EILEEN SMILES DESIGNS

Eileen Smiles Designs

This past spring, Eileen Smiles launched a wallpaper and textile collection inspired by favorite works of American folk art that we have handled over decades of business. This new venture is the culmination of two years of research, designing, and planning, sustained by Eileen’s ingenuity, hard work, and the creative talents of pattern designer Elizabeth Halpern. Eileen M. Smiles is a love letter to the field.

Fabric and wallpaper seemed like a logical extension of our antiques business and a way to use our extensive archive of images of past inventory. We pride ourselves on offering masterworks in Americana and American folk art and a chief goal of Eileen M. Smiles is to transform and make accessible such masterworks for the contemporary home. Eileen M. Smiles is represented by showrooms in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida, Oklahoma, and Southern California.

Left: American Fantasy, probably Lebanon County, PA, circa 1840-1860. Layered cut paper, original blue paper background, watercolor, and lithographed applique. Private collection. Right: “American Fantasy” in Light Blue by Eileen M. Smiles.
Left: American Fantasy, probably Lebanon County, PA, circa 1840-1860. Layered cut paper, original blue paper background, watercolor, and lithographed applique. Private collection. Right: “American Fantasy” in Light Blue by Eileen M. Smiles.

The decidedly modern designs offered by Eileen M. Smiles incorporate motifs from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American decorative arts: “Celebrating American folk art and design—mixing, matching, and reimagining vintage motifs for modern rooms. Our patterns incorporate elements from unique historical works of art in our extensive archive including, paintings, sculptures, works on paper, textiles, and painted furniture.”

Design and Inspiration

Eileen’s first design, “American Fantasy,” gets its name from a famous cut-paper collage on a royal blue background made by an unidentified artist circa 1850. This iconic picture was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1974 in the seminal exhibition, The Flowering of American Folk Art. We have had the honor to buy and sell this masterwork three times and it is a personal favorite of Eileen’s.

Left: American Fantasy, probably Lebanon County, PA, circa 1840-1860. Layered cut paper, original blue paper background, watercolor, and lithographed applique. Private collection. Right: “American Fantasy” in Light Blue by Eileen M. Smiles.
Left: American Fantasy, probably Lebanon County, PA, circa 1840-1860. Layered cut paper, original blue paper background, watercolor, and lithographed applique. Private collection. Right: “American Fantasy” in Light Blue by Eileen M. Smiles.

Eileen’s “American Fantasy” design also draws from a second cutwork picture made by John Brown Walker (1815–1908) circa 1880. This cutwork also features familiar animals and also lovingly incorporates a daguerreotype of a young boy and his dog. As animal lovers, “American Fantasy” is one of our favorite patterns. We think it would be perfect for a nursery or child’s bedroom.

Left: Cutwork picture, John Brown Walker (1815–1908), Midwest, circa 1880, cut paper on colored paper backing, foil, and daguerreotype of young boy. Private collection.
Left: Cutwork picture, John Brown Walker (1815–1908), Midwest, circa 1880, cut paper on colored paper backing, foil, and daguerreotype of young boy. Private collection.

The pattern “Filigree” is also inspired by a nineteenth-century cutwork. This intricate example was made as a gift for Julia Rush Williams in Philadelphia, circa 1836. The artist was possibly and inmate possibly an inmate in the Philadelphia prison system and examples of his work are in museum collections. The extraordinarily delicate and detailed cursive lettering and fine pin-pricked details remind us of lacework.

Above: Cutwork for Julia Rush Williams, Philadelphia, c. 1836. Cut paper on colored paper backing, 10 x 15 ½ in. Private collection. Below: Filigree wallpaper in cream.
Above: Cutwork for Julia Rush Williams, Philadelphia, c. 1836. Cut paper on colored paper backing, 10 x 15 ½ in. Private collection. Below: Filigree wallpaper in cream.
Filigree wallpaper in cream

We’ve long admired the architectural composition and distinctive striped globes in this graphic and surprisingly modern watercolor, which was painted circa 1820. The result is our Geo Ponti textile design—a geometric pattern that reminds us of the work of mid-century Italian architect and designer, Gio Ponti (1891–1979)—so we named it for him!

Left: Mizrach, attributed to Samuel Bentz (1792–1850), Lancaster County, PA, circa 1810–1830. Ink and watercolor with gum Arabic on paper. Private collection. Right: “Geo Ponti” textile.
Left: Mizrach, attributed to Samuel Bentz (1792–1850), Lancaster County, PA, circa 1810–1830. Ink and watercolor with gum Arabic on paper. Private collection. Right: “Geo Ponti” textile.

Faces, flourishes, polka dots, and stars are hidden in the 1834 watercolor by Mennonite schoolmaster Samuel Gottschall (1800-1898). Gottschall’s spirited work is the inspiration behind two designs: Tete-a-tete and Starburst.

Left: Certificate, Samuel Gottschall (1800–1898), Montgomery County, PA, 1834. Watercolor and ink with gum Arabic. Private collection. Right: Tete-a-Tete in gray.
Left: Certificate, Samuel Gottschall (1800–1898), Montgomery County, PA, 1834. Watercolor and ink with gum Arabic. Private collection. Right: Tete-a-Tete in gray.
A small red Shaker box with Starburst in Niagara Mist.
A small red Shaker box with Starburst in Niagara Mist.

Among our newest designs is “Birds Valentine” which incorporates details from an unique antique cutwork valentine made in Pennsylvania, circa 1830. The love birds encircle a poem that the maker, William Johnson, has written to his beloved in elegant calligraphy: “Round is the ring That hath no end so is my love to you my friend.”  This cutwork from our archive was exhibited at the American Folk Art Museum in New York, and now resides in a private collection.

Left: Lovebirds Valentine, probably Pennsylvania, circa 1830. Cut paper, ink and watercolor. Private collection. Right: “Birds Valentine” textile design in Clay. Below: Loveseat being upholstered in “Birds Valentine” pattern.
Left: Lovebirds Valentine, probably Pennsylvania, circa 1830. Cut paper, ink and watercolor. Private collection. Right: “Birds Valentine” textile design in Clay. Below: Loveseat being upholstered in “Birds Valentine” pattern.
Loveseat being upholstered in Bird's Valentine

All our fabrics and wallpapers can be custom ordered and are manufactured with sustainable materials here in the United States. Eileen M. Smiles supports local and national animal charities, specifically, Hopalong Hollow Rabbit Rescue in Norwalk, CT. Find us on Instagram @eileensmilesdesigns, Facebook, and Pinterest and stay tuned for more!

Eileen's studio and personal assistant.
Eileen’s studio and personal assistant.