via Vogue

Sometimes fashion is the leading edge in capturing the zeitgeist, and sometimes it's a follower. In this instance, when Marc Jacobs sent his models out at the recent Autumn/ Winter 2015 Ready to Wear show in New York, he was way behind the times - the prints that he used for his collection were all sourced from William Morris & Co, founder of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic movement, and were in many instances 140 years old.

via Vogue

There's a shift in Interiors and Fashion at the moment to embrace quieter, more muted tones, pattern on pattern, a bohemian vibe and to embrace individuality and the hand made.

The biggest mass appeal look in recent times via Adore Home

For the past 8 years or so the feel has been decidedly influenced by Hollywood Regency style as demonstrated above - lots of painted  bamboo furniture, bright white walls offsetting strong saturated colour and bold geometric prints, Foo dogs, bar carts, zebra print, and gourd shaped lamps (or the cockatoo lamp bases) with mismatched shades. It's a little bit preppy, strongly graphic, and has a 50's retro vibe to it. It's also been beloved of bloggers the world over (just add peonies and a colour matched macaron) and is now a look that's been widely commercially copied and filtered decidedly into the mass market with Target enthusiastically joining in.

Via Morris & Co

Via Morris & Co

The shift towards the Arts and Crafts movement comes from the current embracing of the home made, the artisanal, the bespoke… a nostalgia perhaps for the notion of individuality and honesty in design. All those people with beards running Bars who like to tell you earnestly about their specially foraged herbs arranged on the share plates and the selection of crafted artisanal beers they stock are a key leading indicator of the seismic shift in the creative sphere. When the world gets a little bit crazy, as it is at the moment with rampant mass consumerism and the instability terrorism is creating across the globe,  people seek a feel of the unique and the sense of bohemian individuality, the authenticity of provenance, and hand in hand the desire for comfort and home.

 via Morris & Co

via Morris & Co

The Arts and Crafts movement has its genesis with William Morris, principle founder in 1861. Morris was an artist, and his designs for fabrics, wallpapers, tapestries and furniture, and the approximately 600 books, published letters and papers he wrote during his lifetime about his subjects of interest were highly influential around the world. They captured the mood of the time, which was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851 which displayed the mass production of consumer goods. The disappearance of the hand made and crafted - the disappearance of the artist - he and others in the movement worked in direct opposition to.

via Morris & Co


via Morris & Co

 His designs were influenced by the Medieval period, with a lyrical and flowing use of repetitive naturalistic pattern, and had a complexity and richness of design by the layering of pattern on pattern. There's a very strong play of foreground and background in his designs giving them a three dimensional quality and great depth. All his wallpapers were printed using woodblocks, and his fabrics used natural dyes which faded evenly and gave a gentle patina. The fabrics and wallpapers are still produced in England today (the company is now owned by Sanderson), with a very hand made feel to the papers and fabric produced with more modern techniques.


To modernise the range many are being recoloured to suit the current palette in interiors (the originals are also still available) with muted neutrals across the range, and foil elements in the wallpapers. Many new designs have also been created using tile patterns found at his original house (The Red House). I was at a showing yesterday for Morris & Co, and the way in which they were presenting the fabrics (as demonstrated in the images above) proves how modern they can be -  they've mixed in Mid-Century Modern furniture with the traditional wallpapers and fabrics to give a freshness and vibrancy to the designs and show how it can  fit with modern life for a younger generation of Morris enthusiasts.

A Morris & Co display at the Art Gallery of South Australia

Here in Adelaide we are very well aware of Morris's influence on design - the second largest collection of original William Morris & Co pieces are held at the Art Gallery of South Australia (the largest collection is held by the V&A in London). His biggest patron was a wealthy Adelaide family - the Barr-Smiths, who furnished 7 of their large houses with near continual shipments of rugs, stained glass windows, furniture, tapestries, wallpapers and furnishing fabrics sent from England.

