The term “Toile de Jouy” (often simplified to just “toile”) originated in France in the late 18th century. In French, It literally means “cloth from Jouy-en-Josas,” a town in the north central part of the country.
Toile is a type of decorating pattern which generally consists of a white or off-white background with a repeated pattern of a fairly complex pastoral scene or floral arrangement. Monochromatic in nature, the pattern portion usually consists of a single color, most often black, dark red, or blue. However, multicolored or toiles in other colorways can be found.
Since 1760 when Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf first opened his textile factory in Jouy-en-Josas, toile fabrics have been continuously produced although their popularity has waxed and waned. During the colonial era in the United States, toiles were very popular and were again repopularized in the 1920’s and 1930’s when Americans fell in love with anything in the Colonial Revival Style. Toiles have since been highly associated with preservationist towns and historical areas such as Williamsburg. In the twenties, firms such as Brunschwig and Fils began specializing in French designs and since the eighties, modern design firms have had opportunities to recreate “document” designs, truly historic fabrics including toiles.
Toile is most often associated with chintz curtain and upholstery fabric, but toile wallpapers are also available. Fabrics also come in vintage linen and even in jacquard woven upholstery weights. Using them lavishly on walls, in window treatments, upholstered pieces, and bedding can add a designer flair to your fabric mix. Since 2000, there has been another marked upsurge in popularity. According to Katie Knowles, the archivist for Kravet, Inc., “toile is the epitome of French provincial fashion today, today’s toiles are a blend of past and present, and an excellent reminder that good design is forever.”