The Trendy Plant Print That Has Real Staying Power

published Oct 17, 2018
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(Image credit: The Inside)

I first fell in love with the Banana Palm when I was in college and my parents came to town and took me out to the legendary East Village restaurant “Indochine.” It was so chic and that palm had been the backdrop to actors, models, and artists, and the essence of New York nightlife. It still is the epitome of glamour today and also goes to show that great design stands the test of time.

Every couple of years I see the Banana Palm come back as the next season’s “it print”—in both fashion and home. But do not mistake this palm as a passing trend, this print has has been around for the last 70-plus years and is, in fact, an iconic pattern with major design roots. So, for anyone who considers themselves a serious design junkie, here is what you need to know about this gorgeous leaf.

For me, the Banana Palm conjures the tropical, beachy climates of Southeast Asia. It immediately transports you to the prefect vacation. Apparently that is universally true—its appeal has stretched way back to the time of Alexander the Great who wrote about seeing the “exotic” fruit tree during his travels through India. From that point on, the banana palm was grown in any available hot climate. Spreading far beyond Asia made it possible for its lush green leaves to inspire a wider audience.

Speed ahead to the 20th century and the banana palm begins to transcend beyond a lush tropical plant to a luxurious, escapist-inspiring design. The now iconic print started with legendary American decorator Dorothy Draper who designed her “Brazilliance” wallpaper for the Arrowhead Springs hotel in San Bernardino, California in 1937 and later in Brazil’s Palácio Quitandinha in 1944.

In 1942, Hollywood decorator and necktie designer Don Loper modified the banana leaf theme into his “Martinique” pattern for the Beverly Hills Hotel, which solidified with its connection to refined, glamorous California living. The wallpaper still graces the hotel’s hallways and coffee shops today and has become one of the most recognizable patterns in the world. And of course the leafy trend hit New York in 1985 when the fashion-industry’s favorite restaurant Indochine opened with its pattern on the walls. Dorothy’s version came back again in 2009 when her protégé Carleton Varney redecorated Dorothy’s iconic Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia.

Beyond interior design, the print has popped up on fashion runways throughout the last two centuries—from Stephen Burrows in the 1970s to Dolce & Gabbana in 2016. Designers love to incorporate the palm in Spring/Summer collections.

This storied history inspired me to create my own twist on this legendary print for my brand, The Inside. Whether it’s removable wallpaper or upholstery, this instant design classic will add a touch of the exotic to any space. We styled ours (in the gif above) with some coral accents to match the splash of coral in the wallpaper — one of the most seamless ways to mix color and pattern.

(Image credit: The Inside)

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Christiane is a guest author, longtime friend of Apartment Therapy and one of the co-founders of Dwell Studio as well as The Inside. Apartment Therapy’s CEO, Maxwell Ryan, is an investor in The Inside, and this post is a collaboration between the two to weave together on our site Christiane’s knowledge with The Inside’s new offerings.