25 January 2010


There are rooms and there are ROOMS-rooms that are memorable. As an interior designer- this is one of the rooms that inspired me. Over 20 years later, it still does.

a close-up of the sitting room

Manuel Canovas started designing his glorious textiles in the 60's- The fabrics he used in his own apartments in Paris in the 80's are still being produced and used by designers today. In the 60's design world, Manuel Canovas found French decoration staid and the colours used in decoration dated,"Bourgeoisie"-" vieux rose, viexux bleu, vieil." In a late 1980's interview Canovas recalls his debut 1963 collection debut: "The colours were too strong and the patterns were too large." The Paris design community was shocked.

Canovas fabrics are inspired by vibrant Indian paisleys, Ikats, the blues of Chinese vases, 18th century documents and Amish quilts. As the 1990's ended, Canovas sold his company to the venerable house of Colefax and Fowler. The company continues to produce many of his signature prints and papers.

The apartments of the Canovas family on the Left Bank in Paris published a number of times in the 1980's always captivated. Rambling back through the sheets I collected- I still love everything about these rooms. The vast open Great Hall evokes a hunting lodge-Rustic stag trophies, a rambling floral patterned paper ,old oak woodworkand doors, & iron railings mix easily with a tailored geometric carpeting. The mix of patterns is a design element that I continue to find so important to a room-Canovas is a master at bringing disperate objects and patterns into harmony.

Most of the main rooms radiate out from this timeless Great Hall.

The Drawing Room- soft yellow walls of moire tailor the space and soften it too. Of the room Canovas said "Yellow is the best background for gold frames and blue and gray mats."True to his 18th century leanings, Canovas filled the graciously appointed Salon with colours of the period; yellows, a rich old rose and greens- fill the light flooded space.

There is a lot going on in this room-I particularly love the different seating arrangements, the mix of fabrics, the art- portraits, drawings, medallions-all arranged. Order abides in this room-along with an obvious love for luxury and exuberant colour.

The Dining Room- walls of pink moire trimmed with trompe-l'oeil marble and chalcedony with a swirl of sky on the ceiling. All done impeccably, with elegance and just the right level of restraint- This room is a testament to beautiful painted rooms-that have been particularly maligned by amateur decorative painters. Paint the walls a beautiful colour if you can not find a painter with the right stuff to do the job. A large 17th century Spanish portrait dominates the far wall, a painted credenza with open glass shelves to the right lend some informality to the grandeur of the room.

The oval skirted table adds another softening point. Appointments are kept spare. The simple Queen Anne chairs are painted a special Canovas Provencal Vert . The tailored skirted tables-with a flourish of dressmaker bows- serve as consoles- flanking  french doors that reveal the Library.

 Another photograph of the Dining Room in the evening with the addition of Canovas fabric covered screens, a different table skirt and hurricane globes on the table. Odd chairs are pulled into the room to created intimacy. Gorgeous.

This Sitting Room is a part of Madame Canovas' boudoir and one of my favourites. It is exemplary of  knowing when to break all the rules. Here Canovas fills the room with all the things Mme adores-and lavishly covers the walls with his famous chintz Bien Aimee pattern and the chintz repeats on the sofa. From there the walls are layered in portraits, watercolours, and the room filled with export porcelains. Canovas says

" According to some experts, this is completely wrong-
such a big print in such a small room, but we love to sit here. 
I think it proves you should do what you like and not what's expected"

PALI- perhaps his most recognizable fabric -covers the walls of the Master Bedroom. In the detail below-the bed is layered with an upholstered headboard, canopied, made up with printed sheets (Canovas' Ruban Rose) and layered with pillows and an heirloom quilt. Always- a quilt- another special touch I always want in a bedroom. It is the mix of sumptuos silk and crisp cotton that adds to the intimacy of the room. Beautiful drawings layered on the large printed paper, tables laden with reading materials and personal photographs in all sorts of frames fill the room.

Of his prints Canovas said- " All my life I have liked big motifs. They feel more elegant, more generous."
That is just how I feel about these rooms I return to time and time again.

the current Canovas site here
Canovas fabrics at Cowtan and Tout here
images from past issues of House and Garden-photographs by Jacques Dirand, Thibault Jeanson & THE FRENCH TOUCH by Daphne de Saint Sauveur.


  1. I agree, this was a classic, which I loved and remember well.

  2. "I think it proves you should do what you like and not what's expected."


  3. I've always loved Canovas's fabrics !!! I can recognize his style in his home !!! Thanks for sharing these pics , I've never seen them before

  4. Pali is one of my all-time favorites. These rooms are so ineffably French and chic even now all these years later. Lovely post.

  5. I hadn't seen these - such a treat - thanks.

  6. Love the valentine. Such beauty and confidence to go with the heart. Not a trend in sight, simply perfection.

  7. i can see why the top image has been such a consistent and constant inspiration for you through the years. great example of enduring, timeless design...

  8. Love the concept of big motifs
    being "more elegant, more generous."

  9. Hello,

    I agree this a classic i was always and is still captivated by that apartment :-)


  10. In a world saturated with images of gorgeous interior design, the sitting room drenched in bien aimee and the blue and white china design still has the power to arrest. Merveilleux.

  11. I love the classic grandeur of these rooms. So glad you shared them with us. You have a beautiful blog.

  12. Thank you for shining the design spotlight on this icon. Years ago when I was a student at Ivy House in Bath, I made a trip to the Canovas Left Bank atelier to gather samples for a project. I will never forget that expereince.


  13. I snagged a couple of yards of Canovas a few years ago for a song and love love love the print!

  14. Wow, wow WOW... the chintz on Mme. Canovas's boudoir!!! I'm somewhat horrified by the grotesque (but make no mistake, amazing) size and color of those flowers, but I'm entirely in love. I've been going through a huge chintz thing lately, have tons of "chintz done well" moments that I've saved. This is definitely going in the inspiration folder. Lauren

  15. Amiable dispatch and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you on your information.

  16. I love Manuel Canovas. Not sure why it took me so long but I've just discovered he makes clothing too.



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