Toile, which is short for Toile du Jouy, is a pattern used in home décor. The repeated pattern is traditionally set on fabric with a white or cream background, and printed most often in navy, red and black but is also seen in brown, yellow, lavender and green. The pattern is traditionally a one-color pastoral scene that tells a story. Due to toile’s recent rise in popularity, it has found a place not only on the traditional fabric, but also on wallpaper and clothing.
Toile, which is a French word, translates literally to 'cloth'.The first commercial plant was in Jouy en Josas, France and it was there that they began to mass produce this fabric in 1760. Despite its very proper reputation, toile had a decidedly illicit beginning.
Christopher-Philippe Oberkampf, who had previously been producing toile using an expensive, laborious process, uncovered secret etching techniques in England. This technique used copper plated rollers, which would make producing toile much easier. He spirited the secrets out of the country and went on to receive the Legion of Honor distinction by Napoleon himself for his efforts. The French obviously took their toile very seriously.
Toile aficionados love the pattern for its formality, its regal tone and its ability to dress anything up. While some find toile’s patterns overbearing, stuffy and old-fashioned, most find toile charming for its old-world sensibilities. Toile fabric was typically used on nearly every surface in the room, including the upholstery, curtains, walls, bedding and lamps, but now it is used more often on a smaller, more focused scale on lamps, dog beds and baby linens, for example. Teapots and housewares are popping up in toile decorated and enamel. Clothing lines and accessories using toile in a variety of colors and patterns are becoming more popular as well.
Traditionally, toile depicts French provincial scenes, seasons, forest scenes, stories depicting Roman gods and sea adventures. Originally, toile was meant to tell a story, but now the patterns can include anything from florals to circus scenes and animals. Yellows, greens and pinks have replaced the traditional white and cream backgrounds, making toile a decidedly more funky and eclectic option in home décor. I have a little bit of toile in every room of our home! I love to mix it with a coordinating stripe or check. It has an intimacy and elegance without being too formal or too fancy. Mix fine things with items from a thrift shop or a flea market! It is a delightful mix.
Toile imparts a cozy charm that seems to be a perennial
favorite with those who are passionate about home decor!