The inspiring textile designer behind Décors Barbares
Nathalie Farman-Farma is the textile designer behind the fabric line Décors Barbares, which is inspiring a renewed interest in romantic and bohemian floral patterns and ethnographically-inspired prints.
What sparked your interest in fabrics and interior design?
In hindsight, I can see that I was always sensitive to the power of a room’s atmosphere. Later in life, after I had a family, I became involved in the art of interiors and more specifically textiles. Initially my taste was very disciplined and French.
It’s a juxtaposition that I find exciting.
When I met my husband, who is Iranian, I started experimenting with more freedom. The guiding vision for our first home was the mix of patterns and colors in Persian miniatures and in the tribal robes of Iran and Central Asia. The more I looked East, the less I worried about things not going together. It’s a juxtaposition that I find exciting.
What inspires you most?
I find the innocence and creativity in folk costumes very inspiring. Every region has its distinctive and recognizable traditions, but there are universal elements beyond the time and style. Many costumes are hand-embroidered, and there is an ancient symbolism in many of the patterns. What moves me personally is how they use, or reuse, any precious material at hand, be it lace, ribbons, beads, or shells. For example, inspired by their practice, I have discovered beautiful fabrics in sleeve linings.
In this Chuvash apron, one can see how different strips of fabric and ribbon
were used to make a tribal pattern.
I have a huge collection of books on textiles and native art which I keep in my studio for reference. When I travel to a new city, I always look for the ethnographic museum, if there is one. Krakow, for example, has a lovely little museum that should not be missed.
I also love outdoor museums where you can see different types of local architecture. In Switzerland, there is the Ballenberg Museum, and in Sweden, the wonderful Skansen Museum. Often these are marketed to children, but there is no better way to approach a new culture than in museums, except perhaps through the cuisine!
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I love to read nineteenth-century fiction and history books. I am happiest when I have a good pile of possibilities within arm’s reach. I am fond of hiking in the mountains, both in the Alps or the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. Both these activities allow the mind to travel at its own pace and are good antidotes to city life.
Can you share more about your work being featured in Haute Bohemians by Miguel Flores-Vianna?
I am very proud to be included in Miguel Flores-Vianna’s book Haute Bohemians published by Vendome Press. Miguel and I met via Instagram a few years ago. He then came over and photographed my home for Cabana Magazine. We hit it off right away.
There are many books on interiors published every year but only a few become classics. I am sure this one will remain timeless because there is so much poetry in Miguel’s eye for detail.
What advice would you give women starting their own companies?
It’s important to stay true to yourself, your vision, and persevere. I think of hiking: one step at a time.
How do you define “beauty”?
I think beauty is linked to authenticity and generosity. You should always feel special and at your best in a beautiful home, whether you are the owner or the guest.
What would we find on your nightstand?
2017 is the one hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so there has been a stream of great books on Russia. I just finished Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport which looks at the foreigners in St. Petersburg at the time. Also in my pile right now: Russian Émigré Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky; and Red: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau.
Can you share a memorable trip?
Recently I spent a few days with friends in Kazbegi in the high Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. Everything from the view, to the food, to the music was magical.
Do you have a personal wellness routine?
I see a trainer/osteopath once a week to maintain a healthy posture. I try to walk whenever I can and eat less sugar.
Who inspires you?
The French designer Paul Poiret because of his daring, omnivorous creativity. A century later, I would love to wear some of his dresses!
Follow her on Instagram: @nathaliefarmanfarma
Katie von Strasser is a former ballerina with a background in fashion and art. She is a devoted advocate for people with disabilities. Katie has a passion for travel and all things beautiful.
She resides in San Francisco with her family. (Photo by Darryl Nitke)