THE LUXURY OF GRASSCLOTH

November 20, 2017
The distinctive texture found in grasscloth shows up in the enchanting Mandarin Oriental hotel in Bangkok.

I learn so much from beautiful hotels around the world. I am lucky to be able to travel a great deal and I’m always inspired by the creativity in the places I stay. This spring I celebrated my birthday in the Mandarin Hotel in Bangkok. The name is a bit of an oxymoron – wherever they are situated in the world, the Mandarin hotels are luxurious, with a serene, gentle ambience. They are designed around pure luxury and wellbeing. Walk into any of these hotels and your blood pressure will tumble and your smile will grow. Bangkok, on the other hand, is a lively, bustling city that will leave you breathless. The aromas, colours, and noise fill your senses at every turn. Like so many before me, I absolutely loved the sheer contrast of leaving the over-abundance of the street life and entering the relaxed oasis at the Mandarin Oriental. www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok.

The design of the rooms carries on the hotel’s gentle, welcoming theme. I was so impressed that by the time I was shown into my room, I was dying to break down all the elements so that I could emulate a space such as this at home. The walls were papered in a delicate gray grasscloth. This may have you shuddering at the thoughts of those textured walls in the 70s, but I have to tell you, a new grasscloth has arrived on the scene, and I, for one, am happy about it.

Traditional grasscloth is made from the fibers of grasses, including rushes, jute, hemp, and bamboo. There are many varieties of grasscloth; some combine natural and faux grass materials, and metallic fibers. The fibers generally run vertically down the wallpaper roll, but horizontal papers are also popular. The weaves in grasscloth vary from fine to chunky with colours that are natural and dyed. These grasscloth rolls have natural variations in colour, and the seams between stripes are noticeable.

The new grasscloths are much finer than the thick 70s versions. This wallpaper emulates the look of a fine silk weave. It has the vertical or horizontal lines but is only slightly raised. New technology allows for an embossed surface that feels like paint. The choices make this a versatile decorating tool for any style, showing up in sleek and modern living rooms, rustic bedrooms and transitional spaces that call for rich textures and the character that accompanies it.

Shown here, even more interest is created by adding fine mouldings painted white to form panels over the grasscloth paper. This treatment is the ideal frame for your favourite art work or beloved photos. The furnishings are traditional, comfortable and elegant. Sparkling glass and rich mahogany pair beautifully against the silky grasscloth backdrop. The room is uplifted with one splash of colour, regal royal purple on the bed cover and curtains.

The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok has seen a plethora of royals from around the globe. We all need to be prince or princess in our own homes. I am taking home the design ideas tucked away in my mind. One day, I know I will try to recreate this peaceful haven for myself.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to house2home@debbietravis.com. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.twitter.com/debbie_travis, and visit Debbie’s new website, swww.debbietravis.com.