Toile Curtains

Written by Tara Peris
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For decades, elegant homes have relied on toile curtains to add subtle sophistication to living rooms and dining areas. French designs have always been popular in America, but they have witnessed renewed popularity in recent years as "shabby chic" trends have taken hold. These trends have allowed the timeless appeal of toile to be invigorated and refreshed by contemporary interpretations and adaptations.

Toile has long been a favorite among professional decorators both in the States and overseas. Although the French are credited with the famous depictions of country life, the origins of the toile print are unclear. It is likely that it has its roots in ancient Indian textile trades, but some of the oldest existing fabric samples date to 16th century Ireland, where hand-carved printing blocks were used to apply ink to fabric. Despite this sundry historical legacy, the fabric was eventually named after a textile company in Southern France.

Accept No Imitations

The fabric has come a long way since the days of ink blocks and hand etching. These days, almost every major retailer will carry some type of toile accessory, although quality varies considerably across manufacturers. This isn't so important if you're in the market for a bathroom dustbin or a corner lampshade; it can be more problematic if you need durable fabric for curtains or duvet covers.

Whenever possible, you should ask for a fabric sample and use it to get a sense of quality and craftsmanship before you buy. Toile can look stately and sophisticated when well done, but poorer imitations allow the detail to be lost and can easily come across as garish and loud. Choose with care and you will get the look you truly desire.

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