Full frontal floral

FLORALS might be a perennial favourite for bringing colour and freshness to interiors, but don’t assume you’ve seen it all before when it comes to this blooming style. There are always tempting new interpretations being explored by designers and this year is no exception. But remember our fondness for florals endures precisely because they never fail to give rooms a zingy lift, with their decorative evocation of nature.

FLORALS might be a perennial favourite for bringing colour and freshness to interiors, but don’t assume you’ve seen it all before when it comes to this blooming style. There are always tempting new interpretations being explored by designers and this year is no exception. But remember our fondness for florals endures precisely because they never fail to give rooms a zingy lift, with their decorative evocation of nature.

Even treating a home to a simple scattering of flowery printed accessories - a cushion here and a throw there - will lift the spirits, especially at a time when we’re all craving signs that spring has truly arrived.

“Floral designs have always been an integral part of the Irish and British interior, from the rich tapestries of the medieval nobility to today’s pared-down patterns by designers such as Orla Kiely,” says Lawrence Roullier White, founder of the interiors company of the same name.

“It’s the stylised manner in which they are depicted that changes with the mood of the time. You only have to look at the austerity of floral designs in the 1940s and the subsequent over-blown blooms of the Fifties to chart this change.”

He predicts that flower designs from previous decades are bursting onto the scene again: “Art Nouveau floral imagery from the 1900s became popular again in the 1970s, cladding many a Biba-babe, and even that ‘no-no’ of generic deigns - chintz - had new life breathed into it by Cath Kidston,” he points out.

“Now we’re feeling more confident and optimistic, powerful Rococo designs with large, rich blooms are making a resurgence.” Clare Price, founder of interiors specialist, The Contemporary Home, shares her view that florals never fade but acknowledges that for some, they’re still an acquired taste, partly because they’re wrongly associated with dated, fussy interiors.

“You either love florals or hate them, but be prepared to be surrounded by them this year!” she predicts. “They endure because of their versatility, and their ability to conjure memories of childhood and a rose-tinted recollection of perfect country gardens. I think tiny, ditzy prints are proving more popular because they’re easier to mix with existing items in the home.”

So think beyond the vase - there’s enough flowery, decorative homeware around for a dazzling bouquet - without having to raid the garden.

:: Modern florals

This look works equally well for fans of romantic, feminine rooms as it does for those wishing to use colour and pattern to soften cool, contemporary settings. “Today’s take on florals is all about creating a floral paradise which is both chic and modern,” advises Anita Kaushal, stylist and interiors author.

“So instead of opting for predictable pastel shades, consider bolder fuschias, bright greens and blues. Use a dramatic replication of one striking bloom in a fabric or a wall print, or feel free to contrast florals with other patterns such as bold stripes.”

It’s vital, she says, to allow the patterns to breathe by contrasting them with pale or neutral backgrounds, and to ensure a scheme has cohesion by picking out a few key shades in plain accessories, or other touches like a blind or curtains.

:: Funky florals

Bright, zingy colours and abstract designs are a world away from the tranquil pastoral scenes of yesterday, but they’re serving to make funky florals a sought after style fit for on-trend decoristas. “A floral design is perfect for adding an injection of colour and fun to an otherwise fashionably neutral interior,” says Lawrence Roullier White. “Ideally, keep the scheme quite clean and plump for one statement

“As a general rule, if you want subtle, select a pattern with a small repeat, but if you want drama, the bigger the better. It doesn’t even matter if the repeat is too big for the application. A cushion with the design ‘bleeding’ off the edge looks fantastic.”

:: Traditional floral

Classic florals, whether conjuring a country retreat or those complementing period style, have long reigned supreme, but even they’ve been given a facelift to suit 21st century homes. “The traditional mid-sized floral chintz is shaking off its image and has been replaced with new flower prints, which at the moment are either small and intricate or large statements,” says designer Joanna Wood.

“Big, statement florals work well in sophisticated areas such as living rooms, dining rooms and master bedrooms. Choose where you want to create a statement within the room carefully, and select the fabric sparingly on one highlight area - a large three seater sofa, a feature wall or a pair of curtains.

“Prints are highly effective in strong colours, with orange, bold spring greens and pistachio featuring this year.” She advises flower-sprigged, smaller scale prints for smaller, cosy areas and children’s rooms. Colours can be traditional - greens, pinks and sky blues - but modernise the look by mixing the same print in several colourways within a scheme.”