Here at NiLu we carry Harlem resident and famed interior designer Sheila Bridges’ bags and silk scarves, but her popular Harlem Toile de Jouy design also comes in wallpaper. During the height of the pandemic, New York Times editor and writer Veronica Chambers’ love for Harlem de Toile was solidified in a major way.
Traditional toile de Jouy designs began gaining popularity in France in the 1700s and translates to “cloth from Jouy,” which is a suburb outside of Paris where it was originally produced. In 2006 Bridges remixed the concept by including African Americans in a setting they often are left out of. Harlem Toile has been featured locally and globally, from The Studio Museum In Harlem, The Cooper Hewitt Museum and The Museum of Art and Design in New York City, and the Musée De La Toile De Jouy in France.
In a self written piece for the New York Times, Chambers says, “For a Black girl who grew up loving Jane Austen and Toni Morrison with equal aplomb, Harlem Toile was more than wallpaper.”
In the summer of 2020 Chambers bought a 28-inch x 31-inch Harlem Toile wall decal. It was far from large enough to decorate a whole room, but did the job to serve as Chambers’ Zoom background as I worked remotely from her bedroom. In the fall of 2021 Chambers finally shelled out the money to decorate her entire kitchen with Harlem Toile.
“Every time I looked at the panel, it was a reminder that my ancestors had my back,” said Chambers.
With images of subjects playing basketball and dancing next to a boombox, Bridges says her design “lampoons some of the stereotypes deeply woven into the African American experience.”