French dress­ing

A new col­lec­tion of wall­pa­pers and fab­rics re­vives the del­i­cacy of 18th-cen­tury tex­tiles wo­ven by the Huguenot silk weavers of Spi­tal­fields

Country Life Every Week - - Interiors The Inside Track - Giles Kime

‘The orig­i­nal de­signs cap­ture the sub­tle fri­vol­ity of the era’

THIS magazine is noth­ing if not con­sis­tent. COUN­TRY LIFE still has the fa­mous Fron­tispiece, which be­gan in our first is­sue pub­lished on Jan­uary 8, 1897 (although if the Earl of Suf­folk and Berk­shire was wear­ing pearls, he was hid­ing them well), as well as fea­tures on ar­chi­tec­ture, gar­dens, wildlife, the Arts and coun­try pur­suits—plus wall­pa­per.

‘The man­u­fac­tur­ers of this coun­try have in great mea­sure failed to re­alise the wealth of native tal­ent avail­able in the world of wall­pa­per,’ we com­plained al­most ex­actly 100 years ago. It’s pre­sum­ably the French who we thought were steal­ing the lime­light. Fol­low­ing Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf’s in­ven­tion of a ma­chine that could print con­tin­u­ous rolls of wall­pa­per in 1785, France dom­i­nated the mar­ket. Com­pa­nies such as Zu­ber et Cie (started in 1797 and still go­ing strong) had gained plum com­mis­sions, no­tably the breath­tak­ing Views of North Amer­ica panoramic that still hangs in the White House.

How­ever, it wasn’t long be­fore we stole the crown back from across the chan­nel. For the past cen­tury, Bri­tish cre­ativ­ity in this area has been al­most fath­om­less, yet, thank­fully, not in a con­cep­tual, push-the-bound­aries-for-the-hell-of-it kind of way. Some of the most in­ter­est­ing are those de­signs that rein­vent mo­tifs and pat­terns from dif­fer­ent sources such as ar­chives or un­cov­ered on walls, scraps of faded cur­tains or tribal tex­tiles.

Of this year’s crop, one of the most ex­cit­ing is Lewis & Wood’s new Spi­tal­fields col­lec­tion, which is the re­sult of a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the V&A and is based on the work of Joseph Dan­dridge and James Le­man, mem­bers of the Huguenot di­as­pora hounded out of France in the late 17th cen­tury by Louis XIV, who fled all over the world, many to London. Le­man was a silk­weaver and mill owner and Dan­dridge a keen nat­u­ral­ist (his col­lec­tions spanned ev­ery­thing from fos­sils to fungi) and was a founder mem­ber of the So­ci­ety of Aure­lians that had been es­tab­lished to study moths and but­ter­flies.

The orig­i­nal de­signs cap­ture the sub­tle fri­vol­ity of the era and none of their del­i­cacy has been lost in trans­la­tion. Although they were in­tended for wo­ven pat­tern, their tran­si­tion into printed wall­pa­per and fab­rics has lent them a fresh­ness that will cre­ate a pe­riod feel that doesn’t look like a set from The Draughts­man’s Con­tract.

The new Spi­tal­fields col­lec­tion from Lewis & Wood (020–7751 4554; www. lewisand­wood. co.uk)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.