After a long history filled with many ups and downs, it’s become clear of late that chintz—that oversize floral symbol of both Granny Chic and 1980s excess—is having a major renaissance. Whether it’s the recent rise of “grandmillennial” style or simply the return swing of the design pendulum, we’re fully on board with this new traditionalist trend.
“Chintz is making a big comeback,” says ED A-List designer Kathryn M. Ireland. “Especially using the same floral fabric on walls, window treatments, and furnishings—think English country, but updated, with lots of florals and colors that pop, like turquoise, apple green, and shocking pink.”
While just about any big floral these days is dubbed chintz, the print’s history is actually much narrower and more specific. Chintz was born in the 1600s as a glazed calico, which is a type of cotton that was found in Calicut, India (if it’s not glazed, it’s called cretonne). The calico was then painted with a flower print.
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Fast-forward to 1963, when Jacqueline Kennedy revamped the White House: she used chintz from floor to ceiling in one of the bedrooms—a statement so bold, the room was named after it. In the ensuing years, the print kept popping up, most notably when Dorothy Draper brought in swaths of chintz to decorate the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, known for its more-is-more interiors.
By 1986, chintz had officially entered its heyday. From the sets of TV’s Designing Women—overflowing with oversize florals—to the impeccably layered rooms of the late, great decorator Mario Buatta, a.k.a. the Prince of Chintz, the pattern was absolutely everywhere.
But despite its slow burn to stardom, the chintz flame blew out abruptly. Once Calvin Klein’s androgynous neutrals hit the runway in the early 1990s, florals were passé and minimalism was suddenly all the rage. Everyone “chucked out their chintz” (as per an infamous UK Ikea ad campaign) and pristine whites took over the household.
Now, however, nearly 30 years later, what’s old is new again. Maximalism is back, and chintz is no longer, well, chintzy. Perhaps it never truly went away? Redd would concur: “A pretty print fabric will always be a pretty print fabric. It’s lovely, it’s romantic, and it goes a long way toward enlivening a simple background.”