Over this summer, I’ve spent a good deal of time in Cape Cod as my Austin interior-design firm has been conducting a project installation for a client’s vacation home. Coming from the Texas heat wave, my weeks on the cape have been a welcomed relief enjoying lobster rolls and outdoor dining in the 60-degree weather. This isn’t my first time on the Cape. I spent many summer weekends here when I lived in New York City and would drive up with my friend who had a house in Wellfleet. Still, I’m inspired by the beautiful gardens that adorn the area — especially the flowers. The blooms got me thinking about florals in interior design and how this quintessential classic seems to have captured the eyes of “trendsetters” again.
I don’t adhere to interior-design trends, but I do take the time to admire the unique Cape Cod landscaping and borrow an idea or two. The gardens here are very different from the ones in Texas, as the soil is much sandier than our rocky terrain. The land produces vibrant blooms on erupting hydrangea bushes, contrasting with our Texas flowers that feel much more subdued, in comparison. You can’t help but be drawn into these homes with their meandering brick paths, picket fences, and enchantingly overgrown gardens filled with flowers waiting to be picked.
I thought about going into floral arranging when I was young and considering future careers. I even applied for an internship with a florist on the Upper East Side when I moved to NYC. However, it was quickly apparent that the job required early hours and lots of holiday and weekend time. That wasn’t the schedule for me. But it didn’t dampen my love of flowers and floral patterns, which I use a great deal as an interior designer (even before it became the style du jour again). Who doesn’t want to curl up in a floral quilt or gaze out on their garden full of blooms with a cup of tea?
Because the design world is buzzing about floral patterns, I thought I’d take a closer look at this classic motif and why everything old becomes new again.
Where Did the Floral Pattern Come From?
Miranda Priestly said it best, “Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.” While there’s nothing new about flower patterns, florals do feel fresh, especially coming out of a decade where white-on-white minimalism reigned supreme. So, where did this age-old pattern originate? Let’s take a quick look at some floral history.
Since the ancient Egyptians (and possibly even earlier), folks have been picking flowers to adorn their homes, especially for important occasions. Humans thrive on connection to the outdoors, so we naturally want to bring organic elements into our residences. Early floral patterns emerged on textiles in Asia around the 11th century and were used in tapestries, rugs, and clothing. Flower patterns eventually made their way to Europe thanks to Silk Road trading, and many European brands copied them on items like scarves, wallpapers, and even bandanas. Chinoiserie, chintz, and paisley patterns developed to play large roles in interior decorating and fashion. Floral patterns have been adapted across the world and through the decades, inspired by the local landscape and culture. Floral patterns can be seen on everything from indigenous textiles to groovy hippie attire to Hawaiian shirts, and we continue to adorn our homes and bodies in floral prints.
Why Age-old Flower Patterns are Trending Again
I’m not a trend follower, but I am a believer that tried-and-true classic designs will always be in style and come back for their time in the spotlight. Right now, floral patterns are in full bloom as what some are dubbing “the pretty trend” makes waves. So, what is it about flower patterns that have captured our attention again? Well, at the root of it, we’re connected to nature and find comfort in adding these organic elements into our homes. Also, after years of boring minimalism, many folks want to bring pattern and comfort back into their lives. Florals also feel right at home in a range of styles, from over-the-top maximalism to shabby chic to refined regency, giving them their enduring appeal across a wide range of tastes.
Incorporating Florals in Interior Design
Like flowers themselves, botanical patterns come in a wide variety of colors, styles, and applications. They can be incorporated into the home through textiles, upholstery, stencils, wallpapers, and tiles. In our Holiday Haus project, we commissioned a hand-painted ladybug floral pattern in the bathroom. I love this treatment because it feels light and fun and takes a casual approach to the floral pattern motif.
Of course, real flowers make a beautiful addition to any room, appealing to the senses beyond the visual. Fresh-cut or potted flowers bring in a sweet smell and that outdoor connection we all crave. Of course, not all of us have the green thumb to keep houseplants alive and well. Trickier flowers like orchids require expert-level care. Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, Orchids by Karen has mastered the art and will even pick up dying orchids and nurse them back to health. Her blooms are simply stunning!
“Flower Power” Leaders
Look to the flower power leaders who have mastered the art of floras.
Laura Ashely holds a timeless appeal. I associate her floral prints with my 80s childhood and coming home from summer camp to find my dream bedroom waiting for me — complete with blue and white floral bedding and a matching wallpaper border. Her brand is a way to connect to the English countryside through a cozy sense of nostalgia.
Bow down to the Prince of Chintz. The late Mario Buatta was known for his over-the-top 80s interiors that could be used for filming a Dynasty episode. He was one of the design world’s biggest proponents of chintz, a plain-woven and coarse fabric made from unbleached cotton that is either stained, painted, or woodblock printed with traditional floral patterns. He covered as many surfaces imaginable for a maximalist and luxe result.
Lady Bird Johnson
While we don’t have Cape Cod style gardens in Austin, we do have the Lady Bird Johnson National Wildflower Center. Lady Bird loved wildflowers, and she is a big reason why our roads and highways are dotted with bright blooms during our especially short spring. She’d encourage and reward the highway department for planting wildflower seeds near roads and planning sustainable landscaping designs by hosting a big Texas-style barbecue for the best designers at her ranch. Wildflowers are a big part of the Texas landscape and inspire beautiful interior design.
Blooming into a New Season of Florals
As I take a desperate shot of tequila at 10 am in the morning, *scratch that*, finish a cup of tea in the garden of the Cape Cod rental I’m staying in, I savor the view and reflect. Flowers are by no means groundbreaking as a design element for our homes. They are gloriously persistent, and of that I am glad.
It just goes to show that everything old is new again!
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.