Photograph by Caroline Bonarde
Above: Nathalie at her Chelsea, London home.
Tucked along a quiet street in the Chelsea neighborhood of London is the intriguing fabric design studio of a Greenwich continental, Nathalie Gimon Farman-Farma. Nathalie, who was raised in France before moving to Greenwich, attended Greenwich High and then Brown University. She left editing at the New Yorker to marry and settle in London, where she and her husband, Amir, are raising their two children. But fabric would soon become a passion and be fully realized in 2015 under her alluring banner of Décors-Barbares.
“It just means outsider,” she explains of the studio’s name. “I love the Ballets Russes, and it was considered barbaric—the music, the dance, the colors. I like that idea of being just outside the bounds of good taste, of being a little challenging.”
Nathalie’s studio is brimful of enchanting fabrics—on display, covering couches, chairs, pillows and lamp shades—in colorful florals, stripes and patterns. There’s the feel of a textile museum. As she pulls out Turkmen robes, Russian pinafores and other colorful cloths, she explains how she’s inspired by the folk costumes worn in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Russia. “I’m very interested in nineteenth-century peasant wear—they mixed ribbons and prints, because that’s all they could afford, and created beautiful outfits. They put so much of their soul and culture into these clothes. [Fashion] is one of the basic expressions of human creativity—like poetry or painting. Costumes are one of the expressions of culture. So, I’m very moved by this.”
Nathalie reproduces designs from these fabrics, as well as from collected books and costumes, with great artisanal care at a textile mill in Alsace. She has garnered attention from Vogue, House & Garden, Architectural Digest and Bazaar as well as interior decorators around the globe. Nathalie sees her American customers as “looking for a more custom product, something that is a little bit more artisanal. They’re giving more thought to where they’re sourcing the fabrics for their home.”
Growing up in the center of France near Lyon, with an early love of fashion, Nathalie would search out her French grandmother’s closets for tea dresses. She also had a storytelling Russian nanny and grew up reading Proust and Russian literature. The final influence—Persian—came with her marriage to Amir, who is of Iranian descent. “That’s what I’m trying to show, the mixing of influences and how it’s all somehow linked.”
There are few fabrics from Eastern Europe, Northern Asia, Russia or Iran. “If your imagination wants that part of the world in your home, then look to me and maybe you’ll find something that suits you and your expression.
“It’s like a spice in a spice cabinet. I’m trying to focus on being a certain set of spices, which is not for everybody or every room.”