The New Toile: A Beloved Pattern Gets Cheeky Fresh Twists

The New Toile: A Beloved Pattern Gets Cheeky Fresh Twists

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Nancy Mitchell
Aug 22, 2017

I've long been fascinated by toile. Toile, if you're not familiar, is the name first given to the cotton fabric produced in the town of Jouy, in France, and then to the pattern of charming vignettes, usually printed in a single color, that covered its surface. Traditional toile, like the wallpaper that covered the walls of our bathroom in the house where I grew up, features scenes of provincial life: shepherds driving sheep, lovers meeting beneath trees. As a little girl, I had no idea how all those little people came to be on the walls of our bathroom, but I loved making up stories about them just the same. Now, modern designers are creating toile for a new generation, using traditional styles — and very non-traditional subjects.

(Image credit: Timorous Beasties)

The folks at Timorous Beasties, never ones to stick with the status quo, have created a series of toile fabrics that, instead of idealized country scenes, depict gritty urban ones. Their Glasgow toile, seen here, includes scenes of a junkie passed out on a bench, and a man taking a leak in a park. It's available for £108 per meter from Timorous Beasties.

(Image credit: Timorous Beasties)

It would be easy for a toile whose subject is New York to only depict the more glamorous aspects of the city, but Timorous Beasties' New York toile takes a different tack, contrasting depictions of some of the city's most memorable buildings against scenes of homelessness and police brutality. It's available for £140 per meter from Timorous Beasties. (All of Timorous Beasties' city toiles, which also include patterns depicting London and Edinburgh, are available as wallpaper as well.)

(Image credit: Spoonflower)

On a slightly lighter note, for fans of the Doctor, there's this toile, depicting the expected well-dressed French countrypeople humorously interrupted by daleks and the Tardis. It's available starting at $17.50 a yard from Spoonflower.

(Image credit: Spoonflower)

As you might expect, there are all kinds of unusual toiles available on Spoonflower. One of my favorites is this Women of Science and Industry one, which is pretty and also educational. At Spoonflower, starting at $17.50 a yard.

(Image credit: The Pattern Collective)

This toile wallpaper with dinosaurs is the whimsical touch you didn't know your room needed. Dino wallpaper in Grey, $100 per roll from The Pattern Collective. (It's also available in a magnetic version, which is pretty great.)

(Image credit: The Pattern Collective)

This beach-themed toile has a soft, sketchy quality that brings something a little different to a familiar style. Beach Toile in Mauve, $105 per roll from The Pattern Collective. (It's also available in beige and blue.)

(Image credit: Flat Vernacular)

There's something oddly charming about Flat Vernacular's Toile de Derby wallpaper, which, in the same somewhat precious style we're used to seeing in more traditional toiles, depicts cars crashing over and over again. Toile de Derby in Driver's Door, $150 per roll from Flat Vernacular. (You can see some other color options here.)

(Image credit: Flavor Paper)

Flavor Paper's Brooklyn toile has everything — subways, pigeons, even the Notorious B.I.G.. It's available for $200 a roll from Flavor Paper. (They also make a toile with scenes of New Orleans, and one with water towers, broken bikes and mailboxes as a tribute to Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood.)

(Image credit: Flavor Paper)

The wallpaper seen in the Chicago apartment pictured up top is Flavor Paper's Dia de Dumbo, a Day of the Dead-inspired print that features skeletons frolicking around DUMBO. Unconventional, sure, but maybe the perfect thing to add an unexpected dose of personality to your home. Dia de Dumbo wallpaper, $150 per roll from Flavor Paper.

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