John’s Secrets for the Home: Toile

For the Love of Toile by John De Bastiani

Toile has made a huge resurgence in the last 10 years.  I remember the first time I noticed toile.  It was used in Blue & White as wallpaper in a kitchen.  It was like I had always known of it – it was somehow familiar to me; very comfy and homey.  It worked perfectly with all the dishes and made for a very sophisticated kitchen.

Toile dates back from the 16th Century.  It originated in India where the printing process was far more sophisticated.  It was imported after the Portuguese began trading with the East.  At that time, printing was not understood in Europe and therefore not popular.  So you can imagine the craze that it created when toile began being imported.  It was then copied in reaction to restricting imports to France by the King Louis XIV to protect the French industries.  A royal factory was founded and millions of yards were printed by hand blocking.  Later, copper roller sheets allowed an easier, less expensive and higher quality method.

There are different types of Toile.  Toile de Jouy typically depicts imageries of picnicking, frolicking and other everyday life.  There can be Chinoiserie Toile as well that have an eastern feel depicting of Pagodas, China Men etc.  My favorite Toile depicts “Tour De Force” or “Grande Tour”.  This usually has motifs of Sphinx’s Pyramids and animals.  Toile can be printed on colored fabric but typically printed in one color.  So it is two-tone printing.  Typical toile is in Black & White or red, blue, or beige on white.

Today, not only is toile used for curtains and upholstery but in fashion and home accessories.  It has become a craze again, rightly so, for lovely, sophisticated images printed on plain cotton.

Author John De Bastiani owns a full service interior design firm with offices in Boston and Los Angeles and was named “One of the 25 Next Wave of America’s Top Young Designers” by House Beautiful magazine.  Visit his website at

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