Curly wool furniture: a chic and timeless covering

For the past 2 years, curly wool fabric or bouclette fabric has been making a noticeable comeback in the collections of contemporary furniture editors. And for good reason, this covering that inspires comfort and cocooning is back in force in the decorating trends of the moment. We tell you more about a style inherited from Scandinavian design and which has lost none of its appeal...

It's a noticeable comeback: many contemporary furniture editors are bringing bouclette fabric back into fashion. With the confinement and massification of telecommuting, the French have rethought their relationship to their interior; interior design and decoration have (re)become refuge values. This is why many editors are declining their vision of a warm interior whose centerpiece is a curly fabric seat, preferably white and bright.

The publisher Roche Bobois offers the Manta armchair, design: Antoine Fritsch and Vivien Durisotti. A soft look with a sheep-like upholstery.

Rico upholstered chair in looped fabric by Danish publisher Ferm Living.

Rico upholstered armchair made of looped fabric in an interior, by the Danish publisher Ferm Living.

Publisher Ligne Roset is riding the trend of a return to curly wool for a warm interior. Mil cushion with one side in Mongolian lambskin with long curly hair. The back is made of suede fabric (100% polyester).

Let's go back to the origins of curly wool's success. In the 1950s, Coco Chanel is credited with the brilliant idea of using looped wool to design her "little black dress" and "little black jacket." But the famous fashion designer had already started working with coarse-textured fabrics: she was already using wool tweed in the 1930s. In 1954, it was success for Coco Chanel who declined her 2 flagship pieces in bouclé fabric: it was a worldwide success!

Among Coco Chanel's most famous customers, the 1st Lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy, will popularize her famous pink bouclé chanel suit, her husband's favorite, among the younger generation. History will sadly remember that she wore her signature suit on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Jackie Kennedy in her pink Chanel curly wool suit and her husband on November 22, 1963 in Dallas.

From fashion to furniture, it's just a step. Bouclette fabric made a grand entrance into the world of the design industry when, in the late 1940s, Florence Knoll was thinking about designing an armchair for Knoll Associates that she could curl up in. The comforting look of the curly wool sounds like a no-brainer. As for the shape of the seat, it is the Finnish-American designer Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) who takes care of it. In 1948, the Womb Chair was born, dressed in Knoll's Classic loop. The piece quickly became an interior design icon.

Womb Chair, design Eero Saarinen for Knoll Associates, 1948. Solid steel frame, organically shaped fiberglass shell. Upholstery in foam or polyurethane foam with metal structure. "Cato" upholstery is 14 th viscose and 86 th wool.

Womb™ Chair Medium, design Eero Saarinen for Knoll Associates, 1948. Eero Saarinen succeeded in designing an enveloping and protective-looking seat at the request of Florence Knoll, who wanted, "a chair that looked like a basket full of pillows...something I could really curl up in." The four-legged chairs are available today from Knoll in Standard, Medium or Relax versions.

That a Scandinavian designer came up with this secure seating is no accident. There is indeed a tradition in Scandinavian design to design warm and comfortable furniture to spend the long winter days... Scandinavian countries favor a bright interior with wood as the centerpiece. This is called "Hygge" design, or how to bring clarity, brightness and comfort for an interior with a tender and comfortable atmosphere, cosy in short. The Nordic countries are masters in this field and curly wool, lambswool in particular, has long been used in Scandinavian furniture.

Symbol of this "cozy" design, the lambswool seat of the Lamino armchair made by the Swedish designer Yngve Ekström (1913-1988). It synthesizes all aspects of "Hygghe" design, as do so many other pieces of Scandinavian design, most notably the lambskin armchairs by Danish publisher Fritz Hansen.

Lamino chair in oak with footrest, the upholstery is in white sheepskin. Design: Yngve Ekström, 1952, for Swedese möbler. An inviting armchair with sheepskin.

Pair of "TeVe" chairs, design: Alf Svensson for Ljungs Industrier AB Malmö, 1953. This classic chair has become an icon in Swedish homes, firm upholstered seat and backrest that are covered in a beautiful sand-colored sheepskin.

Pair of "TeVe" chairs, design: Alf Svensson for Ljungs Industrier AB Malmö, 1953. Detail on the sheepskin upholstery that provides warmth and comfort...

Lambskin armchair model 1578 published by Fritz Hansen, 1940s.

In France, decorator Jean Royère (1902-1981) is known for his woolly upholstered creations. His Polar Bear Sofa, made in 1965, became a design classic with its mohair velvet (wool velvet) fabric. A symbol of the post-war years, Teddy established itself as a lightly absorbent, ultra-soft fabric.

Pair of "Egg" chairs, design: Jean Royère, 1955. The seat is a type of shell upholstered in cream curly wool (on the outside) and black wool velvet on the inside. So cozy!

"Polar Bear" sofa, design: Jean Royère, circa 1965. Original mohair velvet fabric.

Drawing by Jean Royère - Musée des Arts décoratifs

Over the Alps, the glamorous and comfortable side of curly wool doesn't leave Italian designers indifferent. They, too, used the looped fabric that enjoyed a second golden age in the seventies. The curly fabric lends itself to the game of pop colors and organic forms of the time. For all that, the bright white of the fabric remains the sure bet for elegant design.

Gray curly wool lounge chairs, design: Afra and Tobia Scarpa, 1960s on Design Market

Vintage Camaleonda curly wool sofa by Mario Bellini, 1972 on Design Market

What is it about curly wool, then, that makes it so charming? The real wool brings security and comfort, a soft texture that would remind the "Doudou" of childhood? The looped fabric, whose surface is as if enhanced by knots, is the result of irregular weaving of the wool. The finished look, a woolly texture, provides visual comfort and a chic aesthetic, especially with white...

Today, other materials like polyester make up this elegantly comfortable fabric. If you add to the comfort of the textile a design with very rounded lines, then you get an elegant piece that invites relaxation. This is something that today's editors have well understood, revisiting design classics with a curly fabric covering...

Pacha armchair, design: Pierre Paulin, 1975. In 2018, Danish iconic and timeless design publisher Gubi reissued Pierre Paulin's famous armchair. Curved, organic shapes combined with a curly wool and viscose fabric make this piece so charming!

Boomerang chair, design: Peter Hvidt and Orla Mølgaard-Nielsen, 1956. In January 2020, the Danish publisher and Tradition is reissuing the Boomerang armchair with a white curly fabric upholstery.

Wilson Bouclette chair at furniture publisher AM.PM. A line that is reminiscent of great design classics such as Gerrit Rietveld's Zig Zag Chair (1934) or Verner Panton's Panton Chair (1960)!

François Boutard

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