The Power of Paisley
There are two things in life that I would attest to being “obsessed with”: firemen and paisley. While I will spare you my love of firemen, I’m not really sure how or when it started but my love for paisleys has become an addiction. Just as I walk into a restaurant, open a menu, and hone in all the spelling mistakes before ever seeing what’s really on the menu (ah, the mind of an English teacher), it’s the same with paisley print.
So where does this “obsession” come from? My cousin loves paisley too and jokes that we must have some genetic disposition towards it. Others wonder what on Earth it is about the teardrop shape that has me so mesmerized. Mesmerized is the perfect term for it as most times when I see anything with the teardrop shape, it’s as if there is a force drawing me towards it. I have to go and check it out. As I write this piece, I continue to wonder about the answer to that question. Where did this love of mine come from? And so, I’ve decided to look into the history of paisley.
Originally, the design came from the Aryan boteh, a Persian word meaning small bush or thicket or perhaps a collection of leaves in a repeating pattern.1 A product of the Kashmir region, shawls with the boteh print were worn by bothKings and commoners and were brought to Europe by the East India Company in the1800s as presents. And it was in 18th and 19th centuries, that the town of Paisley, Scotland became the place in which the most shawls of this type were created. With the first ones created around 1808, by 1850, the town had over 7000 weavers. Interestingly, to create this type of shawl, it took a full two weeks to create the oversized squares that were comprised of silk, wool, and cotton blended together.2
And so, what did my history lesson teach me? That my addiction, love, fascination, obsession, preoccupation, whatever it may be called is in fact not my fault.Rather, it is in the blood of my ancestors-the Murray clan- who hail from the wee town of Blair Atholl in oh yes, that’s right, the motherland of Scotland.
And while people like to point out to me any time they see something paisley, Ido-contrary to popular opinion- have discerning taste. Imagine a den with dark wallpaper covered in maroon and green paisleys, perhaps at your grandparents’ house, most likely installed in the ‘70s. Yeah, no, that would NOT be what I’m talking about. My style is more of the simple variety. Perhaps a monochromatic color, perhaps large in style but plain in muted in tone. The print can get busy very quickly and so it’s key to make sure that it is not overpowering.
In my bedroom and my bathroom, I used the same paisley-printed wallpaper. However, in the bedroom, I used a darker print, which could quickly become overpowering and therefore chose only to do an accent wall. The master is a beautiful space but my bathroom- while beautiful- is rather small for the size of the bedroom and closet so I wanted to make sure that it all felt like a cohesive space. I decided to use the same print but chose much lighter palette and used the wallpaper throughout the space. In this case, it works well to draw your eye upand allows you to truly appreciate the height and angles of the ceiling.
So thedesign moral here is: if you love, flaunt it! Just make sure that you do so ina way that finds the beauty on the more subtle side.