Geometric patterns are classics in modern design speak. But one that especially resonates these days is the triangle. Specifically, triangles laid end to end to create mesmerizing larger-scale geometrics, and often in three or more different colors for dramatic effect.
This year, triangle motifs began to show up in dimensional tiles, porcelain vases by Jonathan Adler, puckered fabrics and even shiny metals.
But they made an even bolder statement on the floor, with Dutch designer Bertjan Pot paving the way with multicolored poufs and wool and silk kilims for the Milan-based Golran at the winter Maison et Objet furniture show in Paris.
The collection, called Triangles, is based on the geometric form, reiterated in a grid of different patterns including smaller triangles and diamond, hexagonal and chevron shapes that almost seem random.
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One of the designs, Hex Hex, is particularly striking with the harmony of the saturated palettes, often in high-contrast hues. Some are reminiscent of vintage Amish quilts, which are distinguished by simple patterns and bold colors that belie their complexity.
The latest batch of triangle patterns has shown up on pillows; chair upholstery, even as elements of a chair, made up of painted metal triangles linked together; bedding; tableware; wrapping paper; stationery; and wallcoverings.
This design trend is one that the folks at JWT Global saw coming, as part of a broader theme.
One of the marketing brand’s 100 Things to Watch list for 2014 is the concept of “speaking visually.” It’s described as a shift to communicating more with images than words, not only in the digital world but offline. You’ve probably noticed it in packaging; labels, for example, with no text — just explosive graphics.
“Across the board, we’re seeing a preponderance of geometrics, certainly throughout textiles,” says Alexis Audette, vice president of Beacon Hill, a high-end fabric company that’s part of the Robert Allen design group. One of its recent collections is Legacy, a collaboration with Ankasa co-founders Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia.
The textiles are an ode to their cultural ancestry and include a vibrant triangle-based design that’s embroidered, much like the fabric traditionally found on tents at Indian weddings.
“There’s a lot in design for the home — think of Dwell Studio, Jonathan Adler,” says Audette. “Part of this is related to (the popularity) of midcentury modern style. A focus on less fussy, precious or traditional. There’s something about raw geometry that feels fresh and new. In a way, we’re almost programmed for it. It speaks less to a trend.
“In traditional Western aesthetics, think of the Golden Mean, daVinci, Vetruvian man. Art starts out with the body as an analogy for the universe that can be separated into two squares or circles or triangles. The Western beauty ideal has so much to do with symmetry. It’s hard to get away from this.”
When Bertjan Pot was asked to design for Golran, a family business that began in the Persian village of Mashad in 1898, he chose a kilim, because he liked the simplicity of the flat surface. Horizontal and diagonal lines are easy to create, he says, but vertical ones are more difficult.
“So the easiest shape to make is a triangle,” Pot says. From a single triangular grid as a launch pad, he built up a series of patterns. Working in the kilim idiom, one that has a rich, nomadic tradition, is totally appropriate, he points out, because “triangles are of all ages.”
There is a universal appeal, one that spans age demographics. When Ashlyn Gibson wrote Creative Family Home (Ryland Peters + Small), a book about capturing “the zeitgeist of family living and celebrating the magic of childhood,” the chosen cover depicted a dining room with wall in bright triangles.
“The most recent collections from Chanel were based on circles and triangles,” says Audette. “When I started to read about the inspiration, I found references to op art. But I think of Sonia Delaunay and Paul Klee, early modernists. And Gee’s Bend quilts — communities like these (African-American quilters in rural Alabama) and the Amish were exposed to abstractions.”
In the end, it’s the creativity that makes the simplest geometric shape shine.