Homestyle: All the trimmings

By Elaine Markoutsas
Universal Uclick

Trim — in fashion or home furnishings — often is described as a finishing touch. Iconic as the braid punctuation on a Chanel boucle jacket, it can be subtle on upholstery as in a barely there piping that edges a chair, or a same-color banding that contrasts simply in texture or sheen. Or perhaps it can wake up the skirt of a white sofa with a cobalt Greek key border. Sassy fringe on a handbag or cladding the side of a chair? Oh yes, fringe can be dramatic.

Six years ago, Laura Kirar boldly fashioned fringe out of leather strips and wrapped it around her shaggy Guernica chair for McGuire. And 15 years ago, London-based Kelly Hoppen used chain mail in an imaginative way — as a fringy skirt on a curvaceous rusty-red velvet chair for a collection that she designed for Century Furniture.

The French-based Caravane is a leader in home fashions. The thick, heavy cotton of the Kisama plaid throw pillow has elegant embroidered braids, which are used to assemble three different panels of fabric, trimmed on the sides with twisted two-tone tassels. The back of the cushion cover is made from unwashed natural cotton canvas. The textiles are an homage to artisanal weaving in northeast India.

Today, fringe is noticeably entertaining. Billy Porter immediately leaps to mind. The performer's glittery peacock blue jumpsuit, cropped jacket and matching eye shadow were everything on the Grammy red carpet -- but it was all about that hat. He rocked glittery crystal fringe that served as a curtain hanging from the wide brim down to his chin.

But we digress -- just a little. Silky, shimmery fringe certainly is having a moment again in home decor. It's popping up on the sides of chairs, rimming ottomans, sometimes in color-blocked layers. It's framing mirrors and even dripping from sconces and pendant lights, like the crescent-shaped ones from the Spanish brand Houtique.

Beyond fringe, woven and embroidered bands, piping, cording, galloons (decorative woven trims, often with metallic gold or silver thread, used in military uniforms and liturgical garments), pompons, rosettes, gimp, soutache (narrow, flat decorative braiding) and tassels are commanding attention in the trim universe, which at its most posh level is called passementerie. And at the haute level, trim can be much more than a finishing touch. In fact, most of what's happening with trims in interiors is about personal expression, customization -- those pivotal elements that really lend character.

"I consider it just as important as the fabric," says Jana Platina Phipps, AKA the Trim Queen. A blogger since 2013, she is passionate about embellishments in fashion, interior and DIY -- not only well-versed in the field, but a hands-on designer. "It can become a tool to signify style like nothing else. And it can bridge design elements in a room like nothing else."

Some of the most coveted trims still are handmade, with the finest yarns and threads, even pure gold, which kicks up their price to $500 per yard and more.

At Heimtextil, the international textile show in Messe Frankfurt, and Paris Deco Off, where luxe fabric brands show their newest collections and trends, both in January, standouts were bold because of palette, use, and mixing of materials, scale and tactility.

— Wide bands are making more of a statement.

— Matte finishes. Though silks are still strong, there's movement to linen, wool and blends for a natural, more casual look.

— A mix of materials seemed fresh, even with high contrasts such as matte with shiny, rustic with refined.

— Natural elements like mother of pearl, seashell, cork and raffia are especially strong in drapery tiebacks.

— Embroidery. Complexity of design really shines through the best artisans. Motifs include geometric, architectural and floral.

— Ribbon patterns included animal prints, camouflage, stripes, sequin florals and lace.

— Leather. No longer relegated to piping alone; banding also reflects decorative treatments, like shredding, perforating and top stitching. Vegan alternatives and hide also are part of the conversation. Leather also was used as tassels in curtain tiebacks -- solo or in combination with other fibers.

— Bling. In addition to metallic threads in gold, silver, copper or color, beading is woven in or applied to trims. We saw crystal, pearl, sequin and glitter looks.

— Metal elements. Think nailheads and circles. In drapery, mirrored, stainless, brass spheres, plus textile ones "striped" in iridescent metallic strips.

— Intricate weaves were dazzling in richness of pattern and color. An example of some of the most energetic weaves is the work of Elizabeth Ashdown, a London-based artist. One of the U.K.'s last remaining passementerie-makers, she uses traditional weaving techniques with an energetic use of vivid color, pattern and material to create contemporary, exclusive one-off pieces.

Inspirations for trim creators are coming from fashion and architecture.

Chicago-based interior designer Frank Ponterio recently debuted a textile and trim collection for Clarence House during Paris Deco Off. He says he was inspired largely by growing up in Italy and from travel photos.

His fabrics include soft lambswool, nubby alpacas and linens, and the trims are highlighted by details such as stitching on hide and metal rings on linen. He describes the collection as "refined and authentic, tailored precision, pretty and strong, delicate but livable."

"For trims, I looked at men's fashion. A multicolored cord was inspired by friendship bracelets. There's a leather trim on a linen background, stripped back and forth -- it came from a jacket design, the leather strips shirred on the bodice of the coat."

Ponterio says he has doesn't have a particular decorating style, though he has done a lot of significant historical work, as well as contemporary.

"I have a little more fun with contemporary detail, even in a classical interior," he says. "I want something to feel thoughtfully put together, curated and bespoke."

In a living room setting, his metal and linen banding edges a window shade. A skinny piping punctuates the seat of an ottoman covered in lush alpaca. Linen pillows are decorated with cut vegan leather bands. A rug is framed by a decorative border.

"I've used gimp or flat tape on the inside of a cabinet, on the face of shelves as a nice surprise detail. And on upholstered walls. I've dressed up old picture frames with flat tapes. It's another tool in our toolbox."

Another area of design that has seen an uptick is that of outdoor trims. Even Houles, a high-end French brand nearly 100 years old, known for exquisite passementerie that has graced the Chateau de Versailles, introduced an indoor-outdoor collection called Palma, which has a fresh, modern look.

Modernity is also the hallmark of a new Houles collection by Michael Aiduss, who says he wanted to make traditional trims less fussy. His collection was inspired by the ancient Greek style of the early 20th-century Villa Kerylos in the south of France -- but it's stylized and appealingly geometric.

Milanese designer Lorenza Bozzoli also looked to geometry to create her Couture collection of ottomans produced with handmade fringes woven on 19th-century looms. Her work recalls a sinuous aesthetic typical of 1930s Art Deco and the architecture of Gio Ponti.

How trims are used makes all the difference. It's all about editing. The key is nothing in excess.

"Layering is being done much more than ever before, especially in window treatments," says Phipps, the Trim Queen, who recently entered a business partnership with ThreadCo, a New York City-based manufacturer. "Like grosgrain (ribbon) on top of gimp or something to add dimension. Designers are using trim in contrasting colors around upholstered walls. Everything is more of a statement."