Meet the Prints Charmings of Floral Designs

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By Jill Brooke

Vogue magazine just declared that floral couches are the new rage – but to Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke, the partners of Madcap Cottage, flowers never went out of style. 

In fact, one of their whimsical fabrics is inspired by Diana Vreeland’s famous couch and gardens. Vreeland of course was one of Vogue’s most iconic editors. 

“Life is too short to be all beige,” says Nixon, who like Loecke, were editors and TV producers before launching their shop in North Carolina. 

And these two are anything but boring and drab. Both say that florals are having a big resurgence—especially with millennials- who love a nod to history and tradition but want it reinterpreted through a contemporary kaleidoscope.

“Florals have been all over Gucci for the last couple of years—and look at the exuberant blooms on the voluminous dresses at Richard Quinn,” observes Loecke. “The blooms have spilled off the runway and onto every area of the home—from fabrics and wallpapers to tabletop, rugs, bedding, and more. Even glorious floral chintz has seen a wonderful resurgence, but this is a fresher, lighter, less-polished chintz than we what we saw in the 1980s.”

In fact, 1stDibs reports a 60 percent increase in searches for the term floral couches. The reasons aren’t surprising. The trend of a monochrome palette of beige, white and grey so popular since the ’70s was inspired by a desire for urban cool minimalism and the cherry-picking of mid-century modern pieces to be retro touches of the past. 

However, the pandemic changed everything profoundly. A desire for cozy comfort and nostalgia swept the world creating shifts in perspectives and priorities as more people stayed home. 

Firms like Madcap Cottage are creating hipper floral prints that pulsate with charm but don’t look like the pejorative “Grandma’ floral couch.” As Nixon notes, cool isn’t always happy. In their hands, fabrics are charming, fun and happy. 

“Especially for a bathroom, big floral print wallpapers can make a modern statement,” says interior designer Deborah Spiro, who is a fan. “Hallways are also a fun space for these floral wallpapers.” Then, of course, the classic petite floral wallpapers can be mixed in unconventional ways with bolder furniture or using unexpected colors like lime green or tangerine orange.

What’s even more interesting as Vogue mentioned, is that during the height of the Industrial Revolution, when life outside seemed grey and gloomy, designers like William Morris paved the way for the Arts & Crafts movement which had an English countryside sensibility of bringing floral and gardening motifs into the home. 

In fact, soon after Nancy Lancaster, one of the pioneers of this movement, started Colefax & Fowler, an influential British decorating firm that still exists today. Their clients, the loyalists, never tired of florals.  I of course was one of them. Kit Kemp is another designer who resisted purging florals to great success. 

Now, these “Prints Charmings of Floral Designs” are creating their own enduring floral legacy, busier than ever with their fabric collections as well as their design clients spanning the globe. And like Barbara Mandrell sang about loving country before it was cool, this dynamic duo can say the same about floral fabrics. Or as Vogue’s Diana Vreeland would say, successful people are the ones who participate in  “the continual renewal of inspiration” and these talents do that every day.

Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD and floral editor for aspire design and home magazine

Photo Credit: Madcap Cottage