with Wallpaper By Jaima Brown (ARA)
all Toile Patterns.
the subtly elegant printing technique
that tells stories in engraving-like
detail, traveled a fascinating history
of its own to become the enduring
favorite of designers, decorators
and homeowners everywhere.
Toile, pronounced twal, is an abbreviation
of toile de Jouy. The name comes from
Jouy-en-Josas, France, where the first
plant to commercially produce this
type of printing was established in
1760. The initial toile was a monotone,
one-color print, rendered in intricate,
engraving-like detail on a white or
Typically, the images were scenes
that told a story. Drawings might
retell a myth about Roman gods, or
chronicle ships' sailing adventures,
or simply depict days in the life
of a French farming family.
The triumph of toile as today's decorative
darling is far from simple, however.
When Christopher-Philippe Oberkampf
opened a print shop in France in 1760,
reverse images for toile prints were
carved into wooden blocks. Ink was
applied to the blocks and then transferred
by hand to un-dyed cotton. Only the
rich and the royal, including Louis
XVI, could afford the results of this
Later, in a stunning example of industrial
espionage, Oberkampf discovered in
England the secrets of etching designs
onto a copper-plate roller. He and
his brothers wrote the directions
for this process on cotton percale
fabric, using an alum solution tinted
with red dye, and then dipped the
fabric in vinegar to render the writing
invisible until after they crossed
the Channel. By utilizing their stolen
information, the Oberkampfs significantly
expanded both their market and their
fame. Napoleon himself bestowed on
them the Legion of Honor.
Still later, in an unrelated but
ironic twist of fate, British troops
destroyed Oberkampf's factory in Jouy-en-Josas.
Brokenhearted, the printmaker died
Today, toile triumphs, but only
the engraving-like quality of the
printing method remains true to its
original. It is not uncommon for contemporary
toiles to be printed in more than
one color and appear on a colored
background. The themes now encompass
just about any subject that strikes
a wallpaper or fabric designer's fancy.
An exotic combination of parrots,
pineapples and palm fronds, for example,
grace a tropical pattern in the Vintage
Tuscany wallpaper and border collection
from S.A. Maxwell Co.'s LV Emmert
Studio. This theme enhances all design
styles, from contemporary to traditional,
and is especially well suited to today's
popular bamboo and Oriental furnishings.
It exemplifies toile's ease of use
in all settings.
A more traditional toile appears
in Winnetka, another collection from
L V Emmert. This features a classic
repeat of laurel leaves, each underscoring
etched renderings of a rooster and
other French country scenes. The slightly
crackled background adds the patina
In another toile, small birds flutter
among flower-bedecked boughs, all
in a blue and white pattern that looks
as if it were etched in ink on a rich,
cream-colored background. This is
a collection from Maxwell's Patricia
Kent Studio, and was based on a document
antique fabric pattern.
Because toile patterns can make
an elegant design statement all by
themselves or provide a unifying backdrop
for other patterns in a room, we include
at least one toile in many S.A. Maxwell
collections. On wallpaper, the simplicity
of images, rendered in the characteristic
etched form of a toile, brings pattern
to a wall without interfering with
other design elements.
From a distance, toiles first emerge
as a pleasing overall background design.
On closer look, as these subtle images
come into focus, they engage the onlooker
and become as interesting as an engraved
art print. Few other design techniques
can accomplish the dual role of creating
both an unobtrusive, elegantly discreet
setting for all of the objects and
furnishings in a room, and, at the
same time, lend distinctive, standalone
art to that interior.
Try on a toile by locating a retailer
that carries the Vintage Tuscany and
Winnetka collections from the L V
Emmert Studio division of S.A. Maxwell
Kenilworth from Maxwell's Patricia
Kent Studio. To find the retailer
nearest you, call 847-932-3700 or
visit www.samaxwell.com on the Internet.
Courtesy of ARA Content EDITORâ€™S NOTE:
Jaima Brown is director of design
for S.A. Maxwell Co.