Mad About . . .

Trend Focus: Granny Chic, Faux versus Real and Buying Berber Rugs (podcast notes)

20th February 2020

In this week’s podcast Sophie and I discuss the rise of Granny Chic, whether faking it is best when it comes to textiles and surfaces and interview Willem Smitt, the interior design at El Fenn, Marrakech, where we held our recent interior design retreat. You can listen here or you can simply read all about it below. Or both. Both will stand alone but are designed to support each other so you can do one without the other. That said we’ve had over 600,000 downloads since we launched just over a year ago.

GRANNY CHIC

Every now and then while everyone is writing about, and publicising, the main interiors trends that are showcased at the trade fairs and design shows another one sidles up alongside and proves just as influential by stealth and this year that look is Granny Chic.

curved sofa by soho home and anthropologie (no longer in stock)

curved sofa by soho home and anthropologie (no longer in stock)

Sophie and I discuss this micro trend on the podcast this week. She calls it Posh Granny because it’s essentially English Country, with embellishments. It has also been called Grandmillennial style and has been written about in Living Etc, One King’s Lane and House Beautiful.

For many it’s a lifestyle rather than just an interior style but if you’re not into Little Women dresses and needlepoint, you might still fancy a little bit of it in your home. So it’s about stuff (no minimalism here) that is chintz and rattan, fringing and drapery. Skirts on furniture and lots of colour and pattern.

bibana lamp by Anna Hayman

bibana lamp by Anna Hayman

It’s also about coming off your phone and spending time in the real world so aficionados include supper club host Laura Jackson, as well as the journalist Pandora Sykes and the creative Matilda Goad, whose scalloped lampshades made from rattan are hugely popular among the granny chic set.

The House of Hackney is very granny chic

The House of Hackney is very granny chic with its fringed kenton ottoman and floral wallpaper

Fringing first popped up at the Decorex design fair a couple of years ago and no-one took much notice. It has been creeping into pictures and magazines here and there ever since but it looks as if now might be its moment. Above, the granny punk style of House of Hackney is a perfect example (and no I don’t know why they put the sofa in front of the door either).

pome by Ceraudo epitomises Granny Chic

pome by Ceraudo epitomises Granny Chic

More recently sisters Emily and Victoria Ceraudo, whose eponymous brand sells a mix of antique and contemporary furniture, launched their own collection with customising options for chairs including either skirting (see below) or fringing. And I have had emails from at least one glossy magazine editor desperate to incorporate some of it into her own home.

pome by Ceraudo epitomises Granny Chic

pome by Ceraudo epitomises Granny Chic

And on our recent interiors retreat in Marrakech, Sophie was quick to spot the skirted chairs at L’Hotel Marrakech (owned by Jasper Conran) and is now plotting to bring some of this style into her own home – the chintz sofa is already on order.

What do you think? My instinctive reaction is that it’s not for me but I wonder if that’s because, at 53, I remember this style from my own Granny’s Chic and therefore it doesn’t feel new? Thirty-somethings will not only see it as a discovery but can instinctively bring it up to date because they don’t have the emotional baggage from last time. Or the dust baggage – all that clean minimal Scandinavian style was a breath of fresh air for those of us who grew up in the frilly, swathed interiors of the late 70s and 80s. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts though… Granny Chic or no?

L'Hotel Marrakech by Jasper Conran and its Granny Chic chairs

L’Hotel Marrakech by Jasper Conran and its Granny Chic chairs

IS IT BEST TO FAKE IT?

When I first started writing this blog – way back in 2012 (which is like 100 years in internet terms) I was disparaging about fake surfaces. Why use laminate when you can have floorboards I said? Why would you pretend something is marble when it clearly isn’t. And then, well, times change. We all became more aware of the environment. I visit a place near the Carrara marble mountains in Italy every year and that skyline is changing and getting smaller.

dartrey wood effect tile at topps tiles

dartrey wood effect tile at topps tiles

Which begs the question is it best to fake it after all? We have a worktop that looks a bit like marble but isn’t – because Marble is a natural stone so it’s porous and will absorb stains. You can have it in the shower but it will need sealing first.

Sophie has recently redone her wet room using the Dartrey range of tiles from our sponsor Topps. She used the dark ones below but the white ones would work better in my house with its white painted floorboards.

dartrey wood effect tile at topps tiles

dartrey wood effect tile at topps tiles

The thing about using porcelain tiles rather than the real thing (stains aside) is that you can put them anywhere – showers and kitchen floors – and you can also put underfloor heating down as well. My bathroom is floorboards until the shower area because I wanted to create a seamless look with the bedroom next door. But I rather wish I had known about these tiles which would have been a lot more practical and saved me having to use two bathmats to prevent the water that splashes out from the shower going down between the floorboards.

