Updated: Jun 8
Toile has been around for centuries and has been popular in homes worldwide for just as long. More recently, I've seen a rush of designers and big brands using the fabric design. It's no surprise due to the "Grandmillenial" style popping up in the last couple of years.
So, what exactly is toile?
The word "toile" is short for toile de Jouy, which refers to linen or cloth from the town of Jouy-en-Josas, a Parisian suburb.
Toile de Jouy was a specific type of linen printed with romantic, pastoral patterns in a single color—usually black, blue, or red—on an unbleached fabric. Although the word toile means fabric (and often refers to the drafts of a garment pattern made of muslin), the word toile has evolved to refer to the fabric's original design aesthetic of flora, fauna, and individuals printed in a single color. It's often used in shabby chic or French cottage designs. Toile designs are popular for non-fabric items like wallpaper and fine china as well.
When you think of toile, you might also be thinking of Chinoiserie, which is slightly different but just as popular. Toile and Chinoiserie are not interchangeable words. Chinoiserie is a French word, meaning 'Chinese-esque'. Chinoiserie is an 18th-century European design that interpreted Chinese culture and decorative art. Its likely that Chinoiserie evolved from toile designs that also developed at the same time. Chinoiserie will generally have more color in its designs and illustrates interpretations of Chinese pagodas, people, flora, and fauna. Below are some examples of both. As you can see, Toile de Joy shows more French romantic motifs, while Chinoiserie has Chinese motifs. Blue Ginger jars are a common item associated with Chinoiserie design. The design on them is not toile. You can read more about Chinoiserie design elements here.
Toile has been on my mind since I picked up a half-yard cut of toile at an estate sale last year. The estate was from a couple who was moving into assisted living and needed to downsize their belongings. I was told the woman was an avid quilter, and although there weren’t any of her quilts available to purchase, she had an entire bedroom filled to the brim of quilting cotton. The toile is especially lovely to me because it has images of a quilter's bee. Women are illustrated sitting outside around a stretched quilt. Other images on the fabric show quilts hanging on fences while children play in the countryside. It's an interesting toile because the background is all blue, not white. I loved it instantly and purchased it for only $1!
I was fortunate to have the designer's name and manufacturer of the fabric in the selvage. It is called Quilter's Toile by Nancy J. Martin, Clothworks. I haven’t been able to find more of the fabric but it's too beautiful to be tucked away in my fabric stash. I recently use it to make two throw pillows for my couch. The backing is an embroidered woven fabric in royal blue with white and black threads. I used a French seam with white thread to finish off the pillow border, leaving a hole to stuff the pillow. I then used polyester stuffing to fill it and stitched the pillow closed.
Since then, anything toile has caught my eye and I've been looking at ways that others have incorporated it into fashion and design. Below I've curated a list of all things trending toile. None of the links below are affiliated or sponsored.
The first toile I'd like to show is Harlem Toile by Sheila Bridges. The toile features beautiful drawings of African Americans in the lush historical settings that in reality rarely featured them. Sheila created the toile because as an interior designer she often incorporated toile in her client's homes but she never felt they would fit in her own home. The design draws "from Bridges’ life in the New York City neighborhood where she has lived for nearly 30 years and her childhood growing up in a middle-class African American community in Philadelphia." The Harlem Toile design is available in more items than wallpaper, such as the recent collaborations of Wedgewood tableware(2022) and the MET accessories (2021).
Incorporating toile wallpaper in your home is a beautiful way to display an interesting pattern. It might seem like a big commitment, but choosing a toile design that fits with colors you love will make it a classic design decision that will stand the test of time for many years. A powder room, entryway or dining room would be classic and beautiful.
Here are a few different toile designs we adore (click on the photo to go to the link). My favorite wallpaper I've found is the green trees toile interpretation from Pottery Barn. It can look more rustic or modern depending on your decorations and furniture. Serena & Lily offers a coastal-themed toile with boats and palm trees. Swipe to the last photo to see the alien abduction wallpaper...I kind of love it! You have to do a double-take to see those little alien forms.
I think this is where you can have a lot of fun with toile in your home. I scoured Etsy for some of the best toile decorations. Pillows are the most obvious and I think the easiest way to incorporate toile. Check Etsy or eBay often to find some fun vintage pieces like this tissue box cover. These paper plates and tablecloths are a gorgeous way to entertain in style!
Check out my Etsy Collection to see more toile goodies.
It's not the easiest to find toile upholstered furniture but I think it is worth the search! 1stDibs has a nice selection of beautiful antique furniture. You might get lucky and find something like this full-sized bed frame. Furniture can get expensive so a way to get the furniture you like on a budget is to reupholster something you already have. You can DIY with fabric from an on-demand printer like Spoonflower or bring the fabric to your local upholsterer. Society6 and Minted are sites you can get artists' work printed on physical items. You might find something unique, like this credenza.
The Kourtney Dress from Reformation went a bit viral on Tiktok which is how I saw it the first time. In fact, it was the dress I wanted to wear to my wedding rehearsal dinner but thought maybe the naked figures might be too much. (; If blue isn't your color, I also love the Twilight Dress in Toile De Jouy.
One of my favorite brands to work with toile is a French brand, The Epoch (pronounced 'epic'), and is rightly self-proclaimed as the ‘Toile Lady’. Her newest collection of women, unisex, and kids pieces is coming out May 27, 2022 at 6 pm CET (which is 9am PST). I love her design aesthetic and admire anyone who creates such high-quality made-to-order pieces. My favorite piece is her patchwork multi-colored toile dress. So dreamy!
Frankies Bikinis just released a collab bikini collection with supermodel Gigi Hadid that features a youthful toile of flora and fauna. I adore the kid's swim trunks!
Piyama creates the most beautiful nighttime clothing in my opinion. They have a PJ set and robe that features a beautiful blue floral toile pattern. While the design leans a little more toward chintz, it's still on my list of favorite pj's by a small brand.
Are you a toile lover now? Even if it doesn't fit your home's aesthetic, it's a beautiful pattern to incorporate into your accessories and clothing!
Until next time,