Traveling and Textiles with Carolina Irving

Carolina Irving

“I have always been obsessed with fabrics, colors and textures…and I have always wanted to have my own collection of textiles, explains Carolina Irving, Creative Director of Home for Oscar de la Renta. In 2006, she achieved her heart’s desire, founding her own textile design atelier. 

Carolina Irving was born in the United States, to Venezuelan parents, and was educated in Paris.  She went on to study art history and archaeology at the Ecole du Louvre.  She specialized in 17th Century Italian art and began her never-ending fascination with design and antique textile documents.  “I particularly like fabrics that are easy to live with, look handmade, slightly old and colors that are not jarring, but never beige…I’m not a beige person!”

Carolina has been totally involved in the design world, in one way or another for many years. She was formerly an editor at Elle Decor, House and Garden, and Vogue Living. In 2013, She Partnered with Penny Morrison to create Irving and Morrison, a decorative accessories company for stylish living. Carolina also teamed up with Lisa Fine to create Irving and Fine, a fashion and accessory line inspired by their travels.

Traveling has always been a vital part of Carolina’s life. She absorbs art history and the decorative arts wherever she goes.  She is most inspired by these travels and is especially stimulated while traveling to India and the Middle East. She finds going to museums around the world particularly motivating. She pulls from her vast travel experiences to create, as well as to write for The New York Times’ T Magazine design column “In The Air”.

Carolina loves colors, but in an impressionistic way, mixing different patterns similar to a Vuillard painting.  She has ransacked sources in France, England, Sweden, and India for her toiles and chintzes, and in Turkey, Greece and other Middle Eastern countries for riotous colors and patterns that are reinterpreted in her special way.

Carolina’s textiles have been featured in many publications including British Vogue, Domino Magazine, House Beautiful, Traditional Home Magazine, to name a few.  Also, look for features on Carolina in the blogs Style Beat, The Peak of Chic, Jan Morrow and others.

Carolina Irving Textiles

Tell us a bit about your day-to-day – and what you love most about what you do.

I live most of the time in Paris, and don’t really have an office to go to as I work from home. Depending on the days, I will pore through books and google for hours on end to find textile patterns or anything else that intrigues me. One thing can lead to another. Since I also make tabletop with my daughters (Carolina Irving & Daughters), ceramics are one of my passions. My daughters and I keep sending images to one another continuously. If in Portugal, I work in the garden for hours on end.

How did you first get involved with textile design?

I’ve always had a passion for textiles for as long as I can remember. I notice them everywhere! In paintings, movies, on the streets, in markets, etc… After many years of obsessing about them, I decided I had to get it out of my system and gathered the courage to start my business.

Where do you find inspiration?

My taste is definitely not contemporary, so I always look to the past for inspiration. Paintings are a great source and certain countries like India or Turkey.

Do you have a specific person that’s inspired you or mentored you, that one specific person that’s really influenced you?

I was very influenced by England and certain decorators like Robert Kime and antique dealer Christopher Gibbs. The magazine World of Interiors was also a major influence. It singlehandedly changed the way we all looked at interiors.

What has been your most challenging project? How did you tackle it?

Not being a decorator, I don’t actually have these challenges which would keep me up at night. I guess starting my business was a big challenge, and the latest one (tabletop) has been too! Dealing with artisans in different countries, making sure everything was well executed, the maddening logistics of packing and shipping did keep me up for days!

What’s your process with designing a new textile?

I have millions of photos and archives! The hard part is editing. It does come to me all at once and then it becomes obvious. After that, it is quite quick as I know exactly how I want things to look.

What’s been your favorite project you’ve worked on and why?

I worked on a special project for architect Daniel Romualdez. It was for a very big dining room and the theme was Indonesian batik. We had to make panels, borders, curtains, etc…  it was quite complex, but the result was fantastic.

What apps or software can you not live without?

I can’t live without Google or Instagram.

What 3 pieces of advice would you offer to someone looking to update a space?

If it’s already furnished, just make some slipcovers to make it look fresh, remove all overhead lighting and replace by lamps with pretty lampshades, paint the floors or buy a big striped Indian dhurrie.

Carolina Irving spoke at The Seekers of New Design – Near and Far discussion on September 25 at DISCOVER ADAC.

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