Art Gallery of South Australia

The Arts and Crafts period influenced many of the very large houses and their interiors designed in and around Adelaide (Stirling in the Adelaide Hills has many of them) - Adelaide had many wealthy families at the time from Agricultural and mining booms. As tends to happen amongst friends you will often find that one will influence the others, and many of the wealthy Adelaide families collected Morris & Co and designed houses in the then fashionable Arts and Crafts style. Most of the houses have subsequently been modernised and redecorated and lost much of the richness of the original interior design schemes as a sparser aesthetic took over. A good example is below - this grand Victorian era staircase and entry hall would have originally had rich persian rug style runners on the stairs rather than pale carpet, and walls covered with a patterned wallpaper, rather than being painted out in varying shades of cream.


If you're fortunate to be in Birmingham in the UK this summer, then you'll be able to view the exhibition of Birmingham's Holy Grail tapestries at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. They are exhibited very infrequently due to their light sensitivity, but are stunningly detailed and large scale - worth a look if you can get there.

Holy Grail tapestry via Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Apparently there is also an upcoming collaboration between British clothing manufacturer Barbour and Morris & Co with Barbour jackets being lined with his iconic fabric designs.

This all just proves that everything old is new again, it's all just tweaked a smidge to make it current… and that the fickle wheel of fashion is moving yet again to embrace the Arts and Crafts aesthetic.

40 comments:

  1. that 1st look is so impersonal and dated.I love William Morris. Mr FF has WM curtains in his chambers. My house is a bit arts and crafts. Romy says Bloomsbury and I'm taking it as a compliment x

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    1. There's not a lot of subtlety in the first image… I was thinking of you and your persian rugs as I was typing up this post! You're definitely a bit Bloomsbury, and the mix you have in the house is so personal and cosy.

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  2. I do like WM but it seems to encapsulate a specific mood and ambience and even though I admire it so I don't know if I could have it in my house bc I'd feel a bit hemmed in if my mood didn't match. I also think it doesn't suit all architecture so it needs to be handled well. You might remember that his home and workshop are in hammersmith and it was perfect to visit on a cold winters afternoon and the home suits his designs so well! But I don't know how this would do in a nice airy open plan home. But I will look out for dates get on the train and visit and admire xx

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    1. I know what you mean, and I think that the very traditional use of his designs definitely suits a dark cosy interior. I liked the images they presented with the new ranges, and a lot of the colours are very modern. Many are tone on tone so would work well with any interior, and a couple of the wallpapers were just stunning in their modern colour use - the foils in the Seaweed pattern which was in browns and creams was divine. I thought their use with modern furniture was quite clever, and I know a few designers are using it as part of an overall quite layered look (Anna Spiro has been using his designs I see on Instagram). Certainly the very "english" feel doesn't suit Australian interiors well, as our homes are so opened up to the outside, but I think bits and pieces here and there layered in definitely can enhance an interior.
      Hope you do get up to Birmingham - they've juxtaposed Andy Warhol prints with the Morris tapestries!!

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  3. Heidi, so interesting. Loved the Via Morris and Co pics!

    In our higgledy-piggledy little interior we have William Morris designed tapestry cushions that I worked myself. Have always loved WM - though not the full-on total. Have also worked WM tapestry seat covers for dining room chairs (all eight of them!). Only just finished this year and haven't yet found right tradesman to re-cover seats. Our dining room is small and dark so it's mostly used at night. All a bit old fashioned English really, though a bit ecumenical and eccentric as table is French cherry wood and there's a half wall with painted icons, collected from travels. I did say higgledy-piggledy! Lightened up a bit by an OTT Murano mirror with barley sugar glass and flowers and a Murano chandelier with irises. Anathema to minimalists and the stylists who produced the cover "Fresh and Fun". So it's rather fun to hear WM is coming back into fashion. Pammie

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    1. Your house sounds very personal Pammie, which is exactly how a house should be. Better an interesting mix of things that mean something to you, or remind you of a special event than a peon of minimalism that is as impersonal as a hotel! I used to do a lot of those tapestries myself back in the 90's - they're all at my Dad's house now as they don't really suit our current home. Interestingly WM was shelved for 40 years and was unavailable, but I think the tapestry kits lived on during that time.

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  4. What's old is new! The serenity of WM prints is wonderful. They speak or the hand make...well made...trustworth...and have a quality which makes me feel like a child again; Relaxing, homely and comforting. I've had my eye on a few WM prints to use in my work for a while now, but looks like my old scholastic compatriot Helen Barbour will beat me to it!

