With an archive of more than 45,000 pattern books, paintings, drawings and photographs, collated since the 1880s, lack of inspiration is never a problem when it comes to designing a new collection for Liberty.
Rather, the biggest challenge in translating such iconic fashion prints into fabrics and wallpapers for the design world, says its new head of design for interiors Genevieve Bennett, is how best to make them work across sofas, curtains and walls. While the delicate trail of a ‘Tana Lawn’ ditsy floral print may sit perfectly across a shirt or dress, ‘you might not want it all over your house’, she concedes.
As a result of such careful compilation and reworking, this month Liberty launches ‘The Modern Collector’ – named in honour of the store’s founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty. It showcases bold new furnishing fabrics and a set of 12 wallpapers revolving around three themes: ‘Floribunda’, a celebration of English flora and foliage and the cyanotype ‘blueprint’ photography of Victorian botanist AnnaAtkins; the stylised motifs of art nouveau; and the intricate storytelling evoked by hand-dyed antique Indian ‘Tree of Life’ tapestries.
Each of the patterns has been rescaled, recoloured and drawn anew, working to a palette of six colours – from rich saturated tones of lapis royal blue and jade green to the silvery shimmer of pewter, developed for last year’s ‘Modern Archive Collection’. Bennett and her team have also experimented with new materials such as pure linens and deep-printed cotton velvets to lend ‘matt and shine’, she says.
Specialised techniques, too, were used to add textural interest to the wallpapers, including block-print rollers and rotogravure screen printing, in collaboration with the century-old Anstey Wallpaper Company, based in Loughborough.
Before joining Liberty, Bennett had spent 20-plus years developing intricate surface pattern in natural materials for commissions and clients such as Mulberry, Heal’s and Knoll. Her passion, she says, has always been for producing ‘beautiful textures and surfaces through applying pattern in interesting ways’. Hence, some of these archival patterns have been cleverly reimagined.
A reworked version of ‘Poppy Park’ is now the multicoloured ‘Poppy Meadowfield’; ‘Hera Feather’, initially developed for a pair of silk pyjamas, is now a lustrous jacquard – and new patterns include ‘Deco Scallop’, Bennett’ stake on the classic Liberty peacock feather and art deco fan prints, inspired by ‘a tiny little painting of a scarf border in the archive’.
‘Palampore Trail’, a stalwart ‘Tree of Life’ design from the archive has been simplified and upscaled to work as a wide-width wallpaper, printed on a micanon-woven ground, ‘to shine with a subtle mineral-like lustre and richness of colour, reminiscent of the exquisite plant and insect dyes, which originally inspired the design’, she adds. ‘You could use it as a panel above your bed or to paper all four walls of a room.’
A new range of plains, semi-plains and geometrics – such as ‘Paisley Fern’ – helps to ‘provide calmer moments rather than just pattern, pattern, pattern,’ Bennett says. So while she hopes many of the prints will feel reassuringly familiar, ‘they’re also surprising, liveable and truly modern at the same time.’ libertylondon.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration May 2021
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