Easiest Way To Bring Nature Indoors: Floral Interior Design
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Easiest Way To Bring Nature Indoors: Floral Interior Design

After decades as pattern non grata, floral motifs are budding again in décor.

By Yelena Moroz Alpert
Mon, May 2, 2022 6:00amGrey Clock 7 min

WHILE HOUSE HUNTING to relocate for a new job, Kristine and Lars Niki toured a home in Durham, Conn. The owners had left behind carpets, drapes and wallpaper exuberant with colour and pattern, specifically florals. Ms. Niki loved the spacious house but her knee-jerk instinct was to “rip up the rugs and paint everything white.” By closing, however, the English-rose carpets and garden-party curtains had grown on the couple. “Every HGTV-show bathroom—here’s your subway tile and grey wood and white walls,” said the insurance-claims director, 38, who decided not to change the décor. “This was just so freaking different.”

Ms. Niki’s abrupt taste for botanicals surprised her, but she is part of a growing market. This month, J.Crew released home accessories in posy-packed Liberty fabric. Twelve-year-old stationery brand Rifle Paper Co. in March introduced a collection of furniture in its signature hand-painted florals. York Wallcoverings, in York, Pa., reported a 215% growth in floral wallcoverings sales over the last two years.

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Among the factors driving the resurgence of interest in petals: Covid-weary Americans’ desire to usher nature into their technology-clogged, WFH homes and the maturing of a generation for whom florals are a fresh, not fusty, idea. “I do think millennials are a big push. Wallpaper is new for them, and they are excited by pattern and colour,” said Gina Shaw, vice president of product development at York. Zak Profera, founder and creative director of textile firm Zak+Fox, in New York City, noted that novelty similarly drives the success of his Sycomorus design, inspired by historical tapestries most people don’t come across today. “When they do, it’s an exciting discovery,” he said.

Florals have been pattern non grata for decades—in the late 1990s they were buried by beige; in the aughts by minimalist white; in the teens by the color blocking of midcentury modern or by our love affair with gray—a room’s flora limited to a lone fiddle-leaf fig.

BALANCED BLOOMS Sydney designer Greg Natale tempered chinoiserie walls with geometric tiles and veined marble.PHOTO: ANSON SMART

Kathleen Walsh, a New York City designer, noticed that clients’ hesitation with florals runs deep. Some may recall fussy calicoes in a great aunt’s cluttered living room or may still be recovering from the late-’80s shabby-chic style. “The twee Laura Ashley was matchy-matchy,” said interior designer Greg Natale, in Sydney, Australia, recalling rooms in which the same chintz might appear on walls, windows and bed. “The way my mother would ate, it was too flouncy.”

That flurry of pastel tulips and cabbage roses had a distinctly feminine vibe, often too saccharine for male tastes. Men don’t spurn florals per se but rather a fabric’s overall “sweetness,” said Boston designer Gary McBournie, who has found that the hand-blocked designs of Manhattan textile designer John Robshaw pass muster with men. They don’t reject the geometric, colour-saturated abstractions as florals, he said.

A dark background also apparently makes a pattern of stems more attractive to males. Mr. Natale is currently installing Gucci’s Grotesque paper, in which lions and red tulips rear against a pitch ground. “It is strong and moody. It doesn’t feel coy,” he said, “and the black background is less feminine.” Mr. Profera doesn’t believe florals are gendered but does admit that Zak+Fox’s bestselling wallpaper, Les Baobabs Amoureux, features a tangle of blooming branches in a sea of black. “Florals on a dark backdrop almost signify a celebration of life, like something emerging from the shadows after the past few years.”

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (FABRIC, TILE, PILLOW, WALLPAPER)

Mr. Profera touches on a greater pandemic-induced shift in interior design, a trend for bringing the outdoors in. Said Cean Irminger, creative director of mosaic manufacturer New Ravenna, in Exmore, Va., “You connect nature…to health. It’s comforting, a constant.” About 35% of New Ravenna’s newest 100 designs include floral details. London’s Morris & Co. just released a collaboration in which designer Ben Pentreath recoloured patterns from its archive, including a Marigold theme. “After periods of difficulty, people come to flowering patterns to bring back joy,” said company design director, Claire Vallis.

The father of Morris & Co., Arts and Crafts master William Morris, designed nature-inspired prints in response to the industrialization of 19th-century Great Britain, a disruption not dissimilar to our move to blue-screen dependence. “Through [European] art history, often a big change in technology leads to a new way of production, and a return to nature, to something more human,” said Marie-Eve Celio-Scheurer, art historian at Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center, George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Ironically, high-quality digital printing contributes to the spread of florals, making them financially accessible to many, observed McLean Barbieri, a partner at Nashville’s Annali Interiors. Said New York City designer Jennifer Hunter, who recently woke up a dining room with foliage-decked Roman shades, “Crisp, bright colors bring new energy that attracts people beyond the floral itself. This new energy is contagious, and I see this era of florals sticking around for quite some time.”

