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Hannah Morgan
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Queen Anne furniture was one of the first real ‘trends’ in interiors. Furniture made during Queen Anne's reign (1702-1714) took a radical shift from what had been previously popular, with designers considering aesthetics as much as practicality. Walnut and mahogany took the place of simple oak, as the rise of the middle classes meant that more people were able to afford these more exotic woods. Items were designed for specific purposes, such as writing tables, gaming tables and tea tables. Ball and claw feet and cabriole legs are typical of Queen Anne furniture. Graceful, elegant legs with outward-curving ‘knees’ and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2011 at Natural History's blog
Damask: that classic flock wallpaper design - so grand, dramatic, opulent. Damask dates back to around 300 BC when the ancient Chinese wove reversible patterns that could be displayed on either side. Damask silks were transported along the ‘silk road’ from the Far East to the Middle East and Europe. By the 12th century it had reached Damascus in Syria, the centre of textile production at the time, where Damask gets its name. Damask designs became very popular with the upper classes of Europe. Damask started on fabric but later moved onto flock wallpapers, which were produced by printing a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2011 at Natural History's blog
The iconic Paisley pattern has a reputation as the uniform of patchouli-scented hippies, but the motif dates back much further than the sixties – at least a couple of thousand years. According to Azerbaijani historians, the design comes from a Zoroastrian religious symbol of life. It became popular in Europe in the 17th century after being imported by the East India Company. Demand was high, so European manufacturers began to produce their own versions in the 19th century – particularly in the Scottish town of Paisley. The weavers of paisley had looms that allowed them to work with far more... Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2011 at Natural History's blog
Bargello is a type of needlepoint embroidery which produces dazzling geometric patterns. The name comes from the Bargello Palace in Florence where chairs were found with a 'flame' stitch pattern. Flames, zig-zags, chevrons and ribbons of bright colour make this a fabulous style for cushions. Jonathan Adler and Trina Turk appear to be the reigning king and queen of Bargello and I wouldn't be surprised if this trend took off in the UK soon. Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2011 at Natural History's blog
Aestheticism was a 19th century movement dedicated to pure beauty, emphasising aesthetic values above all else. The movement started in the 1860s among a radical group of artists including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti as a reaction to Victorian materialism and morals. It was decadent, hedonistic and devoted to “art for art’s sake”. The notion of ‘The House Beautiful’ was born in this period. Aestheticism sparked a revolution in interior decoration and architecture, in that the need for beauty in everyday life was recognised. The characteristic themes of aesthetic design include peacock feathers, ebonised wood, lilies, sunflowers, Chinoiserie, gilt,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2011 at Natural History's blog
Following last week’s post, let’s look at one of the most well-known Chinoisierie designs: the Willow Pattern. You will see the same scene on every example of the perennially popular blue and white china. Three people crossing the bridge, the temple, the willow tree, the apple tree, the crooked fence and the two birds flying overhead. The scene tells a story, which some say was invented by Thomas Minton in 1790 to sell more pottery but it may have been based on an actual Chinese legend. So here is the story. Are you sitting comfortably? Koong-se was the beautiful daughter... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2011 at Natural History's blog
Today I'm going to tell you about Chinoiserie, which is not Chinese at all but a European style of imitating the art and design of China and Japan. Porcelain, silk and lacquerware from these countries were the height of fashion during the 18th century, so British and European designers (many of whom had probably never been to China) spotted an opportunity and began to create their own interpretations. Chinoiserie was at its peak from 1750-1765 but has been a recurring theme in design ever since. Chinoiserie uses fanciful imagery to create and exotic and idealised visions of the Orient. It... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2011 at Natural History's blog
This week I’m going to light up your life with a lesson on Tiffany lamps – handcrafted icons of the Art Nouveau movement. Louis Comfort Tiffany (son of Charles Lewis Tiffany of the jewellers, Tiffany & Co) got his big break when President Chester Alan Arthur commissioned him to redecorate the White House. When Tiffany visited the V&A Museum in 1865 its collection of Roman and Syrian glass made such an impression on him that he decided to focus on glass alone and set up the Tiffany Glass Company (later Tiffany Studios). Tiffany admired the colouration of medieval glass and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2011 at Natural History's blog
Ikat has been one of this year’s most successful trends, in fashion and interiors alike. Ikat is an ancient method which involves dyeing the threads before weaving the fabric. It is one of the oldest forms of fabric decoration, and exists in many world cultures – from Indonesia to Uzbekistan; Ecuador to Japan. It’s such an old technique that it’s impossible to determine where it originated; in fact it probably started independently in several parts of the world. Many styles of ikat feature dazzling colours and patterns, sometimes with symbolic meaning. As making ikat requires skill and time, it is... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2011 at Natural History's blog
This week’s history lesson is all about Rococo, which was an 18th century style and is probably best enjoyed in small portions these days (unless you are Elton John or a Russian oligarch). Love it or hate it, Rococo is undeniably magnificent and it’s great fun to spot the giveaway characteristics of a Rococo item. Rococo is synonymous with the late Baroque period, mirroring the excesses of Louis XV’s reign, and represented a move from symmetry towards fluidity and playfulness. It was more of an interior style than architectural, created by craftspeople and designers. At the time, Rococo was regarded... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2011 at Natural History's blog
Each week I'm going to investigate a different design style, tradition or icon. I thought I'd start off by looking at toile: a classic fabric and wallpaper design which has experienced a revival in the last few years. It's often regarded as a quaint style, but it's always fascinating as every design tells a story. In fact, this one tells the story of Robinson Crusoe! Toile de Jouy (or toile for short) features a repeated pattern of a complex image, in one colour on a white background. The pattern of the original toiles showed floral arrangements or scenes of contemporary... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2011 at Natural History's blog
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Jun 20, 2011