Forget pastel swathes of ceiling-to-floor florals and the Laura Ashley look of the '80s. Chintz is back, and it is bold, flirty and deliciously rich in color.

"They're light and cheerful, not the heavy English garden chintzes of the past," said designer Dee Thornton of Houseworks Interiors in Old Town Alexandria. "Some motifs are exploded, with more vivid coloration, lots of rosy reds and blues."

Chintz signals a return to romanticism and traditional British design after taking a back seat to more tailored fabrics, she said. But the new chintzes are a far cry from Grandma's parlor.

Dee Thornton
Houseworks Interiors
Christina Haire Interior Design & Antiques
Brunschwig & Fils

"It's being used differently, updated and recolored, with exploding, exaggerated patterns," Thornton said.

Prints also are appearing as singular patterns. "Instead of a bunch of roses, take one rose and blow it up," she added.

The chintz revival that blossomed on the West Coast and New York City is just beginning to trickle into the Washington area. But it doesn't necessarily mean doing away with the old patterns. Traditional English fabric houses still carry many of their old chintzes.

Brunschwig & Fils offered three new chintzes and three polished chintzes in its fall line. A spokesman said the Washington showroom has received "quite a few orders" for the new patterns.

"As a trend today, I see it as an issue of more or less," said Bethesda designer Christina Haire. Though her "old friend" appears in nearly every room of her house, "the rooms evolved around it, and the chintz is now used sparingly, as an accent," she said.

Haire's master bedroom no longer abounds with it, except for a "floraly" chintz chair. In a study, a hunting-print chintz on a sofa complements leather seating and a zebra rug. Neutral sofas in her once all-chintz living room are punctuated by Lee Jofa's "Floral Bouquet" on a love seat and a pair of antique bergeres.

Chintz is a timeless classic, so some people will always have chintz at home, she said. "In the '80s, everyone wanted it, perhaps because it was Washington, and small florals and the country-house look were in."

Since then, Haire and several clients have tweaked colors or textures around it, or mixed it with the unexpected contemporary piece as a shot of bright color.

Thornton suggested using the new chintzes as accent fabrics via big floor pillows, or a bedspread, drapery or a chair in a guest room. To bring the chintz revival home, create a fresh palette based on your favorite pattern, and juxtapose with modern furniture and art.