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    1. I think WM has always been beloved of people that craft things by hand, regardless of whether it was fashionable or not. Funny to think that he was one of the first people to do tapestry and embroidery designs for his clients to work too - a lot of the pieces in the Art Gallery here were worked by the ladies of the house, and WM are releasing a new range of embroidered fabrics on silk that are based on these pieces. All made in India of course, rather than stitched in England, but it might be worth having a look at for interests sake!

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  5. I have always loved William Morris and have taken the opportunity to visit the art gallery a few times in Adelaide to immerse myself in the interiors, so enjoyed them. Like anything, if you wait long enough, it just may come back in fashion but then great style never really ever goes out of fashion.
    Marilyn xx

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    1. Unfortunately they only have a fraction of the collection out on display at the Art Gallery Marilyn - I believe a lot of it is loaned out around the world for other exhibitions as they then get the favour returned to have pieces they want for exhibitions they're curating on other things. It would be a fabulous thing if they did a big permanent display of it all. I can remember bits and pieces they used to display when I was a child in the 80's and I haven't seen it for years (alternative is it could just be in storage I suppose). xx

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  6. I adore William Morris prints! So beautiful and soothing. I'm still doing some decorating here and I'll have to incorporate some fabric into some of the rooms, I'm thinking the third floor bedrooms once my older daughter moves on to do her masters. I'll have to save my pennies for it!
    I do have an opportunity to add some bits of fabric to the windows in our front foyer, our designer knows my love of pattern so here's hoping she brings some interesting samples for that little project.
    A Barbour jacket with a WM lining you say... I'll have to keep my eye out for those.
    Love this post Heidi, I'll be pinning some of these gorgeous images. xo

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    1. I think this would suit your house so well Dani, it doesn't surprise me at all that you're interested in it. The colours and patterns would blend very well with your existing things, and I think the warmth and cosiness would definitely suit your long Winters. Surprisingly the pricing isn't too bad - as Sanderson are such a big company it's not got the boutique pricing some of the smaller companies end up with on fabrics and wallpapers that are often inferior in quality as well.xx

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  7. Fascinating post Heidi: so interesting to learn of the popularity in Adelaide. Some of the images are fantastic. I think Barbour have already done one at least on William Morris collaboration actually - not long after their collaboration with liberty was so successful.
    Did you see the 'pattern recognition' story in the May H&G? It features a very full-on Morris & co room using the Brook on the walls and the bedding.
    I recovered a sofa a few years ago in brer rabbit in a light blue. It has the charm and interest, but it not heavy at all. I love it! x

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    1. I don't think the Adelaide connection is very well known outside of here - I remember telling the Design History tutor at Inchbald about it, and he had no idea (we were touring the V&A looking at the collection). I haven't got the May H&G yet - we're a little behind with our issues, but I'll certainly look out for it! Brer rabbit is a definite classic, and the new colourings they've been doing for the past few years are fantastic, as they really do work better in more contemporary settings and have a lightness to them. xx

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  8. o much I didn't know about the Arts and Crafts movement, I have always loved the offbeat design and lack of symmetry in Arts and Crafts houses.

    The Adelaide connection is fascinating - were all 7 homes in Adelaide or scattered throughout the world?

    I love Morris' work but not sure I could have it layered. His wallpapers and fabrics are gorgeous - but just one is enough. The armchair has my name on it. x

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    1. Yes, the houses were all in Adelaide and the immediate surrounds. The one they did almost top to toe in WM was in Stirling in the Hills and was their summer residence.
      I think you don't have to do the whole look, which is what people perhaps were thinking in the past - they're trying to show how it can work in a cleaner lined and modern interior, so using just one fabric can be quite striking. Also the modern colours are definitely bringing it up to date.

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  9. I always feel a little smarter for having read your blog posts on interiors
    hope you and your family are well x

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    1. You're very sweet Cilla! All good here - hope the thesis is continuing well x

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  10. You should write for a magazine Heidi. Or else put together a book - you write so well. Not a fan of the first look. It always seems like someone went out and shopped for it all together. Fabulous post as per usual. Tonkath.

