Burlap's Popularity Rises
By Karen Parr-Moody
Who could have predicted the recent rise in popularity of burlap in home decor? With its raw and unbridled personality, it seems this fabric would go against the very nature of perfection-seeking designers. However, one flip through home design magazines -- or even the Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware catalogs -- produces an array of items made from this fabric that originated in India.
There are pillows, tufted headboards, lamp shades, tablecloths, stools, window treatments and even chairs. And during the holidays, decorators are using this rustic material for wreaths, candle wraps, place mats and table runners. I was recently at a chic fellow's house who keeps burlap pillows on his sofa year round. But they are wrapped in a removable burlap band that he changes out according to the season; the band currently says "Silent Night" in black script.
Burlap is a fabric made from the fibers of the jute plant. It is coarse in texture and features an open weave. It has been used in the trades industry for hundreds of years. In fact, many of the printed sacks we find today were used to contain livestock feed, coffee or cocoa beans, or grains for making flour.
Today, upholstering an item of decor in burlap is the perfect touch for an "urban industrial" look. Casual and eclectic, burlap adds a whimsical accent to a room. Also, decorators seem to be having a creative time with the unexpected juxtaposition of "fancy" items with burlap. For example, Pottery Barn makes mini burlap shades to be used with a chandelier. Who would have imagined? Then there are those domed burlap-backed chairs at Restoration Hardware that have the curved lines of the Louis XV chairs. Such items are the distant relations of items that would have once populated the grand chateaux of 18th-century France -- but now they are getting a farmhouse twist. And many an otherwise uptight sofa has been loosened up with the accent of burlap pillows.
In the photo, above right, Apartment Therapy shows how two Louis XV chairs look when upholstered in burlap cocoa bean sacks. These would be nice in a man's office or as the perfect foil for a room that is otherwise fussy. The "Cote D'Ivoire" print speaks to the Ivory Coast's main export: it is the world leader in the production of cocoa beans, used in the manufacture of chocolate.
The pillows in the photos, above left and near right, are from two different GasLamp dealers (left, $68, W-430; right, $55, W-101). They won't be the last you'll see in the GasLamp halls. The store's dealers include many savvy home and professional decorators who carefully study the design trade to see what is currently trending. A quick stroll through the mall will unveil many a burlap pillow done in a wide variety of styles. When using pillows, why not put something nearby that also has a touch of burlap in it? Consider adding a border of burlap to add to the hem of drapery panels.
Upholstering a small footstool in burlap is a creative idea, which is exactly what the GasLamp vendor at Booth B-115 had with this fabulous walnut piano stool covered in an old coffee bean bag (photo, left; $85). The rich color of the wood blended with the casualness of the burlap will, no doubt, show guests that one has a sophisticated style mixed with an easygoing flair. Booth B-115 also features stacks of old burlap coffee bags, each retailing for around $15.
To add a rustic element to a farmhouse style room, this footstool covered with a vintage wheat grain sack fits the bill ($65; Booth 2012). The F.W. Stock & Sons Mill, a Michigan major flour mill that blossomed during the mid-1800s but left family hands in 1959; this burlap sack is from that very mill.
Burlap is an easy choice for warming up the sleek surfaces of modern decor, giving them instant warmth. It also brings rustic charm to regular items when added as a flourish. And for those who are into contrasts, put burlap in a room with some bling (crystal pendant lamps, chandeliers, etc.). Burlap adds the finishing touch for many types of decor.