How to use textiles to empower others through your decor

Choosing what you use to decorate is about so much more than aesthetics - it can be a way to support others, too

Sophie Robinson
The home of Sophie Robinson
(Image credit: Sophie Robinson)

Textiles in the home are often relegated to the bit players of modern interior design - used as window dressings or simply to add a ‘pop’ of colour to a room through throws and cushions. Rarely however, are they  allowed to be the stars of the show. 

This side-lining seriously underestimates the power of textiles which have the potential to become wonderful and even thought-provoking additions to any home interior. We wonder if this relegation is because there is something  quintessentially feminine about the craft of textile-making, thus positioning them below fine  art, carpentry, sculpture, or other artistic pursuits often used in decorative schemes which  are not considered quite so, well, girly! 

As cushions, throws, carpets, upholstery and even as artworks, not only are textiles used in  a myriad of ways – they can play a number of roles too. Textiles can tell a story, elevate an  ordinary setting, empower others, or bring an exciting symbolic energy into a room. Here  we share some suggestions of another way of looking at textiles, ways which will bring the  magic of cloth into your home. 

Choosing textiles that empower others 

Ajoko Market

Cushions by Ajoko Market via the Milaya Project

(Image credit: Ajoko Market)

It’s wonderful when supporting beautiful design also means supporting socially empowering  projects. These cushions at the top of the page are by Fine Cell Work, a charity that makes handmade products in  British prisons, and are proudly displayed in interior designer Sophie Robinson’s home.  The Museum of the Home also displays their beautiful pieces in its galleries. Hand sewn  textiles like this often support artists or communities reliant on the work. Another great  example here are cushions by the Milaya Project, a non-profit working with female artists  living as refugees in Uganda. A milaya is an ornately embroidered sheet traditionally used  for celebration and it is lovely that the Milaya Project is finding a way that these artisanal skills can be shared with international customers in a way that supports the artisans. 

Handcrafted textiles to add individuality to your home while keeping alive ancient  traditions 

The Cornrow

Project by The Cornrow

(Image credit: The Cornrow)

Hand crafted textile traditions across the world are continually under threat from  mechanisation. Supporting them by using them in our homes is the only way we can keep  these traditions alive. Hand crafted textiles are infinitely preferable to machine made, with  every piece unique, with the craftsman’s energy and skill embedded in the wefts of the fabric, an exchange from them to you. In this image, Adire fabric, a five hundred year old  Nigerian indigo based textile tradition, is used in bedding in a project by The Cornrow interiors. There are so many beautiful textile traditions to discover and support, seek them  out – and if you also take the time to learn about the story behind them and you will be in  for a lovely voyage of discovery.  

Place a textile on a wall for a high impact statement  

Atelier Yuchi

Throw by Atelier Yuchi

(Image credit: Atelier Yuchi)

Some textile pieces can feel more like canvases for bold scale art works rather than cloths.  These textile art pieces have something more conventional artworks do not have, the textural element. Textiles such as these can look brilliant simply placed on a wall and  smaller ones can be stretched and framed. Textiles such as woven blankets, applique pieces or even statement tea towels look lovely hung as art and can’t help but bring another  dimension to the space. 

 Bring humour into your home 

The Rug Company

Runner by The Rug Company

(Image credit: The Rug Company)

A brilliant current movement in interior design is the infusion of joy and fun into your  interior design schemes, so much so that Beata Heuman mission in her new interior book is  that ‘Every room should sing’. Textiles can go a great way in bringing an element of fun into  your home. This staircase runner by The Rug Company, depicting salmons swimming up the  staircase, is a design classic and perfectly marries humour with wonderful design.

Celebrate your own artistry 

Liberty

Craft kit from Liberty

(Image credit: Liberty)

Lockdown led to an explosion of people taking up crafting skills and now is the time to  think about displaying your creations! Homemade art should not only be the preserve of  proud displays of our children’s masterpieces, adult family members should also use  their homes to display their creations. Textiles are a wonderful craft form, and if you do not know where to start, there are lots of helpful kits out there with everything you  need to create a wonderful piece of textile art.  

Reluctant for to go for bolds but don’t want neutrals – try pastels 

Eva Sonaike

Cushions by Eva Sonaike

(Image credit: Eva Sonaike)

Often it feels like the choice between bolds and neutrals in a room scheme is between a  rock and a hard place! Well, there is one alternative that offers a lovely comprise without  being in the least bit bland - pastels. Designer Eva Soniake, who is renowned for her love of  bold colour, chose pastels for her latest textile collection. “With everything changing around us there was a need for change with this collection," Eva says. "I wanted to create something calm and basic, that can be combined with my vibrant patterns or  stand on its own”. Pastels compromise nothing with their celebration of colour,  however their more muted tones can make them easier to live with, and certainly add to a more calm interior. 

The statement upholstered chair 

Barbeline

Chair by Barbeline

(Image credit: Barbeline)

One item that can easily lift the plainest room scheme is a statement chair. Placed by a  fireplace or opposite a sofa, the upholstered chair can come in a myriad of forms, with  designers getting increasingly inventive. Micaela Sharp’s first piece of furniture from her  new range is a statement armchair in a lemon floral with unique and playful frill on all sides.  It adds a light femininity to a room, joyfully playing the line between dressmaking and home  interiors. In contrast Barbeline’s chair upholstered in their signature bold print makes a powerful centre piece. Beata Heuman’s use of traditional Yoruba chairs from Nigeria, made  out of glass beads instead of threads, is a magnificent addition to her room scheme.

Kemi Lawson
Kemi Lawson

Kemi Lawson is the founder of the homeware and lifestyle site The Conrow, and has been featured in Harpers Bazaar and Metro.