Flowers and lace might have an old-world sensibility, but modern designers are doing revolutionary things with them. While there will always be a demand for shabby chic - the neo-rustic furniture and pretty patterns made famous by Los Angeles designer Rachel Ashwell (www.shabbychic.com) - the aesthetic goes far beyond that these days.
Take, for example, the innovative approach to lace from Rotterdam-based Chris Kabel (www.chriskabel.com), who uses it for his Shadylace outdoor umbrella (top right). Made from weatherproof lace, the parasol was developed in collaboration with producers around Lille, France, a region known for its lace. Kabel says he wanted to convey the feeling of sitting beneath a tree. His Sililace tablecloth (left) is made from cast silicone, looking almost as if it were dripped onto the table.
Denmark's GAMplusFRATESI (www.gamplusfratesi.com), a husband-and-wife design duo whose fibreglass table and chair have a pretty lace design, embellish their large Ninfea Floor Seating cushions with wild-flower prints. Their Luisa stool, table and chaise longue pieces have been adorned with an ornate peach blossom design, although the modernist silver-grey and red shades help prevent too nostalgic a look.
Droog (www.droogdesign.nl), a Dutch company at the forefront of contemporary design, recently developed floor tiles that turn floral as soon as they become wet. Called Solid Poetry, the cement tiles (below left) debuted at the Milan design fair this year.
Indeed, European designers seem at the heart of this flowery, lacy trend. Briton Laurie Dickason recently unveiled Flippant, a floral light-switch plate. The Rug Company, which has outlets in London, Los Angeles and New York (www.therugcompany.info), has a floor covering made from cowhide flowers. And from Lithuania's Contraforma (www.contraforma.com) come metal tables perforated in floral patterns.
The trend can be seen in soft furnishings as well. Target (www.target.com) stocks a line called Simply Shabby Chic, which features many lace quilts and shams. The same designs extend to tablecloths as well.
Kabel says using lace in interiors is a way to challenge design directions. 'Lace is a broad and unclear subject,' he says. 'If you print a lace motif on wallpaper, is it still lace?' Whatever the answer, Kabel says, 'We haven't seen the last of lace'. And it seems the same can be said of flowers.