This Old Textile from Your Grandma’s House Is Back and Better than Ever

published Sep 11, 2023
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Graduate Palo Alto hotel with tapestry behind the front desk

If you’ve been scrolling on Instagram lately — or watching room tour TikToks on loop — maybe you’ve noticed a new-old forgotten decor trend surging again among designers and creatives with more traditional home styles: tapestries. These aren’t just any fabric pieces, though; think loom-woven, epic pastoral scenes, ranging from serene woodland landscapes to coronations and even battles. Some of the most precious (and expensive) originals date back to the Middle Ages and are Flemish in origin. But the bulk of what you’re seeing on social media is probably more recent reproductions, whether vintage or brand new. 

Maybe you remember tapestries from your grandparent’s house; they also had a bit of a moment during the ‘90s. Or perhaps you’ve spotted one of these more recently at a museum or a boutique hotel. After seeing some snaps of the Graduate Palo Alto lobby, I noticed the signage behind the front desk is an embroidered tapestry, so I connected with the hotel’s designer for a little bit of context on this reemerging trend.

“Tapestries add such a wonderful element of texture to a space,” says Krissy Melendez, head of design at AJ Capital Partners, which includes the Graduate Hotels portfolio. “It certainly can bring in softness, especially when paired with rough, industrial materials for a fun juxtaposition.”

Melendez and her team worked with Heirloom Tapestries to create this bespoke piece, which subtly nods to the area by depicting the California countryside. She honed in on this tapestry for its size and grandeur, and that’s exactly the decorative impact one can have in your home, too.

“If a space has blank walls void of wallpaper, for example — which is sometimes needed for a bit of breath — tapestries help infuse character and add an extra layer for the eye to fall on,” says Melendez. “It’s also a brilliant way to incorporate pattern and color that can be just as impactful as a giant fine art painting, because, well, really, a tapestry is fine art itself.”

In addition to being excellent alternatives for paintings or framed prints for filling bare walls, tapestries pack even more function than you might expect. They’re great headboard alternatives, thanks to their size and rectangular shape (you can see an example of this idea at work in the bedroom of the Small/Cool 2022 contest winner Emily Sermons’ home).

You can also sew them into pillows or use them to reupholster smaller pieces like stools or benches. If you’re shopping for one, Melendez recommends checking local antique malls, estate sales, auctions, and flea markets to find something with a story. Or you can snag a piece from this little guide and write its first chapter in your home. 

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“Tapestries are one of the oldest artforms known to man so the evolution of styles and various cultural executions of them are endless,” says Melendez. “They could be ornate and traditional in style or raw and primitive. They could pack a punch of color and busyness or be earthy, tonal, and calming.” This quiet forest design from Etsy definitely falls into that last category. It’d be great in lieu of a headboard in a bedroom.

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Brand-new or vintage, tapestries can set you back a bit, since the authentic ones are made on looms and often are hand-finished. Get the look for less with this fool-the-eye style from Society6, which is printed to look like it’s woven and centuries old.

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If you don’t want to go big with the tapestry trend, you can scoop up a pair of pillows with a similar look. These cotton cushion covers, printed to look woven, all depict different parts of a larger landscape scene.

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was $280.00

Executed in the Flemish style, this repro would be lovely hung over a sofa as a one-and-done. For most tapestries (including this one), you’ll need to purchase a hanging rod separately, unless you’re okay with just tacking yours directly to the wall. Tassel trim is optional, too!

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was $373.51

Many tapestries deftly mix warm and cool tones, making them work well with different kinds of palettes. This figural design features a mix of lovely blues, greens, and browns and would shine on any neutral-colored wall.