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Decorate with fabrics and wallpapers inspired by folklore and myth

Move aside chinoiserie and ditzy florals, we’re coveting these designs with a fantastical tale to tell

mythical fabric upholstered sofa in cave with hanging foliage
Rishabh Malik

Storytelling is at the heart of the whimsical designs of home textiles and wall coverings this season, with enchanting patterns depicting intricate flora and fauna that promise to whisk you away into a sylvan fairytale.

The references and inspirations are broad, spanning diverse cultures across the centuries, from Greek mythology and Italian folklore, to pagan rites and medieval English fables. So rich is this tapestry of tales in paper and cloth form that it feels perfectly pitched for these uncertain times, when we’re all hankering after a more simple, spiritual moment.

The references and inspirations are broad, spanning diverse cultures across centuries

This is emphasised by the fact that far from being a radical departure, many of these recent designs are based on historic examples. Lewis & Wood’s ‘Stitch Prints’ collection looks back to 19th-century embroideries depicting Greek mythology found at the V&A. Its ‘Iliad’ print pays homage to a bed hanging replete with wild figures, plants and creatures.

lewis and wood mythical fabric
‘Ilyiad’ linen in ‘Aegean’ from the ‘Stitch Prints’ Collection, £105 per m, Lewis & Wood (lewisandwood.co.uk).
Lewis and Wood

The spectacular ‘Fantasma’ collection by Zak+Fox, meanwhile, looks back to old bloodthirsty Italian tales, rife with terrifying characters such as a seven-headed dragon and a ferocious beast.

‘The narratives informed much of the design first,’ says creative director Zak Profera, ‘with thematic references throughout the collection. Something at first familiar, turning stranger and stranger the deeper we get into the tale.’ Each pattern has a story, ‘Papavero’, or ‘poppy’, references the opioid flower with its crimson blooms, known for the ‘drowsy syrup’ it produces.

beata heuman fabric
’Asteria’s Folly Cotton: Day’ fabric in ‘Off-white’, £100 per m, Beata Heuman (beataheuman.com)
Beata Heuman

These new interpretations are more stylised than their historic counterparts, featuring motifs juxtaposed with contemporary colour choices and pattern repeats to give a new twist. Interior designer Beata Heuman’s ‘Asteria’s Folly’ fabric is chiefly influenced by the goddess of stars, but Heuman added some mysterious creatures ‘to spark people’s imagination’. Similarly, Maison C’s ‘Coven’ wallpaper, with its blindfolded cavorting female nudes, is evocative of dancing deities and Greek muses.

maison c mythical wallpaper
’Coven’ wallpaper in ‘Goldwyn Pink’, £244 per sq m to order, Maison C (maisonc.com).
Maison C

The highly decorative aesthetic of House of Hackney also fits the subject perfectly. ‘Tremationia’, a collection launching this September, draws upon medieval English myths. ‘It blends legends with psychedelic fantasy, painting dragons and winged beasts – the kind of imaginary creatures that loom large in ancient tales –against stylised clouds of colour, florals and toadstools,’ say co-founders Frieda Gormley and Javvy M Royle.

‘Phantasia’, also a standout design, ‘unfolds like a map of a mythical terrain somewhere in England,’ adds Gormley. ‘There is a sense of naivety and playfulness to this print,’ she adds, ‘evoking a land undisturbed by the perils of modern life – the kind of supernaturally beautiful setting we would all like to escape to right now.’ houseofhackney.com, lewisandwood.co.uk, maisonc.com, beataheuman.com, zakandfox.com

house of hackney fabric
‘Phantasia’ wallpaper in ‘Selenite Orange’ from the ‘Tremationia’ Collection, £185 per 8m roll, House of Hackney (houseofhackney.com).
House of Hackney

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration August 2020

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