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What is damask? How to use it in your home

Damask fabric sounds instinctively exotic - but what is the real story behind this popular fabric? In our second instalment in the beginner's fabric guide, we will be digging up some of the history, its uses in interior decorating and not forgetting - some key looks for you to try out at home.

A personal favourite of mine, damask is a reversible figured fabric that can be made from silks, wools, cotton, linen and some synthetic fibres for different looks. Formed by weaving both a warp and a weft yarn - with the warp making the pattern and weft the background.

History of Damask

In the traditional sense, damask fabrics were nearly always white on white and going back to as far as the 1700s - this was a delicacy in the world of textiles: only affordable to those with a wealthy status. In actual fact, it was a long time until damask was more affordable to a wider society - possibly sometime in the early 20th century. So is it really as exotic as it sounds?

The name Damask was derived from the place in which it was first imported from - Damascus, the capital of Syria. It was also not until the last century that coloured damask fabrics were accepted willingly into home décor - previously being frowned upon for not having a 'formal' air.

Damask for interior decorators

Some damasks are highly collectable - with those bearing figures being quite a rarity; you are more likely to get your hands on florals these days. The biggest producers (or at least the finest on offer) of this fabric today are Ireland, Italy and neighbouring France.

A textile that was once used exclusively by royals and the wealthiest classes has to have something special about it! I guess we can be thankful that this beloved fabric is more widely available from fabric wholesalers. In the past it was most used in dining halls as tablecloths but today we see a lot of damask ready made curtains and even wallpapers that have the look of damask; you can use it for a wide range of soft furnishings in the home from rugs to duvet covers. Although it has a traditional feel to it - some of the newer designs have a more contemporary approach and are fresher.

Key looks with damask

Let us celebrate both the importance of damask's royal past and the innovative designs that have made it popular in modern times. Location: the dining room; you are going to love this makeover in time for the party season! We will begin with a black and white monochrome scheme that you can build upon later with a shot of colour if you feel for it.

With more white we prevent the room from being too moody - white walls, a sheer white tablecloth and white dining chairs. Look for damask curtain fabric online with a beautiful design and make your curtains so that they hang almost without pleats (think tab tops) - showing off their pattern without distortion. Then, take some of the same fabric to cut into a table runner, overlaying the white tablecloth.

Dress up your table with your best dinnerware, glassware, black silk napkins and do use wow factor lighting with a contemporary black chandelier - drop dead gorgeous!

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