Ikat print, with ethnic or tribal prints are all the rage

Plain, neutral upholstery and wall colour are the perfect backdrop to ethnic-style rugs and cushions (Persisk rug, €150-€1,025; cushions, €10 at Ikea).

Carol O’Callaghan is astonished to discover her lounge gear in Ikat print is this season’s hottest interior fabric.

An uncharacteristic and slightly hesitant purchase of mine late last summer — a pair of patterned harem pants — was prompted by the appeal of its slightly stretchy fabric and elasticated waist band. At the time, something built for comfort was required as we faced into winter and the prospect of needing a garment capable of accommodating ribsticking comfort food. Indeed it did sterling work some months later on Christmas Day.

So imagine my astonishment when it prompted gasps of admiration from friends who have taste, really good taste in fact. Apparently, the pattern is in-vogue ikat print, a close relation of Aztec print which, with ethnic or tribal prints as they are also known, are all the rage.

So, suddenly the garment which I had catalogued in the same fashion department as my beloved onesie, was covetable and similar has since been purchased by the same friends.

I say it regularly in this column: if you see something on the fashion catwalks, it will show up in interiors very shortly afterwards, and so it is with the ikat, Aztec and ethnic print vogue, although it’s rather disconcerting to see my pants emblazoned on wallpaper, furniture, rugs, textiles and cushions.

The look is stylish, even chic, unlike the ‘70s when these prints last made an appearance in dull orange, yellow and green combinations. The pattern was created with tie-dying techniques which always looked homemade, but not in a good way. The handcrafted look is currently popular but with well-finished products that suggest homemade, not like the ‘70s when it represented being unable to afford anything better.

Applying ethnic print in interiors is a bold move, making other patterns like florals and stripes fade by comparison. Although best used on its own, it will work with other patterns if confined to smaller surfaces, like cushions. Keep them all the same size and in the same colourway, making sure everything else in the room is plain, unless you have a very good eye for pulling different styles together.

Triangles, or the notion of them, form the basis of the pattern although the word ikat originally referred to the dying and decorative techniques. Aztec is more or less the same type of thing as both emphasise the geometric. Be careful of its repetitive quality, however, as it can dazzle.

A rug is an ideal way to introduce the look, especially in rooms with neutral décor where there’s no risk of clashing colour or styles.

But the print is even being applied to wallpaper and offers something novel and striking, but hold off on an all-over application until you know for sure you can live with it. Wallpaper is quite a commitment and takes hard work to reverse. To be on the safe side, bring a pattern sample home with you, study it closely for a full minute, then move your gaze to a plain surface. If you can still see the pattern before your eyes, will you be able to live with it constantly around you?

¦ Next week it’s the hues and tones of turquoise.

Ikat print, with ethnic or tribal prints are all the rage


Irish textile designer, Jennifer Slattery, who pioneered photography on table linens, is launching a new range, called Granny Knew Best. Made from 100% cotton, it includes screen-printed hand drawings on tea towels, oven gloves, an apron, tea cosy and shopping bag. Pictured are the double oven gloves, €20.95. Available at Avoca, The Anchor Ardmore, Arnotts and www.jenniferslatterytextiles.com.


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