mike D from the Beastie Boys, along with creative agency Revolver, for his home in the Cobble Hill section. It depicts a variety of local sights including spray-painted subway cars and Coney Island imagery:

brooklyn toile

Flavor Paper, Brooklyn Toile, color: Diamond Red

This toile designed by Anne Hubert features whimsical, contemporary subject matter and has a ‘doodled’ quality:


La Cerise sur le Gâteau pillow

Toile Inspired

We are also seeing toile interpreted in a more graphic manner. This fabric by F. Schumacher is a good example – the pattern detail is knocked out, leaving the negative space as the design.


F. Schumacher, Shantung Silhouette Print, color: Smoke

While not a traditional toile, this brand new Thibaut pattern is definitely toile-inspired:


 Thibaut Wood Blocks, Navy

This London Skyline wallcovering, also toile-inspired, has the feel of an old-school blueprint:

Graduate Collection

(Graduate Collection, Laura Bohan, London Skyline Night wallcovering)

End Use

While there are still plenty of traditional toile patterns, a great way to freshen them up is to mix them with more graphic prints, like fretwork linens, contemporary geometrics or graphic upholstery textures. We love the clean lines of the bed linens and furniture in this bedroom:

with fretwork bedding

 (image source)

This living room has very traditional roots but the cool gray color palette and clean furniture lines make the classic toile look contemporary:

grey toile lr

(image source

Here is a sofa by Ercol with cushions in a Timorous Beasties urban-themed toile:

toile city sofa

(image source) 

And for you design nerds out there…did you know there is an entire museum devoted just to toile? toile museum

Yes, it’s in France; the Musee de Toile de Jouy, in Jouy-en-Josas (the birthplace of toile!) With over 5000 items, you can explore the history, uses and design and manufacturing techniques of the classic fabric.