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Cole & Son Fornasetti II Collection

More fabulous stuff to cheer about!!!

Well I’ll go to the foot of our stairs, as my dear old dad used to say. I’m not quite sure why the foot of anybody’s stairs should have been a required destination to show astonishment, but more particularly ours, as living in a flat we didn’t have any.

Anyway, I digress. Last month, as I’m sure regular readers of this editorial– yes, sit up straight both of you – will remember, I was waxing lyrical about how these days many of the major design houses release their new 2013 collections before the traditional occasion of the spring show. (This year it was called London Design Week by the way, but that was just the latest of its 4,738 or so recent incarnations.) It’s a practice I don’t particularly approve of, as to me it smacks of trying to get one over on the competition by somewhat underhand methods. It’s like when you’re sitting in a traffic queue at roadworks and some smart Alec thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to drive up the outside and push in. Ah well, whether I like it or not it’s becoming more frequent, so I was reviewing the best of the early offerings, and complimenting them on their style, richness and diversity.

But blow me down if the companies who had waited didn’t have just as good, or in some cases even better collections to offer !! The mix was still pretty eclectic, ranging from the sumptuous and traditional to the smartest cutting edge.

For me, the traditional category was won hands down by G.P. & J. Baker’s new Crayford collection of printed wallpapers and fabrics. Not only are the designs simply beautiful, but they also have history. Crayford, once a small market town in Kent, situated amongst plentiful waterways, traces its connection with textile printing to the 1730s. The earliest print works site, developed by Charles Swaisland in the1800s, was acquired by GP & J Baker in 1893. This allowed George Percival Baker (I bet you didn’t know his Christian names – no, neither did I til the other day) to expand the import business he founded in 1884, and realise his passion for printed furnishings. All GP & J Baker’s production was from the Crayford site at this time, sourcing designs from Voysey and other important Arts and Crafts designers. Initially the company printed by hand block, producing many of the classic designs with which it is still associated today including ‘Nympheus’ (1915), ‘Imperial Pheasant’ (1915), ‘Bamboo Bird’ (1915) and ‘Tree Peony’ (1917). In this new collection these magnificent designs have had their colours brought bang up to date, making them look fresh and totally relevant to today’s changing colour trends and evolving furnishing styles.

Talking of traditional, if I said Zoffany to you you’d almost certainly regale me of their extensive range of large scale damask papers, traditional prints and heavy woven fabrics, and of course you’d be right. However, in their Summer Court collection released in 2011 they began a move to appeal to a different market, by taking 18th and 19th century silk damasks and re-inventing them using the neutrals, stones and soft greys that are so appealing these days. This they built on last year with their Town and Country collection of prints, weaves and wallpapers, which utilise a lovely soft palate of mineral colours and as the name suggests, work well in both contemporary and traditional settings. Well this time they’ve gone the whole hog !! If I showed you the new Quartz fabric and wallpaper books minus their covers and asked you to guess the manufacturer, Zoffany would come well down your list of suggestions. It’s a chic collection, really quite contemporary in style, comprising light weight silky fabrics, unusual upholstery qualities and subtle yet striking papers utilising foils and light reflective inks.

Moving on to the truly cutting edge, the new Elitis collections are absolutely stunning ! Mind you, that’s not unusual for Elitis. They always seem to produce at least a couple of collections each season that really do have the Wow factor. Their fabrics are good, but for me it’s in the wallcoverings that they really excel. Ok, fabrics first; the stand-out designs for me are Galaxie, which looks as if someone has dropped molten metal onto a fabric (in a good way of course), Artifice, a delicate semi-sheer using metal threads to give a fabulous luminescent feel to a fine gauze, and Croisillon, a soft drapable sheer with a beautiful open trellis weave.

Now for the wallcoverings – ah the wallcoverings. There are no less than six new collections on offer. They’re all good, but let me talk you through what I feel are the pick of the bunch. Vintage Leather, which is actually more a patinated suede but none the less superb for it, has a bit of a Seventies feel, but with some sparing additions of a little gold ink. Paradisio is a collection of highly polished golds, silvers, copper, steel and bronze, to enhance their existing Mise En Scene collection of non-woven coloured fibres on a metallic backing. It’s a true show-stopper. The Volare collection is a compendium of . . . well, various types of feathers stuck to a wall. Sounds awful doesn’t it, but it’s not, it’s brilliant !!! And my personal favourite; the Pleats collection. I can only think that this was born when somebody in the design department was bored one afternoon, or sitting staring into space, waiting for inspiration. I say this because it’s basically a collection of semi-plains, exquisite chinoiserie style prints and two stunning panoramas on what seems to be folded up paper. Remember when you were young (I do vaguely), and you made those folded paper thingies where somebody had to choose a colour which was then spelt out, then a number, and finally were told they smelt – well the plainer designs look just like the thingy did when you unfolded it. I’ve really done it no justice in my description, and if the folks from Elitis read this I’ll never be allowed near their showroom again, but I think it was probably my favourite collection in the whole show. You really should check it out.

To finish, last month I was going on about the fabulous new Fornasetti II collection from Cole and Son and there's an example from the collection on the right. Visit us to see the rest of the collection and more too.

John Biddell, John Charles Interiors

Live 24 7 magazine editorial - April 2013