Every January, design magazines love to talk about trends for the upcoming year, but The Glam Pad prefers to discuss classics that withstand the test of time. Today, guest contributor Laura Stockett Roberts, founder of the blog Portrait of the South and fellow lover of all things timeless and traditional, will be highlighting one of my favorite design elements… treillage. Welcome, Laura!
DECORATING WITH TREILLAGE BY LAURA STOCKETT ROBERTS
Now that the nutcrackers and menorahs are put away, resort is in full season and garden-inspired spring design is in the air! The snow birds have migrated to warmer climates such as Palm Beach and Lyford Cay which has me thinking about Treillage, a classic design element that brings back the charm of the old-time gardens. In her book The House in Good Taste, first published in 1913, America’s “first lady of American decoration” Elsie de Wolfe says:
“A knowledge of the history of treillage and an appreciation of its practical application to modern needs is a conjurer’s want – you can wave it and create all sorts of ephemeral constructions that will last your time and pleasure. You may give your trellis any poetic shape your vision may take. You may dream and realize enchanting gardens, with clipped hedges and trellis walls. You may transform a commonplace porch into a gay garden room, with a few screens of trellis and many flower boxes of shrubs and vines. Here indeed is a delightful medium for your fancy!”
For a full picture of historic and modern application, I began by reaching out to Accents of France, the gold standard in decorative French treillage. The delightful Philippe Le Manach gave me a foundational education about treillage.
LSR: Philippe, thank you so much to talking with me today about treillage. First of all, just to kick it off, give us some historical reference. I know that humans have been creating rooms within gardens for hundreds of years, but it was the French that really came up with what we know of today at treillage. Give us a brief history of what gardens were like before and how the introduction of treillage was different.
PLeM: The French started using treillage as a way to create “instant architecture” in the newly built chateaux of the 18th century. They needed something that was big and grand to match the grandeur of the Chateau, but hedges or topiaries would take years if not decades to grow to full maturity. But treillage was instant. It could be built and installed to any scale and added a formal sense of garden “architecture” instantly. As the garden matured, plants and roses could be trained upon it to soften the look and add more foliage.
LSR: So treillage was originally meant to be a functional style hack for beautiful ornamental climbing plants but became a beautiful ornament of its own… so very French! Tell us about treillage in its French heyday.
PLeM: In its heyday, treillage could be seen taking many forms. Whether that be freestanding treillage that formed structures such as pavilions, gazebos, arbors, or as decorative elements on existing buildings like we see today on the Pavillion Frais at Versailles. Treillage also has the ability to create a forced perspective, something essential to a formal French garden, to make spaces seem even larger, even grander and more important. As the royal court was the arbiter of good taste and high fashion, the look spread through the nobility and aristocracy and eventually became associated with well-appointed homes in France and throughout Europe.
LSR: I’m picturing all those grand men and women, promenading throughout a treillage-lined garden with all of their lace and frills. I love the notion of taking architecture, traditionally held for interiors, and moving it outdoors. Conversely, I also adore the idea of then bringing that gorgeous treillage indoors. Speak a little more about treillage’s indoor applications.
PLeM: Yes, treillage is wonderful indoors as well. It has the power to bring the outdoors in and can create a beautiful sunroom. But some of the more interesting installations I’ve seen have been in rooms not typically associated with the outdoors, such as treillage in a dining room, or living room or entryway. I’ve seen rooms that started as just a “box” transformed into something truly sophisticated by the use of treillage. Just as it has the power to create “instant architecture” outside it can do the same indoors as well.
LSR: Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?
PLeM: When I first began most of our work was of the traditional nature, but through the years we’ve done some wonderful contemporary uses for treillage as well. Sometimes it is a collection of planter boxes for a retail chain, or a sleek terrace for a city apartment, or an outdoor space for a New York hotel, such as the Baccarat in New York. These projects are really exciting because it’s fun to see the symmetry of treillage respected, but the application be something more modern. It creates a fresh take an old-world tradition and illustrates how, despite the centuries, treillage still has the ability to problem-solve and create interest wherever it goes.
LSR: I love it! Danielle Rollins, the Atlanta-based designer, was also problem solving when she recently reinterpreted treillage with her latest Palm Beach project. Danielle, we have all been following the remodel of your place in Palm Beach on Instagram. Your Instagram stories always make me smile! When I saw your use of treillage as an architectural solution, I was smitten. Such a fresh way to use it! Typically, we think of it cladding walls, either interior or garden. Tell us about the project and how you came up with the brilliant solution.
