Suddenly it’s summer, with all its burgeoning blossoms and blooms. The garden centres are teeming and it is the time to plant a new interiors theme in your home and just let it grow. This is the garden that will last all year. No matter how small, dark or even poky your London space, you can now take advantage of a huge crop of petalled papers, fabrics and accessories that are guaranteed not to droop, drop, wilt or fade.
“Gardens give Londoners their much-needed nature fix,” says Liz Cann, design director for the big fabric houses of Zoffany and Sanderson. “And flowers on fabrics are so naturally decorative, they never lose appeal. Even when it’s cold, we can all have our bit of garden indoors.” Cann loves to build a mixed bouquet. “Try more formal Morris prints with some old and faded chintz and a bit of flowery embroidery — and add florals unexpectedly to upholstery.”
‘Gardens give Londoners their much-needed nature fix. Flowers on fabrics never lose appeal’
Emma Shuckburgh has textiles in her blood. She is the youngest daughter of the legendary Laura Ashley, though (as a conscious decision) uses her married name — unlike members of some other design/literary dynasties. Her father, Sir Bernard Ashley, runs Elanbach fabrics in Wales, where — and this is still unusual — printing is done digitally. Accordingly, flowers have a sharp definition and subtle colour variations not usual with traditional methods. And printing can be done on a wide range of fabrics at a reasonable price.
Shuckburgh’s new Golden Valley collection just oozes summer. “I just love all those posies and bouquets,” she says. “They fill me with happiness.” Her fabrics are so easy to use, with mix-and-match co-ordinates, on cotton satin, £25 a metre; fine cotton, £30 a metre; and bleached or natural linen, £35 a metre. Buy online at www.elanbach.com, or from stockists.
Floral address book
In London, those in the know have a little flowery book of very special addresses. Bennison, for example, based in SW1, is where the major set designers get their period florals for film extravaganzas such as Portrait of a Lady. Seductive tea-stained prints are carefully adapted from 18th and 19th century documents. All are first hand-drawn then also printed by hand in England on fine quality linens and silks. Now there are hand-printed wallcoverings, too. Owner Gilly Newbury, says: “We’re tops, of course, for country house time-faded florals but we’ll as easily fit into a cottage or a London town house or flat.” Call 020 7730 8076, or visit www.bennisonfabrics.com.
Truly the queen of charming chintz is Jean Monro, who traded as Mrs Monro in Belgravia for so many years. Then, in 1999, she entrusted her brand to Turnell & Gigon at Chelsea Harbour, who promised us “more of the same”. The collection’s core is the favourite designs of Jean’s mother Geraldine Monro, a celebrated decorator of the Twenties.
Fabrics, mostly based on archives, are printed on fine cloths “without compromise... if 24 screens are needed for the best result, 24 screens will be made”. It can take a week to hand-print just 18 metres and craftsmen serve a seven-year apprenticeship. Prices start from about £50 a metre — but a flowery lining costs from about £25 a metre (www.jeanmonro.com).
By contrast, poetic painterly blossoms in soft washed effects are the style of Anna Dove, a young designer who trained in classical painting and textiles at Central Saint Martins and then went on to the Royal College of Art. In her studio in Islington she hand-prints wallpapers to order, with aqueous versions of Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter Rose, along with the more dramatic Rose Garden at Night, or the softly shimmering Snow Rose. She can also do fabrics ('link(http://www.annadove.co.uk)).
Fashioning flowers with a modern twist is London decorator Suzy Hoodless, whose first collection for the famous wallpaper merchants Osborne & Little is launched this month. My favourite by far is Foxglove, which turns shy blooms carefully observed on a Scottish baronial estate into a chic, almost abstract assembly of elegant upright stems in pink and grey.
To bring wildflowers to walls and furniture, use the inimitable Stencil Library (www.stencil-library.com), which is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. Two-sizes of fennel stencil, for example, can go one on top of another in a single colour (use emulsion paint) to create a sophisticated graphic mural (£69.95 the set). Grass and foxgloves are just some of the other options designed by artist Helen Morris (01661 844844).
Meanwhile, selling on the web is Kate Forman, who does designs based on textile fragments rescued from antiques fairs. The result is faded elegance printed on to linens at £45.50 a metre, with plains from £25 a metre. It’s an imaginative range, embracing both the grand (billowing curtains) and the more mundane, such as covered box files and even matchboxes (www.kateforman.co.uk).
Although perhaps a bit too ubiquitous, Cath Kidston’s florals are still as sweet as the smell of her success, varied, inexpensive and well worth investigating. She started modestly with a small boutique in Notting Hill nearly 15 years ago, selling junk furniture and rescued textile remnants. Now there are shops nationwide, with eight in London alone, and even three in Japan.
Fabrics, based on rescued Fifties patterns, are sold by the metre: on cotton duck (£18 a metre) or linen union (£24 a metre), and, of course, her much loved oilcloth. There are also ready-made cushions, lamp shades and so on, and a new range of rose-scented toiletries. Kidston once said that she was “rose obsessed” and considered that “daisies are a bit spiky, tulips have awkward stalks and poppies just don’t have the same graphic appeal” (www.cathkidston.co.uk).