New York interior designer Elaine Griffin says it began a few seasons back with a movement toward kinder, gentler silhouettes and patterns.
"Design has been trending toward a subtle but high-impact femininity," she says. "It started with softer, more fluid shapes in upholstery. Paler or more glamorous finishes for case goods. Dressmaker-inspired details like pleated-ruffle and grosgrain-trimmed throw pillows and draperies.
"There's no more feminine pattern than florals, and from the runway to decorative fabrics and accessories, they're everywhere."
In the 1980s, floral chintz spread like marmalade across the decor landscape as English country style took hold. It was a formal, somewhat overwrought look with, says Griffin, "a bow and ribbon on everything that didn't move."
Chintz is back, but it's a looser, more relaxed version. And the cottage prints that in the past could be a little dowdy are more lighthearted.
Also in the mix: bold, geometric flower motifs and ethnic floral patterns.
Some vintage prints reinterpret florals through a midcentury lens for a fresh take on both styles. But you'll also find more painterly floral designs, with a wistful watercolour look.
The new florals can go just about anywhere, says Griffin.
"For conservative spaces, co-ordinate complementary fabrics with the darkest hue in the floral," she says. "For zippier, more modern rooms, bring out the brightest hues of the pattern."
She advises making oversize floral patterns the star of the room. Pair them with textured solids or subtle stripes, and don't overdo it by adding a bunch of distracting prints.
Be mindful where you plant your flowers.
"Avoid florals on big and long-lived upholstered pieces like sofas," says Griffin. "They're a better bet for armchairs, ottomans and window treatments, which you can change more easily if you tire of the pattern in a few years."
West Elm has a new collection of pillows in a floral, stained-glass pattern, in melon and blue/grey, produced in collaboration with London designer Sarah Campbell of the textile firm Collier Campbell. The pillows are a good way to accent a space with the motif.
And crisp, colour-saturated and oversize graphic blooms give the Habanero bedding collection lots of morning energy. (www.westelm.com )
A shapely midcentury modern chair is given a zinnia print at Homegoods. Here too, a painterly watercolour floral motif gives a duvet cover a romantic vibe. And a green-and-white demitasse set would be just the thing for a spring lunch. (www.homegoods.com )
Check out Target's online store for web-only offerings of contemporary furniture pieces like ottomans, chairs, chaises and benches in both custom and readymade cotton floral prints, with a range that will appeal to both traditionalist and modernist. (www.target.com )
Overscale photoprint poppies give Detroit-based photographer MarySue Price's Straits Studio shower curtain a pop of pow. Alison Coxon of the San Diego-based studio Kess Inhouse has a shower curtain with a '70s-style flower print. (www.11main.com )
Cost Plus World Market's got a pretty stool painted with a delicate, Indian floral pattern in blue, gold and pink. And a chic jacquard print in soft black and white graces an inexpensive but elegant reading chair. While the palette is muted, the pattern makes it a standout piece, especially in a room with neutral or dark tones. (www.costplusworldmarket.com )