London-based knitwear designer Melanie Porter turned her skills to home furnishings when she acquired an antique chair that needed reupholstering.
"But I couldn't find a fabric I liked, so I instinctively turned to knit," she says.
Several years later, her growing collection includes a funky '70s-era chair covered in the Union Jack, a cushion festooned with ruffly knit "corsages," and several pieces upholstered in a cozy, creamy fisherman knit. Porter notes, "It's a technique that allows me to position color and texture in precise positions; felting the knit makes it hard-wearing."
Like a soft, comfy sweater, the array of knitwear-inspired home decor now on the market is easy to love. Knitting's a trendy hobby, so it makes sense that furnishings designers want to play with the materials and motifs, too.
Some of the best designs come out of Europe. Claire Anne O'Brien draws on her Irish roots to craft chunky, colorful stools that exaggerate the scale of several knitting stitches. She has experimented with chenille loops in a series of plush, modular semicircles. And her "Chairwear" pieces are exactly that — furniture dressed in sweater slipcovers, complete with turtlenecks, buttons and cuffs.
Pudelskern, a design house in Innsbruck, Austria, creates lamps out of flame-resistant wool. The "Granny" is a pendant lamp cable-knit out of Tyrolean mountain sheep's wool. Available in ecru and raspberry, it would look just as great in a mountain chalet as an urban loft. "Woozily" is a lampshade crafted from one long, thick wool rope. Available as a pendant, floor or wall lamp, its tumbly tangle of fibers resembles a skein that some large and mischievous tabby got hold of, with a happily elegant result. At night, the effect of light through the soft maze is magical. And the "Feeler" knitted floor lamp looks like a sweater sleeve writ large, with a light bulb where your hand would be.
Bauke Knottnerus's Phat Knits takes enormous noodle-like threads and knits them into giant floor mats.
Closer to home, Ferm Living offers cotton rope knitted into casual yet stylish baskets and floor pillows in warm tones of mustard, teal and charcoal.
CB2 has plump, pellet-filled knitted poufs in similar hues, including blood orange.
As Melanie Porter muses, knitwear's appeal in modern interiors harkens to the past. "It's got this ability to evoke memories, a sense of security and the home," she says.
Now if we can just get the cat to shove off.
www.melanieporter.uk - Bespoke pieces, inquire online;
www.claireanneobrien.com - knit stools, inquire online;
www.fermlivingshop.com - cotton rope baskets, $82-$165; knit floor pillows, $216-$268;
www.cb2.com - knit poufs, $89.95;
www.casamania.it - Pudelskern's "Granny," ''Woozily" and "Feeler" designs, inquire online.