Velvet Revival: The History of the Luxe Home Decor Trend

by Alexia Bacigalupi August 16, 2017

Perhaps inspired by a revival in all things royal and period drama-esque thanks to Downton Abbey and The Crown, velvet furniture has made a big comeback in recent years. Elegant and oh-so-soft, velvet adds the perfect touch of everyday glamour to even the most understated of spaces.



Photo by Zeke Ruelas for Style by Emily Henderson


The History

The plush fabric is most often associated with European royalty but has its roots in the Middle East as far back as the 9th century. The term “velvet” actually refers to the structure of the fabric, rather than the type of fiber. The production process (involving evenly distributed silk threads cut with dense raised loops) was complex and expensive, and as a result, velvet became a symbol of wealth and power.



Photo from ATT PYNTA


For centuries, Cairo was a production hub for velvet, much of which was exported to Venice where it spread to the rest of Europe. During the Renaissance period, velvet fabric, often woven with silver and gold threads, was incorporated into clothing, religious garments, and interior furniture and produced by the wealthy Italian city-states of Venice, Florence, and Genoa. Production costs eventually fell with the invention of mechanized looms during the Industrial Revolution, but the association with wealth and prestige clung nonetheless. Bold velvet pieces were an integral element of elegant Art Deco design in the 1920s and the opulence of Beverly Hills in the 1970s. 




Modern Velvet

Mixing royal and retro connotations, the luxe textile has been given a thoroughly modern makeover in statement-making colors and unique shapes. We’re partial to pretty pastels, bold mustards, and rich forest greens for an unexpected-but-fresh take (though really, any color works). With its delicate sheen and sumptuous texture, velvet lends itself equally well to strong graphic chairs and soft plush couches. 



Use velvet to create depth and contrasting textures in a room (wool, brick, linen, wood, etc.) for visual interest.



Like pairing a piece of oversized costume jewelry with jeans and a white tee, don’t feel obliged to commit to a specific era or design sensibility with velvet furniture. In fact, the fabric works for a wide range of furniture styles: curved mid-century silhouettes in faded blush stand out against crisp white brick walls and industrial light fixtures, while minimalist Scandinavian couches in lustrous greens bring an earthy glamour to light wood furniture and natural woven carpets. Use velvet to create depth and contrasting textures in a room (wool, brick, linen, wood, etc.) for visual interest.



Are you ready to embrace the resurgence of velvet? What are your feelings on decorating with this of-the-moment fabric?



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