Minimalistic design had its moment. The all-white kitchens, the neutral tones, the symmetrical home decor—they’re seeing their way out. Bright, joyful colors are back. The trend is opening the door for bold touches maximalists crave, but that doesn’t mean muted shades have to be sacrificed in favor of bold patterns. In this day and age of home design, you can have your pick.
Case in point: the newest collection by Tulusa, a four-year-old, Alexandria-based textile studio owned by Sue Henry. The local artist is known best for her block printing, a technique for printing images and patterns onto textiles, walls and other home products. Henry designs and carves her own blocks of various shapes, like feathers, flowers and animals, and then presses them onto linen using paint to create patterns on her products.
Tulusa’s summer line of pillows and tableware, which includes table runners, cocktails napkins and tea towels, satisfies both minimalist and maximalist buyers, offering ombre items and polka dots for those who want a little less; bold block prints of repeated patterns for those who want more; and products with designs that land somewhere in between.
“Color is in big time; the rainbow is back,” Henry says. “People are using it in their homes a lot more. Trends ebb and flow. People get tired of one thing and they move to another. I don’t know what the rhyme or reason is of it, but I’m happy it’s happened because I’ve always used color.”
Minimalists looking to add a pop of color to their homes will delight in the ombre shades and polka-dot patterns Tulusa offers. Find pillows and tea towels dipped in shades that fade from top to bottom, or go for a design that only features one or a few block prints.
“They’re just all about color. I wanted something that would complement the [maximalist prints] and complement the original blocks that I’ve done for years,” says Henry. “I wanted people to be able to go to a store, buy three things at one time and get the whole look.”
The summer collection’s products feature a multitude of new colors, all handcrafted by Henry, including hues in pink, coral, mango, lime, blue, lavender, mocha, black and Champagne. “All the colors are my own hand mix,” she says. “Nothing comes straight out of a bottle, and every season the colors change. Some have stayed throughout, but often they’ll change. Spring and summer are one set of colors, and I’ll switch it up in the fall.”
The range of shades available allow for a spectrum of choices: Go as subtle or as daring as you wish. “If you have an all-white space, I think that adding pops of colors is so great,” Henry says. “Even if it’s a minimalist space, there are products that add pure color, and it’s a nice look.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the maximalist factor is best seen in Tulusa’s patterns that have multiple, repeated block prints on them. Take, for example, her Chimera patterns, one of which features block prints with “Henry the Tiger,” a beloved symbol from the brand, peeking out in between the patterns.
“A chimera is a blend of two different animals,” says Henry. “It’s like a lion’s body and another animal’s head, but it also means an imaginary world. The animals have come around in the last year or so. I do quite a few of them. I have a whole line of tigers, zebras and six other animals. I’d definitely say it’s that maximalist kind of style.”
Adding to the originality of the collection, each piece ends up being a little different from the last, creating an original product every time. “Every single one is different. I don’t put the blocks in the same place as I work across the fabric,” Henry says.
Fans can find Tulusa items on the brand’s website and locally at Henry’s home studio (by appointment only), as well as at Alexandria home goods stores Red Barn Mercantile and Boxwood.
“I love what I do. I feel very lucky to be able to make art and make products that people enjoy and get to evolve as an artist. It’s special to be able to do that. I feel well supported.”
This post originally appeared in our June/July 2020 print issue. For more spotlights on NoVA artists and creatives, subscribe to our weekly newsletters.