Daisy Don’ts and Posy Do’s

The floral flubs interior designers see most often, and suggestions for what to do instead

As beautiful as this rendering makes it look, IRL allover flowers can be oppressive.ILLUSTRATION: ADRIANA PICKER

Frumpy Furniture

Even new garden prints on a Victorian sofa look dusty. Loose cushions, too, complicate a flower-laden form. “They look bulky and broken, tire the eye and feel fussy,” said Manhattan interior designer Jennifer Hunter.

Instead: Simple modern or contemporary silhouettes bring florals into the 21st century. Mrs. Hunter relies on tight upholstery. “You have more canvas to display the full repeat of the pattern,” she said, calling out a mod barrel-back chair as perfect for a petaled pattern. A boxy sofa looks even less frothy if cushions are piped in structured cord, added Zak Profera, of textile company Zak+Fox.

Swoopy Drapery

Petal-printed curtains become antediluvian with swags and valences, much less passementerie. “People associate florals with formality, and multicolour trim and tassels echo past designs,” said interior designer Will Huff, of Atlanta’s Huff-Dewberry.

Instead: Mr. Huff recently installed a Hollyhock print from Lee Jofa in a sunroom. “We used simple panels to ensure that the room felt traditional yet current,” he said. A fresh alternative to a flamboyant valence, according to Nashville designer McLean Barbieri: a simple upholstered cornice in the same fabric as the curtain panels.

Darling Décor

Steer clear of too-sweet designs. Quarter-size posies, in particular, “look too dollhouse, too old-fashioned and too country,” said Mr. McBournie.

Instead: Mr. McBournie sticks with larger blooms in psychedelic colours. Mr. Higgins notes that a dark background ballasts a pattern, so it “doesn’t scream little girl.”

Scene Stealers

“Without another pattern, a single floral will command all the attention,” said New York City designer Kathleen Walsh.

Instead: New York City designer Bunny Williams tempers botanicals with stripes or even leopard print. She might ground a chair in a Jacobean-inspired floral with a tartan rug. In a flowery bathroom, Sydney designer Greg Natale offset chinoiserie with geometric floor tile and marble veining. Another floral can help the eye travel, but be sure to mix scales. Mrs. Hunter balanced a headboard clad in sizable rose clusters with grid-like bedding punctuated by tiny florets. Mr. Profera’s rough guideline for a good range: Mix motifs that vary from the size of a basketball to a baseball to a golf ball.

Florals for Bros

Design professionals select bloom-based prints that even flowers-are-for-gurls men can appreciate

PHOTO: MIGUEL FLORES-VIANA

Science-Project Floral

“Botanical prints tend to be universally liked by men. This may have to do with their scientific nature,” said Atlanta designer Will Huff, of Huff-Dewberry. “The depictions of flora aren’t necessarily designed to be pretty.” Antique botanicals, he said, look ordered and clean and not too feminine, as illustrated by the room shown here by Dorset, England, interiors consultant Edward Hurst. Botanical Studies Hand-painted Wallpaper Designed With Michael S. Smith, from, Degournay.com

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Rep-Tie Floral

The repeating pattern in this recreation of a hand-blocked Indian textile “makes it like a traditional stripe, not too fussy,” said Roger Higgins, a designer in Nashville who recently paired drapery of this fabric with lacquered navy walls in a man’s study. “This makes it a bit more masculine,” he said. Kingsley Indienne Fabric by Hodsoll McKenzie, FabricsAndPapers.com

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Puckish-Primate Floral

This Cole & Son wallpaper is not strictly floral or bucolic, said Sydney designer Greg Natale, calling it more playful than pretty—even slightly surrealist. “The 1940s print has a sense of humor, with its unexpected pairing of cheeky monkeys and pomegranates,” he said. Frutto Proibito Wallpaper,  atorsBest.com

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

17th-Century Floral

“Patterns that are overly literal read too garden-y,” said Boston designer Gary McBournie, who noted that this pillow would handsomely accent a man’s dressing room. “Florals that read somewhat geometric, like this Jacobean print on textured linen, don’t signal sweetness.” Trotwood Pillow, HivePalmBeach.com




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Is ‘Rizz’ the Secret to Getting Ahead at Work?

Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
Mon, Jul 22, 2024 4 min

Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”

MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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