DR: I have come to the accepted and appreciated fact that my head is not “normal” — I approach things in a very off the wall, random and somewhat haphazard way. I look at objects as what they can be, not what they’re intended for. I honestly think it’s a holdover from a very active imagination as a constant day dreamer in my childhood where I spent hours immersed in make believe worlds creating things and I guess that love of the make believe hasn’t really left!
LSR: I love that about you! That’s what makes your spaces personal and very “you.” So… carry on. Popcorn ceilings.
DR: I hated the popcorn ceilings and as much as I tried to think I could ignore them I knew it would keep me up at night. As a creative person, I see faults. It’s a blessing and a curse. I was at Home Depot getting some hollow core doors to make a screen (that’s another story!) [AUTHOR’S NOTE: MUST CIRCLE BACK AND GET THIS STORY!] and all of a sudden the lattice idea came to me and that if I painted the ceiling a darker color the bumps would be less obvious and the lattice applied over it would make it feel intentional. So viola! The bedroom as cabana scheme emerged! My dear friend and the most talented decorative painter, Mary Mead Evens, flew down and painted the turquoise “messy stripes” over the white walls. I knew with only 8’ ceilings I needed to not only make the ceiling recede through using the darker color but had to add height through a vertical pattern. You should come for a slumber party!
LSR: You mean I’d get to wake in that delightfully happy space? I’m currently clearing my calendar for a weekend in February. Goodbye, dreary Nashville! Hello, sunny Palm Beach! Tell me… what do I need to keep in mind if I were going to borrow your project for inspiration?
DR: Please, borrow away! I love when people get excited about making their living spaces more enjoyable and it’s why I share. I used a lightweight vinyl lattice that comes in 4×8 sections and just screwed them into the ceilings. The key is doing a little math to line them up so that they connect but that’s easy! And to cut them we just used a handsaw and then smithed the edges off with light sand paper. Another thing that helps is to get a paint mixed to match the lattice to touch up the screws. A little thing but one that makes a big difference in the end look. All in all, the plus is that it’s very easy, fast and inexpensive solution that took less than a few hours and cost only a few hundred dollars!
LSR: Such a fantastic idea. I also love that Danielle is just repeating a pattern first started by the French of using treillage to solve an architectural problem. Amy Berry, the brilliant Dallas-based designer, has also been inspired by treillage in its many iterations. Amy, I know you are as big a fan of treillage as we are. Tell me what it is about treillage that appeals to you.
AB: We love working with treillage! We have used it recently in my daughter’s big girl room, the House Beautiful showhouse, our store, Amy Berry Home and for a couple of our favorite clients, too! Treillage is such a fun way to create visual interest in a space. One of my favorite ways we’ve used it was in the new shop is to divide the spaces while still allowing light to shine through.
LSR: It’s really a classic look. Who are your inspirations when it comes to interpreting it? Who are the icons you think of when you picture treillage?
AB: A lot of my design influence comes from European design and my love for French chateaus and the gardens. And of course, from the greats, Bunny Williams and Sister Parish.
LSR: I love that treillage, essentially a lattice pattern, can make its way into design in other forms. I was just touring the House Beautiful show house in Nashville and loved your use of that classic Stark carpet in the girls room. It was a brilliant way to bring in that nod to lattice without hanging panels on the wall. Are there other ways to bring that look into a space through wallpapers or other decor?
AB: We also love using lattice wallpaper as a way to bring in the traditional element in a more modern way. A bright color in a powder bath gives a pop of color and texture to a small space!
Inspiration can be found everywhere, however. There are literal uses of treillage, like what is found below in a delightful little sliver of a bunk room at the Southern Living Showcase Home outside of Nashville. Designer Becky Boyle really made this wee little space sing. Isn’t it just lovely? There are also treillage-inspired images, like Bunny Mellon’s trompe l’oiel treillage in her potting shed.
And if you need one more dose of treillage inspiration, look no further than Sarah Bartholomew’s delightful shop right here in Nashville. It’s right around the corner from my house. I pass it about 17 times a day. Isn’t it lovely? She covered the exterior of the shop, entirely, in treillage!
So don’t focus on the dreary winter weather. Turn your hearts to thoughts of French gardens and timeless classic style!