Damask’s flowing, scroll-like patterns are everywhere this season, from upmarket silks, to china at M&S. Its bold swirls are on tiles, rugs, printed venetian blinds and washbasins. Even one new radiator has a curvy damask shape.
The name damask comes from Damascus, the Syrian city whose woven linens were brought to Europe as early as the 13th century (though silk damasks were made in China much earlier). In damasks, repeating patterns, generally based on stylised floral motifs, are loomed into the cloth.
The beauty of an old-style damask weave is the subtle interplay between shiny and matt motifs in the same shade. But bolder modern versions use two contrasting colours to create more impact. “Old damasks were often very elaborate,” says Liz Cann, design director of Zoffany. “But we are simplifying the designs, changing the scale and texture, and experimenting with new fibres, such as raffia and microfibre, which we’ll launch in the spring.”
Tricia Guild of Designers Guild is the damask doyenne. Over the years, she has reworked damask in many creative ways. “It has a lustrous finish that conjures up luxury,” she says. “I love to combine texture and pattern, printing a bright painterly design, say, onto a swirling damask ground. Lavishly piling pattern upon pattern within the same fabric creates amazing depth, richness and vitality.”
But damask holds sway beyond pattern. Designers are using its curvy shapes as cut-outs for lamps and picture frames. You can see echoes in chain-store chandeliers and mirrors.
Give it a seductive glow
Going one step further is Dutch designer Joris Laarman, whose revolutionary Heatwave radiator is made from lightweight concrete and aluminium reinforced by glass fibre. Inspired by damask, it has four interconnecting shapes to arrange as you please. British designer Jona Hoad uses a laser to cut richly coloured acrylic sheets into panels for walls, screens and room dividers. The lacy damask outlines are lit then with tiny LEDs to add a seductive glow.
Fine linens and damask are perfect partners. Selling well at And So To Bed are four damask bed-linen designs in deep dyes and neutrals. Sheets, duvet covers and pillowcase come in all sizes, with extra-large versions to order. This cotton bed linen has a luxurious feel because of the high “thread count” of the weave. A thread count measures the number of threads per square inch. And So To Bed’s damask bed linen has a thread count of 500, compared with the 200-thread count of ordinary woven cotton sheets.
Damask is a classic, agrees Lindsay Grimshaw, design director of Dorma, whose ranges also feature damask. “Whether printed or woven, it can be cleverly styled to suit most environments, from a stately home to a modern loft.”
Oversized and over here, at M&S
Another devotee is Sally Bendelow, head of home design at M&S. “Oversized and bold, or delicate and classic, damask has instant wow factor,” she proclaims. Certainly, her company’s new damask china ticks all the right boxes: a great-value “statement” pattern in chic colours.
Low-key damask motifs cover soothing background wallpapers at B&Q (www.diy.com). Or damask can be writ large, with fragments of the design blown into huge murals by Digetex, which can adapt this idea to fit any wall area (0161 873 8891; www.digetex.com).
“Damasks have a subconscious appeal because, historically, they express opulence and wealth,” says Digetex design director Roger Wills. “Their natural rhythm and splendid curves have a majestic beauty.”
Rugs and tiles also sport overblown damask motifs this season, with a similar dramatic impact. The latest technology is making it possible to print a highly glossy design onto hard-wearing ceramics. Meanwhile, German ceramics company Villeroy & Boch is printing swirly damasks on to tiles and basins, inspired by the lavish baroque patterns of old silk wallpapers.
Richard Smith, design director of textile maker Warner, famous since 1870 for classic British fabrics, says: “Damasks add pattern without overpowering. They are constantly re-invented — we are using metallic inks on a heavy rustic linen. Simpler designs can have a sharp contemporary edge.”