Camouflage craze finds its way into home decor

You can run, but you can't hide ... or can you? The latest trend in fashion, accessories and home decor fabrics are inspired by war. Camouflage is everywhere in the trendy windows of Milan furniture stores. Everything from pants to lampshades to fine cabinetry has adopted the olive, tan and brown patterned prints.

Camouflage is the art of making military objects harder to see. The word camouflage hails from the Parisian slang term “camoufler,” meaning “to disguise.” It came about during World War I when the French army began employing artists to paint their artillery and observation posts in the same patterns as the forest. Since that time, military organizations around the globe have invented hundreds of camo patterns to give their troops a tactical advantage.

During World War II and after, until camouflage came into general use in 1975, U.S. vehicles were typically painted olive drab. Original camo was based on a three-color combination. By the 1990s, due to development in cameras and high-powered lenses, the four-color pattern was born, sometimes called MERDC schemes, named for the Mobility Equipment Research and Design Command that designed them.

Camo gradually folded into civilian dress when Vietnam veterans wore their military fatigues back home while protesting the war in the late 1960s and early '70s. By the late '80s, every fashion designer and store from Moschino to Banana Republic was integrating some form of camouflage into their lines. The print rediscovered today as a point of inspiration can be seen in the work of Ralph Lauren, Roberto Cavalli, Prada and handbag designer Furla.

The explicit military purpose of camouflage may be to blend in, but in fashion and home decor, it's the exact opposite. The dull green, brown and black that are highlighted and embellished into the edgy and chaotic pattern that disappears on the battlefield couldn't stand out louder in the urban jungle or on the walls of your home. While most manufacturers and designers simply describe their patterns and fabrics as “camo,” it's anything but a standard design and comes in all sizes, shapes and colors.

Home furnishing designers such as Besana have featured sequined camo fabrics as lamp shades, decorative pillows and throws — not a demure piece to have in your decor, but a statement meant to stand out. Spazio Pontaccio, on Milan's fashionable Via Pontaccio, demonstrated how cabinetry can be painted in camouflage to look both elegant and show a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.

Surely, camo furniture and accessories are not for everyone, but they're great touches for those who look for something unique and fashion-forward. Although camouflage for some may bring a bit of whimsy, let's not forget that for others camo might be a reminder of war, struggle and tragedy. In recent history, camouflage probably has not been used in interiors. Perhaps camo's appearance in home decor is a sign that the world has had enough of war and that it is time for peace.

• Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Fla.

© 2014

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