But if you do prefer the real then Topps has both. Below is a real green marble Emerale tile from their real marble range while they also have a faux wood effect tiles which look exactly like the real thing until you touch them. But then if you have underfloor heating you can have that benefit instead.

emerale green marble tile at topps tiles

emerale green marble tile at topps tiles

We also spoke about faking it with wallpaper. This is the entrance to my son’s room with its fake wallpaper but I remember years ago when Living Etc came to photograph the house and the editor walked in and was surprised to see that the books in the library were real as she had assumed they were wallpaper.

trompe l'oeil at madaboutthehouse.com

trompe l’oeil at madaboutthehouse.com

I quite like a trompe l’oeil wallpaper and mine, pictured above, is by Mineheart Designs who also make a wrought iron, a damask and a chesterfield. I think a bedroom in the latter would be incredibly cosy. Which makes me wonder  – if having plants inside gives us a vital connection to nature – does having faux plants do the same thing? Does it make us think of going outside or calm us down because we are looking at greenery and triggering those responses that nature brings. I’m guessing experts would say that faux plants don’t work but I wonder if they do on some level just perhaps not to the same extent? What do you think?

chesterfield wallpaper by mineheart

chesterfield wallpaper by mineheart 

I also have real tin tiles on my kitchen ceiling and you can now get wallpaper versions. I like the real tin as it’s so reflective but that’s just where I have chosen to put it in my house and it really bounces the light around in a way that paper wouldn’t. So, as in so many things, it’s about what’s right for you in your home, which is, after all, the tagline of this podcast.

Kate Watson-Smyth looks at using the ceiling as a fifth wall. In her dining room which forms the extension she covered the ceiling with silver tin tiles. With a ceiling too low for a pendant the silver reflects the light from outside the black bi-fold doors. #madaboutthehouse #fifthwall #diningroom

tin tiles on the ceiling at madaboutthehouse.com

BUYING RUGS IN MARRAKECH

Finally, as many of you know Sophie and I hosted our first interior design retreat at El Fenn hotel in Marrakech a couple of weeks ago. It was a fantastic opportunity to gather together a group of like minded women, some of whom were professionals, some of whom were decorating their own homes and some who just wanted an adventure. We ran workshops in the mornings and went on trips around the Medina and out into the countryside in the afternoons. We are hoping to run this again so keep your eyes on this page for details.

el fenn marrakech - the perfect blend of global styles

el fenn marrakech – the perfect blend of global styles

If you want to listen we interviewed Willem Smitt, the designer responsible for the iconic look of El Fenn who spoke about blending Moroccan style with mid-century modern to create a look that is both distinctive and welcoming. Blending global styles was one of the elements of the course and I will return to it in more detail at a later date. It was fascinating to talk to him though so do have a listen if you can.

berber rugs at the riad of bazaar du sud

berber rugs at the riad of bazaar du sud

One of the outings we did was to a rug shop in the Medina. Bazaar du Sud is family run business in an old riad and the company frequently exhibits all over the world. They sell both modern and vintage rugs and we picked up a few tips while we were there.

traditional berber rugs at bazaar du sud - the diamonds represent female fertility, the lines male

traditional berber rugs at bazaar du sud – the diamonds represent female fertility, the lines male

Firstly, the diamond, triangle and chevron pattern are all symbols of female fertility. The straight lines with bisecting smaller lines are male. Berber women traditionally weave at home, around the other jobs of keeping house and child-rearing so they might do it when the kids are in bed (women workers the world over) and sometimes you might see a red dot or another symbol appearing in a rug. This might mean a birth in the family or a marriage in the village which she has chosen to incorporate into her rug weaving story.

rugs laid out at bazaar du sud

rugs laid out at bazaar du sud

The other point is that old Berber rugs tend to be long and narrow to match the shape of their houses. Square ones will be modern (be aware when haggling). There’s nothing wrong with modern ones – the ones we saw were of fabulous quality but check closely for the quality of the weave and the softness – they are often washed up to 12 times and each family will have their own secrets to produce the best results.

When it comes to the haggle I’m no expert but I’m told that you should roughly expect to pay half of what is first proposed and that you should try and ensure the shipping is wrapped into the final price you agree or you may get asked to pay more. Always be polite and if you know you can’t afford half of the original price then walk away before you get in too deep.

Here’s Sophie and I in the yellow courtyard with general manager and designer Willem Smitt. Note the Granny chic rattan chairs and the mid century tulip table which blends so well with the ornate surroundings while not distracting from them.

That was a long post! Well that’ll keep you going over the weekend when I know many of you prefer to settle in and listen and read.

With a final thanks to Topps Tiles for sponsoring the podcast.

 

 

 

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  • Julia 21st February 2020 at 10:11 am

    Kate, I have this same eco-struggle with my business Istanbul Place Apartments, hosting international travellers in Istanbul. However, the need for westerners to better understand the Islamic world is *huge* and your retreat in Marrakech will have been a great opportunity for this. There is more than one soapbox (now I’m seeing two, each with white granny-frilled slip covers :D) to jump on.

