Tropical Plants and Vintage Style

Tropical Plants and Vintage Style

Leafy and flowering houseplants inspired the distinctive style of vintage bark cloth.
A few years ago my family traveled to Maui for spring break. On a rainy day when snorkeling or swimming weren’t options, we turned our interests to shopping, hitting a number of boutiques and a fabric store. Can’t pass up fabric… Inside was a colorful display of Hawaiian bark cloth, and I bought several yards for a souvenir.

The nubby fabric called bark cloth was popular in the 1940s through 1960s, draping windows and covering furniture in trendy homes from Miami to Minneapolis. Sofas, pillows, and curtains sported a festive montage of tropical flowers and leaves as well as abstract shapes. Mid-century modern furnishings often sport bark cloth upholstery.

My vacation souvenir became the new covering for a vintage wicker couch and chairs. My mom, who is a whiz on a sewing machine, stitched up 5 fringe-edge pillows. I covered the seats, and in a few hours we’d transformed the set into a tropical Maui beauty.

Bark cloth’s design motifs were inspired by many tropical plants you can grow in your home or garden. Leafy and flowering houseplants that inspired the distinctive style of vintage bark cloth include:  

Bird of Paradise



Written by Karen Weir-Jimerson