What The Heck Is Toile Anyway?

Pretty toile

And maybe more importantly, how do you say it?!

Maybe I’m the only one who struggles with this.

But just in case I’m not, and to forever memorialize the day when I finally just looked up the definition and pronunciation and put years and years of turmoil to rest…

Here’s the rundown on Toile…

It’s pronounced : TWALL.  Not “toil,” as if we are working hard, or “tool” as if we are ….working hard with something.  But “twall”…..as if we are, well, French, and not pronouncing our vowels like lazy Americans (or just not pronouncing a few of them at all.)

Toile (did you say it right in your head?) is a type of decorative design that shows up all over in Shabby Chic decor.  I like the way Wikipedia describes it:

Toile: a type of decorating pattern consisting of a white or off-white background on which a repeated pattern depicting a fairly complex scene, generally of a pastoral theme such as a couple having a picnic by a lake or an arrangement of flowers.The pattern portion consists of a single color, most often black, dark red, or blue.

That’s pretty much what I was going to say. It shows up mostly in fabrics, but can also appear on dishes, wallpaper, and ugly t-shirts:

Ugly Toile T-shirt

And actually, if we’re going to get techinical, the decorative pattern’s full name is toile de jouy. Just plain toile can also refer to a mock-up of fabric for testing.

Anywhere except on a person,  I think it’s a delightful decor that nicely directs the tone of a room toward classically aged chic with a shabby country feel.

You’d be hard pressed not to find some in any antique store in the country. And with the resurgence of popularity for vintage shabby chic decor, it’s showing up all over the place in newer shopping venues as well.

Some of my favorite ways to see toile are:

On tasteful upholstery:

Toile Couch


Adorning accent dishes:

Accent Toile Dishes


Drawing attention on maybe just one wall:Toile wallpaper


And possibly earning my forgiveness for showing up as apparel in this potentially adorable dress:

Toile dress

(What do you think? Yay or Nay?)

A Word of Caution:

Don’t over-do it.

This my be an opinion I hold alone, but toile is a busy pattern, and in my opinion, busy patterns must be employed with restraint.

So for whatever it’s worth, if you care for my sanity at all…. try to avoid this:

Too Much Toile






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