More is more: deck out your home with all the trimmings
For nearly 20 years, Samuel & Sons has been reinventing passementerie. (For those not in the know, that is the formal name for the trims and tassels that supply those decorative finishing touches to soft furnishings.) To do this, the company turned to unusual materials and innovative techniques not seen before in the industry, such as strongly structured origami-like pleated tapes, oversized pom-poms or intricate laser-cut patterns on thick borders.
A new generation of designers, for whom passementerie seemed deeply old-fashioned, all about heavy tie-backs and thick bullion fringing, started to use these trimmings in their contemporary designs. It was a breath of fresh air.
“Suddenly, we’re seeing a big demand for bullion, skirt and tassel fringes. And who’s using it? It’s not the older generation who already saw it come and go in the Eighties. It’s the young designers,” says Michael Cohen, Samuel & Sons’ president.
The fringe is back. On your sofa, your curtain pel- mets, your cushions and even your lighting and mirrors. For that matter, trimmings in general are a strong feature of the trend for “more is more” decorating: why have a plain cushion when it can have a pom-pom border, some contrast piping or ruffly edging?
This is all good news for Samuel & Sons, which is now able to straddle two design camps: those who love a crisp contemporary look, but still want a bit of texture and decorative interest, and those who want something more opulent, such as curtain pelmets edged in rope trim. “In a contemporary interior, it just feels so unexpected, new and exciting,” says Cohen. “I think we’re just at the beginning of the fringe coming back.”
The company’s latest collections include the playful Cirque, which features candy-coloured pompom trim and a simple cream linen border with floral embroidery, and Matelassé, a range of quilted and embroidered wide borders in graphic patterns such as hexagons and chain-links, which are more classical and sophisticated.
Cohen partly attributes the resurgence of trimmings to influential hotel design, and two hotel groups in particular: Soho House and Firmdale Hotels. They pay their respects to a traditional look while bringing in lots of pattern and colour, contemporary art and a really sumptuous approach to soft furnishings.
Samuel & Sons recently also supplied its products to the Annabel’s members’ club on London’s Berkeley Square, where interior designer Martin Brudnizki has created a fantastical wonderland of over-the-top design. Trimmings edge huge mirrors and wrap around chair legs, as well as being used on every plump cushion, on curtains and tie-backs, and even on the hooves, saddle and bridle of the rearing Pegasus sculpture at the foot of the Georgian staircase.
Lucy Barlow of interior design firm Barlow & Barlow is one of those youthful designers embracing trimmings with a passion. “I’m a lover of the English country-house look, and if you study those rooms, everything will have a trimmed finish,” she says. Her style takes those tropes and makes them modern and accessible. She’ll use the age-old technique of trimming the junctions of walls and ceilings with rope braid, but the walls will be a cool graphic palm-tree print, for example.
“We love to incorporate trimmings into joinery such as wardrobes,” she continues. “The builder makes them in MDF in a simple Shaker style, then we put a fabric or wallpaper on the inset of the door, and then glue on rope or braid to finish it. It hides the joins, but it also looks smart and polished. People appreciate those little touches.”
Nicky Mudie of interior designers Violet & George says: “Things have gone from a minimalist, pared-back look where everything is neutral, to a style which is incredibly maximalist. Before, we would struggle to get people to go for colour, pattern, texture, trimmings – all the frou-frou stuff – and now they can’t get enough of it. That style comes from a traditional place but if, say, you use a really bold contrasting colour, or have a rosette in jute rather than silk, it’s far more modern.” Mudie often uses the work of modern passementier Jessica Light in her schemes. Her sweetshop-like array of products include beaded braid in bright contrasting colours and dip-bleached tiebacks, where the coloured main body of the tassel fades away to white at the ends.
Trimmings also sometimes have a practical purpose, covering up raw edges and imperfect joins, and they can also help a small budget go further: a well-chosen edging tape on a pair of inexpensive curtains can make it look like a much more classy proposition. Contrast piping gives furniture a more tailored outline, says Brian Woulfe of interior design firm Designed by Woulfe. “In general, darker piping works well on more structural pieces such as chairs and sofas. It seems to underline them, emphasising their silhouette,” he says. “I recently designed a living room for clients in north London who wanted a ‘grown-up’ chillout zone. I used a palette of warm greys and mushrooms, including two gorgeous smoky armchairs with elegant black piping; without it, the chairs would have sunk into their surroundings.”
The profusion of brightly coloured fringes and pom-poms around at the moment is aligned with the exact same trend in fashion jewellery, but traditional passementerie is a long way from quick-fix fashion. Elaborate handmade tie-backs are some of the most labourintensive components in the entire de-
Medina pendant, £426, Heathfield & Co (thelongest stay.com)