We’re just going to come right out and say it: floral sofas are back.
1stDibs reports a 60 percent increase in searches for the term. Chairish calls it a “rising trend” among their buyers and sellers. Meanwhile, the blossom-patterned designs have been spotted in high design publications from Architectural Digest to Dezeen.
Chairish’s vice president of merchandising, Noel Fahden, isn’t mad about it: “We’ve long thought chintz and floral sofas were due for a comeback,” she says. But others probably prefer it stays in the past. Flowered upholstery is frequently associated with all things kitsch and dated: google “grandma furniture” and it’s the first image that pops up. Same with “ugly couch.” And lest you forget, when Kim Kardashian wore an unpopular dress to the Met Gala, the internet’s snarkiest instinct was to compare her to… you guessed it. (Years later, the same happened to Harry Styles.)
So, why is this oft-disdained style returning?
Florals weren’t always such a polarizing print: 1stDibs Director of Fine Art Anthony Barzilay Freund notes that in the 16th century, the Tudor Rose patterned textile was the design du jour due to its frequent use by Henry VIII. Then, in the 17th century, chintz—or pattern cotton fabric with a glazed finish—made its way from India to Europe.
In the 19th century, during the height of the Industrial Revolution, William Morris idealized the English countryside in decorative designs of flora and fauna—ushering in a folksy, medieval decor style now known as the Arts & Crafts movement. “The Victorians, with their winter gardens and potted palms, also saw floral or nature-themed patterns as a respite from the increasingly gray world outside their windows,” says Barzilay Freund.
Come the 20th century, American interior designers like Dorothy Draper, Sister Parrish, and “King of Clutter” Mario Buatta took cues from the grand English country estates of eras past for many of their chic, high profile commissions.
But what waxes must also wane. The 1970s and 1980s were decades of questioning societal norms and the “old way” of doing things. Design movements like mid-century modern and later minimalism took hold. The chintzy couches of centuries past went straight out the door.
Now, what’s made the pendulum swing the other way? “For the last few years, we’ve seen growing interest in what is known as the Grand Millennial look: a youthful, hipster-inflected reimagining of your grandmother’s decor,” Barzilay Freund says. “Picture chintz and ticking and wicker and pottery and greenery galore—or imagine a room designed by Sister Parish if she’d smoked a little weed.” Grand millennials (a term first coined by Emma Bazilian of House Beautiful in 2019) were drawn to comfort and nostalgia, a subliminal reaction to living through such a tumultuous age.