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Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix

Reimagining Quilts For Modern Living

Quilts have a storied place in time. Part of American life since the colonial era, they were originally fashioned from clothing scraps to warm bedding.

“They tell a story and rich history, whether passed down as a family heirloom or found at a flea market in Paris,” says Susie McLaren, creative head of residential interiors at SHH, an architecture and interior design practice in London.

“The beauty of quilts is that their creation is by definition a calming, contemplative act. And having one in your room can literally help you to slow down, pause, and reflect,” says Michelle Salz-Smith, founder of Studio Surface design firm in Del Mar, Calif.

Once “Moon River” by Stanford Biggers finishes its U.S. exhibition tour, it will find its rightful place in a home designed by Michelle Salz-Smith.
Once “Moon River” by Stanford Biggers finishes its U.S. exhibition tour, it will find its rightful place in a home designed by Michelle Salz-Smith

Quilts are a natural way to add color to a room. “Every quilt is art, an added dimension to the complete look of the home,” say Paul Rochford and Michael Violante of Violante & Rochford Interiors in Santa Fe, N.M. “They lend every room more texture and depth in a subtle but very beautiful way.”

When iterated in patterns, designs, and colorways such as bold geometrics or color blocks, quilts can feel current and add contemporary flair—whether on the bed or covering the walls.

PATTERNS MATTER

“Pattern is like language; it’s the written word in shapes and speaks to us to tell a story,” McLaren says. “It can be a gateway to fascinating tales, foreign places, and social histories. Tribal, ethnic, or native quilts cover myriad styles and people, each with its own rich history and distinct identity—subtly different but instantly recognizable,” she says.

When contrasted with a room’s style, patterns create a contemporary feel—for instance, a modern room with a traditional quilt or a Western-style space with an Indian block-print quilt, says Clare Louise Frost, co-founder of Tamam, a line of textiles and home decor in Manhattan. “What is traditional in one culture or context can read entirely differently in another culture or context,” she says.

Then there’s the idea of mixing patterns, which brings in unexpected colors and textures. “Select a recurring color and patterns in different sizes and complexity but of the same DNA and style. They will not only work but enhance each other,” McLaren says.

MAKE IT MODERN

Modern-style geometric quilts are a wonderful way to bring warmth and depth to a contemporary space, Salz-Smith says.

To keep the look contemporary and chic, balance a traditional pattern with pillows, colors, textures, and furniture that are more modern in style, Frost says. “Let the quilt be the detailed and intricate piece. Balance it with clean lines or solid colors.”

THINK BEYOND THE BED

While originally crafted for bed coverings, using a quilt in alternative ways injects originality into any space. Liven up a piece of furniture by throwing a quilt over a living room chair, small sofa, or storage ottoman. And, to really add an unexpected touch, weave a quilt into the decor itself, Violante and Rochford say. “Some of the more dramatic ways we’ve used them are as huge wall hangings in large open rooms, framed under glass, or repurposed into throw pillows around a home.”

Salz-Smith has utilized traditional quilts in fresh ways—as framed pieces of artwork, upholstered seating, and displayed in acrylic shadow boxes. She prefers reserving an entire wall expanse for hanging a quilt to make a dramatic impact. And while there are no limits to where you can put them, Salz-Smith advises keeping quilts away from any areas where there’s steam or moisture, so they won’t mildew.

“I love to mount and hang them instead of putting them behind glass,” Frost says. “It seems like such a shame to cover up the wonderful hand-stitched texture of quilts with a flat surface. They are really intimate textiles. You want to be able to appreciate all the details. Hanging them on a wall lets you get up close and personal.”

Violante & Rochford Interiors uses bold-colored quilts in their designs,
Violante & Rochford Interiors uses bold-colored quilts in their designs,

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