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    1. I tend to not like anything that looks too 'immediately decorated' so to speak, and the first room definitely looks that way to me. Much nicer to have layers of things- more personal

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  11. I absolutely enjoyed this post! Thank you so much for introducing me to Morris & Co. The 2nd picture of "via morris & Co" the fabric on the chair looks like some liberty fabric. The pattern is similar.
    I adore the wallpaper in the first image, I can't believe it, but I do. I just love it. I never really like hollywood regency, greg natale!! (I like some of his designs though) but I do own 2 gourd style lamps. Definitely no cockatoo lamp bases here.
    I love Arts and crafts houses!! All that craftsmanship! So much to admire. No way could you get a house like that built today, well maybe, hard pressed finding the skill though.

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  12. Wait! What? https://www.william-morris.co.uk/shop/wallpaper/morris-archive-wallpapers-ii/strawberry-thief/?code=DARW212563
    and
    http://www.liberty.co.uk/fcp/product/Liberty//Strawberry-Thief-L-Tana-Lawn-Cotton-/113304

    Oh ok then. I didn't know this. . . So much to learn!

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    1. Liberty (the shop) was a major stockist of Morris, and the store pretty much started up around the same time his company did and championed the look. So a few of the patterns are on the tana lawns and velvets for dress materials.
      I wasn't ever much of a Hollywood Regency fan, but it really did capture the mood of the times, and is now looking a touch dated. But perhaps I just think that from blogger overload!

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  13. I am occasionally invited over to a friend of a friend's delightful Arts & Crafts Chicago Bungalow meticulously restored with subtle enhancements by a local noted architect and his keen eyed wife. I love the style and how intricate and impressive the details are yet never feels high-toned as that level of artistic expression often can. I will hope to do a post on it and interested in hearing your thoughts.
    I've never warmed up to WM as apparently that was his intention.
    That tendency you mention of friends influencing one another has an American idiom "Keeping up with the Jones's"
    with the phrase having it's origins in 19th Century New York with the 'Jones' being the same family as Edith Wharton's maiden name.

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    1. There are some fabulous houses in Chicago - I started going off on a tangent with the Frank Lloyd Wright connection and house design, but deleted it all as it was becoming so long. You could really write for days on the whole thing. I'd love to see that post though! WM had a few conflicts as the movement aspired to honesty in workmanship etc, but it was so prohibitively expensive that only the very rich could afford it, so it really cut out the mass market, which was what he was trying to inspire (as a reaction to all the mass produced stuff coming out of the factories at the time).
      Did not know that about the origin of Keeping up with the Jones's, but it certainly seems to ring true today - there was a certain artist who started out in Adelaide and people of a certain age bracket and station in life have his paintings in their house. Quite literally, all of them! The same artist went off to Melbourne and did it there too, then onto Sydney, and is now back in Melbourne. He's been very commercially successful, but is rather ubiquitous!

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    2. Heidi - I literally laughed out loud when I read this.
      This topic could be a post in itself. I always felt it was a bit of an 'Emperor's New Clothes' scenario - whereby no one really liked his paintings, but thought it was the "right" thing to have (till they all looked at each other and admitted that having a cartoon-like image of your (nude) self over your fireplace wasn't actually very nice!)

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    3. I'm guessing that artist's name is D.B

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    4. We have a three quarter nude woman on one dining room wall, painted by my husband in oils at a life class. For some reason everyone thinks it was of me years ago. Nothing like me but it used to scandalise my mother who objected to having to sit at table looking at her. So we filled up the rest of the wall with other paintings of women (clothed) by different artists. That way our naked lady doesn't stand out so much.
      Who is DB? Dying to know! Pammie

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  14. Hello Heide, the tech gremlins ate my first attempt at commenting. Here goes second, briefer, attempt. Thank for for your well researched and thoughtful post. Over the past year I have been decluttering the pops of colour from my interiors and returning to a more tonal and layered palette. Easy to do. Just removed the cushions, trinkets etc -/the 'pops' which I thought I had invented. But now realise that I had not invented 'pops' , nor had I invented tonalism. So I guess that makes me yet another follower and not an initiator. I find the tonal palette more restful. You did not mention WM's famous quote loosely summarised as " Have nothing in your home which you do not believe to be beautiful or know to be useful." Its a useful principal to live by. Judith

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    1. Well, there is nothing new in this world Judith! So none of us are really inventors - WM himself was very influenced by the Medieval period and all his designs were based on things he studied from that time. But we are all influenced by trends in one way or another, even if very subtly.
      I do love that quote - WM is really a topic I could write about for days as the influence he had was extraordinary, from the change in the way we live in houses, to quotes such as that which aligns completely with the current mood toward minimalism.

