Journal

The Power of Print: Five Fabrics That Changed the Way We Decorate

While we are all spending more time at home, the extra hours provide a good opportunity to pick up new skills or simply learn something new.

Amongst the many webinars and digital workshops and events offered by creative brands is House & Garden’s programme of weekly live talks with the Calico Club. A community for art, interiors, gardens, design, and food, the Calico Club offers exclusive access to people and places featured in House & Garden, as well as a full calendar of events and fairs.

While we are all spending more time at home, the extra hours provide a good opportunity to pick up new skills or simply learn something new.

Amongst the many webinars and digital workshops and events offered by creative brands is House & Garden’s programme of weekly live talks with the Calico Club. A community for art, interiors, gardens, design, and food, the Calico Club offers exclusive access to people and places featured in House & Garden, as well as a full calendar of events and fairs.

Block printed fabrics were imported by the East India Company and brought to France first and England later. Once the cotton industry developed in Europe, the UK’s response to India’s finest cloths and colourful patterns was chintz, a design inspired by the quintessentially English country rose garden.

After its heyday at the start of the 18th century, chintz fell out of fashion, as simpler prints were thought to better complement the Georgian aesthetics. In the 1960s, however, the pattern had a huge resurgence thanks to Colefax & Fowler, who turned chintz into a versatile and eclectic motif to be used on everything – from walls and chairs to flooring and graphics. Allowing customers to bring a piece of English country house style into their homes, Colefax & Fowler’s chintz collections developed the firm’s historic identity.

Also inspired by Victorian chintzes, William Morris’ rich patterns are iconic and instantly recognisable. Regarded as one of the most outstanding figures of the Arts & Crafts Movement, William Morris has influenced many designers, who have taken on his look and expanded it further into new realms. Hugely popular in the 1970s, his works evoke a sense of comfort and nostalgia.

Unlike chintz, Morris’ fabrics are perhaps not as easy to mix. Featuring swirling leaves, thieving birds and fruit tree branches, the designs are bold and intricate, providing a style statement that requires careful balance.

Moving away from traditional textiles, Josef Frank’s prints are joyful, whimsical and wild. Born and raised in Austria, Frank fled from the Nazis to Sweden in the 1930s. Resisting any limitations for his designs, Josef Frank represented a free and artistic style ideal, with values like comfort, homeliness and colour at its core. A firm believer that houses should be constantly evolving and full of things we love, Josef Frank has had an enormous impact on the history of Scandinavian design, paving the way for brands such as Ikea and Marimekko.

Influenced by Josef Frank’s love of colour and freedom, Finnish designer Maija Isola created a series of bold and playful designs, including Unikko, a poppy pattern that made design house Marimekko famous in the 1960s. Defying the order of Marimekko’s founder to ban flower prints, Maija Isola designed a whole collection of simple and abstract floral motifs that masterfully blend the minimal aesthetics of Scandinavian and Japanese designs. Vibrant and free, the Unikko print came back into fashion in the 1990s, with Ikea’s campaign to bring the Nordic interior style in the UK.

A beautiful and colourful journey through the different periods of the textile industry, Gabby’s talk was interesting and insightful. While highlighting the impact of print design on current trends, the discussion also emphasised our particular relationship with nature, featured in all five iconic textiles.