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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.