A designer with a passion for prints and pairing opposites shares inspiration — and eco-friendly tips.
Textile designer Stevie Howell evokes the natural world in her hand-painted patterns. Think vibrant ranunculus festooning a cerulean silk robe with verdant brambles and daubs of dianthus rosebuds. Even the weeds behind her San Francisco and Venice, California, studios inspire.
Trained at the Glasgow School of Art and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Howell embraced textiles because of their adaptability. “I started off with scarves, then went to loungewear, [and] now a home collection,” says Howell, who launched her brand in 2013. Her luxury pajamas and robes have graced celebrities Sharon Stone and Kris Jenner. This year saw the growth of her home textile collection — think patterned curtains, lampshades, furniture and more. “Textiles bring joy — they’re comforting, happy items. Most recently, she’s displayed textiles’ versatility on a grander scale, with new wall murals and wallpaper.
Sustainability is key. Howell uses nontoxic inks and digital printing, which demands less water. She also prints in smaller batches.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, she’s found other ways to give back. On her website, Howell offers a free downloadable coloring book. She also launched a collection of organic cotton face masks; for every mask purchased, she donates one to those in need. Half of all proceeds of her “Reach” black-and-white mask benefit the Loveland Foundation, supporting communities of color.
1: Many of us live in worlds of all-white interiors and aren’t sure how to incorporate patterns into home design. What are some tips? Even the littlest bit of color or print can have lots of impact, especially against a blank canvas of white and beige. Something small — a decorative pillow or a contrasting trim or welting — is a great way to start. I like to use prints that have similar colors to the rest of the room. For example, if the room is all white, choose a print that has a matching white background. I also really love mixing opposites — think a bold floral with simple stripe.
2: Some don’t associate pattern with a cleaner aesthetic. Does it come down to balance? I think it comes down to color. By using a selective palette — think calmer, serene colors like grays, tans, faded blues and greens— a room can use multiple patterns while still feeling simple and minimal.
3: You now offer wall murals. How does decorating change with a full patterned wall? Can there be too much pattern? Good question. Recently, I’ve had clients that have done the entire room: The walls match the curtains and the lampshades, which I think is amazing. I love that look. I did an Architectural Digest show this March to launch my home collection. I was trying to figure out a way to unite 18 different prints of different palettes and sizes. Surprisingly, it all came together much easier than I thought it would.
4: Are there dos or don’ts for mixing patterns? Do: Pick what makes you happy!
5: What’s your advice for finding home design inspiration? Start by making a mood board! Pulling inspiration is such a fun part of the process, and is a great jumping-off point for any project. Don’t worry about mixing a ton of different styles or colors —collect what you like and edit after. I’m constantly looking at Pinterest, The World of Interiors or art museums.
HOWELL’S GUIDE TO ECO-MINDED TEXTILE SHOPPING AND RECYCLING
Consider how you can breathe another life into textiles: “I read a statistic that says the average American throws out 80 pounds of clothing a year…. Repair or tailor rather than throw out. If you find a hole or rip, repair. If you no longer like the fit or length, take it to a tailor for a revision. Oftentimes it feels like a whole new piece.” If garments are tattered, Howell recommends companies that transform them into other items, like quilts.
Focus on natural fabrics: Opt for fabrics like cotton, silk, wool, linen, hemp or jute. They are created more
sustainably and eventually decompose, unlike such synthetics as polyester, nylon or viscose. “And, when washed, no microplastics go into our water,” Howell says.
Remember, you can recycle textiles, too: “If a piece is beyond repair or donation, rather than toss, look for local recycling programs. San Francisco is particularly amazing because the city has a textile recycling program: sfenvironment.org/textiles. You can put your old rags into the blue bins. For other items or locations, the website recyclewhere.org is a great resource.”