Enchanting Embellishments

Designer Timothy Corrigan’s new passementerie collection for Samuel & Sons, Bagatelle, is rooted in his passion for French decorative arts

Above Image: Timothy Corrigan in Paris. Photo © Richard Powers. 

By Maile Pingel

Los Angeles–based designer Timothy Corrigan may be known for working on a grand scale—the renovations of his châteaux, first Château du Grand-Lucé and now Château de la Chevallerie, are a monumental case in point—but he is equally skilled at crafting the most delicate and minute of details. For his latest collection with Samuel & Sons, Bagatelle, he looked to historical examples of passementerie, interpreting them with a fresh-eyed palette. “I was reviewing the collection again the other day, and they’re just so beautiful,” says Corrigan over the phone from Burgundy, where he is working on a château for a client. Launched in January, Bagatelle coincides with a resurgence of interest in luxury silk trims.

Tassels and tiebacks in gorgeous floral hues from Bagatelle, Corrigan’s new collection of passementerie for Samuel & Sons. Photo © Samuel & Sons. 

Corrigan’s previous offering for Samuel & Sons, Chevallerie, was inspired by his Loire Valley home. For this new collection he took inspiration from French history, sparked by a visit to the Hôtel de la Marine in Paris. The Hôtel, previously a depository for Louis XV’s treasures, included apartments for the noble families who managed them. Those residences, known as the intendants’ apartments, were recently restored by interior designers Joseph Achkar and Michel Charrière, revealing exquisite interiors long closed to the public. “It’s an incredible restoration, and it probably sets the standard for the future of museum-going,” says Corrigan. “The rooms are so faithful to the period—the age of the Enlightenment, my favorite period in French design.”

The Hôtel de la Marine in Paris.

“I was struck by the grandeur and simplicity of the apartments, but also by the archival fabrics and trims,” he continues, noting a particular braid that captured his attention. He began researching the pattern, which traces back to the Neolithic era, and ways he might give it a more contemporary twist. “The pattern is ancient, and it translates to all cultures. I loved the idea of this simple detail being integrated into ornate situations or reinterpreted in sumptuous ways.” He also pulled an intricate crisscross detail from one of the period trims, reimagining it as a border. “I did drawings of what I wanted this collection to be and thought maybe they’d be impossible to make, but Samuel & Sons can do particularly complex weaves, so they said, ‘Let’s try it!’”

“I loved the idea of this simple detail being integrated into ornate situations or reinterpreted in sumptuous ways.”

“There’s an elegance, a frivolity, a joy to Bagatelle,” says Corrigan, explaining that the collection’s name is a play on the word’s meaning—a bauble—and the diminutive Château de Bagatelle (“really more a folly,” he says) in the Bois de Boulogne. But what makes these pieces so delightful (there are tassel tiebacks, key tassels, tassel fringes, gimps, tapes, cords, borders, and braids) is their surprising palette of almost sherbet hues. “Gray, was ubiquitous in the design world for the past 20 years. Now colors are warmer and more vibrant, but Bagatelle is where we’ll be in a year,” he explains. “I really strove to make people wonder: Is it blue or green? Pink or peach?” The resulting palette is intentionally subtle and designed to blend easily into any setting. And with colorway names like Dewdrop, Wisteria, and Jonquil (the latter indulging Corrigan’s well-known love of yellow), they offer a spirit of eternal spring. 

The lovely Bagatelle key tassel; the magnificent Double Tassel tieback; the tassel fringe. Photo © Samuel & Sons. 

Lest anyone should think passementerie is merely decorative, Corrigan is quick to highlight its functional aspects: it can emphasize the lines of furniture or curtains, and even render a standard item bespoke. And younger designers and their clients—even serial minimalists—are embracing the playful yet stately finish passementerie provides. “A designer friend in L.A. known for more contemporary interiors called me and said, ‘I have a client who wants trims. Where do I go? What do I do?’” recounts Corrigan, cheekily known to some as “Trimothy” for his belief in passementerie’s ability to elevate a room. “‘Tassels’ was a big search word in 2022, and jabots and swags are coming back,” he says. “So get ready, we’re going to be seeing a lot more tiebacks.”

The Bagatelle collection by Timothy Corrigan for Samuel & Sons is available through Kneedler Fauchère.

This fall, Corrigan will speak at the San Francisco Fall Show and Rizzoli will publish his latest book, At Home in France: Inspiration and Style in Town and Country.

Passementerie from the new Bagatelle collection. Photo © Samuel & Sons. 

A Passementerie Primer

The crafting of trims has been practiced in many cultures since the late Middle Ages, but it wasn’t until 1615 that the French coined the term passementerie—from passement, or “decorative lace,” as trimmings were originally the work of lacemakers. The French also established a Guild of Passementiers to promote and protect their masterful creations.

Trims were applied to clothing (military uniforms, robes, gowns, vestments) as well as furnishings, where they became increasingly complex during the reign of Louis XIV. As British historian Annabel Westman explains in her 2020 book Fringe, Frog and Tassel: The Art of the Trimmings-Maker in Interior Decoration, production was divided into three parts: “The spinning and winding of cord and rope, the weaving of fringes, braids and gimps, and the work of the ornament maker, who covers by hand the specially turned moulds of tassels and drops and creates the intricate, meticulous details that give each item its individuality.”

At the luxury level, production is still done by hand. The intricate tassel tiebacks in the Bagatelle collection, for example, comprise wooden molds, cording (which is measured, looped, and knotted before it’s wrapped by hand around each individual mold), and hand-cut velvet ruche. Once the individual components are ready, they’re threaded together with wire, the skirt is added, and embellishments like scalloped tassels or braided cords complete the construction. “Tassel tiebacks are works of art, each with their own aesthetic and characteristics, which can range from minimalist to ornate and everything in between,” says Marisa Gutmacher, vice president of design at Samuel & Sons. “The most complex tiebacks can take a full day to assemble depending on their level of complexity.”

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