Current Design Trends: To Velvet or not to Velvet?

"A throne is only a bench covered with velvet". - Napoleon Bonaparte

I have always felt a penchant for the visual and sensual attributes of velvet and I suspect that there are a lot of kindred spirits out there who concur. Not to everyone's taste, it may strike many as too weighty a fabric--overstuffed and old-fashioned. Historically associated with European royalty and nobility, it's production goes back farther to Asia and the Middle East where, because of the lengthy process of weaving velvet and the fact that it was predominately made out of silk, it was considered luxurious and therefore available to only the very rich and the very royal.

In the Renaissance and Victorian eras, velvet was indisputably utilized in fashion and interior decoration to more than mad abandon. Those were passionate times. But by today's standards it reads only as theatrical and not so practical.  However, quite a few of us still possess a kinship to theatrically-themed design and why not utilize it in to a more practical lifestyle by adding personality and whimsy to your personal space? For those of you who may be reading this post and thinking this subject may not be your cup of tea, I assure you, accents of velvet here and there do have a place in minimalist design -- they can infuse warmth into what might otherwise read as a sterile environment.

19th cen. German hand-carved bench.
Contemporary velvet banquet.

Au courant, velvet products are everywhere these days in the form of home goods to men's and women's clothing.  Notwithstanding some silly fashion trends out there, velvet remains classic and will always be fun. I just wish that my father had held on to his purple velvet Yves St. Laurent bell-bottomed suit from the late 1960's, I would have posted a picture of it!  It definitely evoked  regality infused with a pre-hipster sensibility evocative of the times.

Though I may be loathe to don a velvet dress or suit in summer, accessorization such as shoes, scarves and pocketbooks can easily transition into the warmer months. And wouldn't a bathing suit be cool in crushed velvet? Oops! looks like somebody stole my idea.
Vintage style bathing suit.

Not just a winter fabric, velvet is basically omni-seasonal with many options of pile, color, content and weight these days available in a wide variety of budget options. One of the biggest misconceptions is that it is too heavy for everyday use. I myself have always opted for velvet or chenille sofas and discomfort has never become an issue for me in the summer months.

The past and present meet: a successful fusion of contemporary and traditional elements:

Classic mid-century style chairs receive a warm upgrade.

Budget-friendly lucite benches upholstered in tufted velvet.

Some old standards:

Lee Jofa.

Kathy Kuo Home Products.
Beaumont & Fletcher.

Sleek styling: a glamorous interpretation of a classical theme:


Image borrowed from

Plain old exoticism:
A gem of a footstool from Beaumont & Fletcher

Whimsical variations on a classical theme:

Images borrowed from House & Garden UK.

Velvet and satin gown by Charles James, 1946

*Thanks to Jennifer Vandemeer for catching my typos and tweeking my post!


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