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  15. Brilliant post Heidi. It really resonated with me. I think (hope!) there is a definite paradigm shift in the decorating world at the moment. Hopefully people will think more about how a home makes you feel, rather than how well it will be photographed! Soft, tonal colours (or bright and bold if that's your thing!) and warm, life-collected interiors will hopefully replace 'cookie-cutter' interiors that are copying the latest trend. I think we all want a home to be current, but, as you have shown so well - even Morris' original designs can be incorporated to look up to date. I was just this weekend flicking through the book of the late Stuart Rattle's Musk Farm, and think how beautifully warm, inviting and cosy (and timeless) his interiors looked. He loved William Morris' design aesthetic and beautifully crafted interiors and his home was a reflection of this.
    Again, just a brilliant post. You write so well. x Caroline

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    1. Thanks Caroline, and I do think there is a definite shift in the decorating world toward the more handmade/ authentic/ long lasting. But as for how well a home photograph, this is a big bug bear of mine, and I'm going to write a post about it. Perfect images are not good design, but in this era of Instagram etc that is what is sought. Stuart Rattle did indeed use a lot of Morris in his work, and I noticed that about Musk Farm, but then again he was a huge Anglophile.

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  16. I've always admired elements of William Morris's work (the natural elements particularly appeal to me), but it can get a little overwhelming when a "full on" effect is achieved through the use of wallpapers, fabrics, and rugs. A little goes a long way with Morris and I can see how the newly revised colors and ways in which to use them will appeal to the younger set.

    I recall visiting Merton Abbey Mills long ago with a cousin who took me there. We spent a delightful afternoon trolling around the mill, which was the original location of Morris's workshop.

    Thanks for this in-depth article. I found it very interesting.

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    1. The new colours really have breathed new life into the designs I think CD - there were a few with the foils in the wallpapers that were just stunning. I've personally never been to any of Morris' houses/ work locations, but when I next get to pay a fleeting visit to Blighty I'll be putting them on the list.

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  17. I love the softness of the WM look, but like Naomi, its not really my style. But neither is that pink and green on pattern look of the first photo, the everything-look-at-me must be jarring to live in.

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  18. Nice post. I think you have to live with what you love - change it up and change it down - it's exhausting keeping up with "the latest looks" and I think a bit of this and a bit of the that is loved always makes a lovely home. And it's all about making a lovely home that you enjoy at the end of the day. M

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  19. What an interesting post Heidi. I have always found the Hollywood Regency trend too garish, but there was always a piece or two that could be pared back which I liked. Just love the more muted examples above & how they are paired with Mid-Century furniture, it really does give a freshness to the prints, yet still make it feel like a cosy home. Will look with interest on how this trend develops over the coming years.
    Engracia

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  20. Hello Heidi.. I missed this post and am so glad I've had an evening of catching up! The post is beautifully written and so well researched. My 'new' home is hugely influenced by A&C and all of the wallpapers are William Morris. I love the earthy boldness of the Arts and Crafts style, the clarity and strength. William Morris was a creative genius. I have a book about him somewhere and am now inspired to get it out and read again! Have a lovely week xxx

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  21. Such a classic! I'm thrilled that William Morris' works are being discovered by a new generation. And thrilled that these classics are being offered with fresh new colors - very exciting! I'm thinking of wallpapering our powder room in one of their iconic prints. Beautiful post, Heidi. Cheers

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  22. My first thought on your wonderful post is did Jacobs have to pay to 'source' his designs? but love seeing all the Morris designs, those rather serious, calming colours are lovely.

    V. Interesting about the large Morris collection in Adelaide, do you know of the Dame Melba Brook's Naploeonic collection in Melbourne? all that neo classicism does really appeal to me

    I for one am glad to see the end of that 'chinoiserie ' look, chinoiserie ? yeah right

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