  • Anna 20th February 2020 at 8:06 pm

    I feel like I can’t tell the difference between granny chic, faded glamour, english country, modern victorian + whatever Scandinavians have been doing (e.g., elfvinggarden, michaelagrut) anymore, the borders are expanding and overlapping too much. (I’m a lay person, when it comes to interiors though, so might be my own untrained eye that’s at fault.) I like it when I see bits of “granny chic” injected in an otherwise too serious/restriced interior, so that there’s actually some humour and liveliness, and visual interest, but definitely not the whole thing.
    But it’s fun to see the memories resurfacing and seeping into everyday life and interiors, this probably goes well with the childhood homes discussion. My own grannies and great aunts had a very different aesthetic, so I’m not bothered by the fringe, I’ll just pass and incorporate my own (inherited or inspired) designs. 🙂
    Plus, don’t see how a work event equals denouncement of more aware buying practices. And should I, a young person, who hasn’t travelled that much and would love to see Paris or whatever one day now give up on those frivolous dreams? Ok, cool.

    • Isabelle 20th February 2020 at 9:48 pm

      Think I am with Anna on the labelling front. My grandparents were deffo not posh, so fringey lampshades, asiatic rugs and Velvet not there, but, my great great aunt was (presumably before fall in family fortunes) and her dark, gloomy, Morrison style wall papered house abounded with stuffed foxes, faded velvet library chairs, nailed down and holey Persian carpets, oodles of embroidered chair covers, table covers, cushions, moth eaten fringed lampshades, Ivory figurines, walnut furniture etc.. greatly spookey fun when we were young. Sadly pretty much all got dumpered when she died early 1970’s… all too tatty to be saved, her offspring thought. Re travelling/greeny credentials. Every one has their own perspectives and ideals. You feel you are doing the right thing in your life. It’s not for others to judge. Have a good weekend.

  • Sheree 20th February 2020 at 2:56 pm

    Whenever you mention faux plants Kate, I want to suggest a plant that is so easy to look after, it could be fake! It’s the Z Z plant.
    As for granny chic, not for me.

  • Amanda P. 20th February 2020 at 2:11 pm

    Granny Chic is definitely not for me — all the frills trigger flashbacks. Your Marrakech trip sounds incredible! How wonderful you were able to do it. Ignore the haters.

  • Anna 20th February 2020 at 1:26 pm

    Sad that going to a “seminar” set in Marrakech is regarded as non PC, we can get rather carried away about carbon footprints in my opinion.
    I loathe false house plants, dust collectors and usually made of non PC material.
    I am a grannie but again I loathe chairs with frills. Perhaps Jasper decided to be over the top at his hotel?

    • Molly 20th February 2020 at 4:10 pm

      I agree Anna. Seems odd to attack Kate for completing a retreat abroad because she also has a directory which attempts to improve awareness for consumers. I don’t understand why they’d be mutually exclusive. We must all make efforts, of course, but to me the criticism seems an overreaction.

  • Jeanette 20th February 2020 at 11:04 am

    Exactly. As I was telling my daughter in law, granny chic is too close to the styles I was brought up with. I couldn’t wait to escape. Never the less I am tempted to have a cosy over-the-top boudoir bedroom as a contrast to my clean-lines home.

  • Renaud 20th February 2020 at 9:37 am

    I’m really not a big fan of the ‘Granny chic’. Although I don’t really mind the fringing and the velvet , the skirting is just… too much?

    I’ll make sure to listen to the podcast. This retreat in Marrakech seems to have been really interesting!

    Have a lovely day!

    Renaud
    http://blogbyrenaud.wordpress.com

  • Gill 20th February 2020 at 8:13 am

    Marrakech! That must have clocked up a few air miles Kate!

    • Duncan Strong 20th February 2020 at 8:41 am

      Exactly! How does a glorified shopping trip to another continent fit in with a campaign to do less harm? I can’t afford to go, but my grand kids will be paying the environmental cost.

      • Kate Watson-Smyth 20th February 2020 at 8:55 am

        We were asked to host a five day interiors retreat running workshops and design courses in Marrakech. It wasn’t a glorified shopping trip although we learnt about traditional weaving techniques and visited the Medina. And yes some people bought pieces they had seen. I appreciate you might feel a disconnect but I set up the do less harm directory to help people understand what they were buying and where from and be able to make informed choices. While I try, as far as possible, to do less harm on my own account I have never claimed to be perfect and sometimes I have to go where the work is. I have also offset this flight with The Carbon Company.

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 20th February 2020 at 9:34 am

      I have offset the flight.

  • Sue 20th February 2020 at 8:04 am

    Sorry granny chic is not for me, too many memories of tatty fraying fringes. My cat would love playing/ scrabbling with fringed chairs though!

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