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A pillar to rely on

A few months ago I was wittering on about how there are two main product launches for manufacturers in the interior design industry. One is in the autumn, timed to roughly coincide with Decorex the main trade show of the year, and to hopefully grab that manufacturer a good slice of the Christmas business. (By way of a primrose path, I remember that when I first came into the trade some fifty million years ago you’d do at least half of your year’s business between the end of September and Christmas. We would all be out fitting curtains late into the night during Christmas week, negotiating round Christmas trees and trying not to step on the newly wrapped presents. Thankfully it’s not quite so manic these days, as things seem to be a bit more spread out. Anyway, I digress.) The second major launch season is in the spring. It’s not usually quite as grand as autumn, but is still worth a trip to London to trawl round the various showrooms taking part in London Design Week – or Focus on Design, or whatever it happens to be called this year.
I also mentioned that several of the more canny companies have begun to bring forward their launches in an effort to ensure that we designers purchase their pattern books ahead of the competition. It’s one of those companies that I’d like to write about this month.

Osborne & Little have long been a favourite of mine. Maybe it’s their eclectic mix of products, maybe it’s their inherent sense of style, or maybe that they just seem to keep getting it right season after season. I suspect that it’s a mixture of all these things, coupled with the devil’s own job that I had getting an account with them in the first place. This was of course in the Eighties, when most of the better-end companies were so far up their own bottoms as to be practically invisible. I think they finally agreed to even visit me on about my third try. But I’m glad they did, as I really do think they are one of the pillars of today’s industry.

I remember someone saying to me that they’d heard that one of the principals of Osborne & Little was related to somebody famous. They were probably referring to the fact that Sir Peter Osborne is the father of George Osborne the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I was soooooo tempted to say “Yes, it’s a long-standing collaboration between Ozzy Osborne and Sid Little (of Little & Large fame, for you youngsters)”. I’m chuckling now, just imagining the type of product that relationship would have spawned.

Osborne & Little were early pioneers of the painterly paper, with fabulous ranges of marbles, stuccos and shagreens – some of which have been re-coloured, and are still selling well to this day. They were also responsible for the myriad of stars – both in papers and fabrics - that was utterly ground-breaking when Osborne & Little launched them, but subsequently became the unfortunate victim of the cheap copyist. So much so that you could hardly venture into any downstairs cloakroom without being bombarded by stars on the walls, stars on the ceiling, and yes, even stars on the toilet seat !!!!

The lovely folks from Osborne & Little came in soon after Christmas to show us their latest offering, and I’ve recently received their spring 2015 pattern books. I have to say they really are splendid. The flagship collection is called Pasha, and comprises both fabrics and papers. Once again, it’s a fabulously eclectic mix. Turkey (the country, not the bird) provides the inspiration for Kelim style jacquards, printed flamestitch and marble effects, and the most glorious decorative paisley printed on a soft velvet cloth, that if anybody offered to make me a smoking jacket in it I’d even consider taking up smoking ! These flamboyant and intricate designs, evocative of the Ottoman era, are given a contemporary look with striking colour combinations. They are teamed up with the most fabulous digitally printed fabrics incorporating boldly coloured tulips and darting butterflies.

The complementary wallpaper book is a positive cornucopia of delights !! From delicate tree and leaf patterns that almost look like etchings, companion marble and paisley papers, through to dramatic seascapes, it really covers a host of bases. But just when you think you’ve seen it all you come across one of the magnificent animal print papers. Wow, wow, wow !!!! I must say, I’ve seen a lot of pretty tacky animal prints in my time – but these are by no means tacky, in fact they wreak style. There is a leopard print given a glamorous beaded and metallic treatment called Pardus, but for me the show-stopper is a design called Pantanal, which depicts an ocelot skin in the most opulent flock on an ombre background.

And if you like that (as I most certainly do) you’ll love the new Keshi Velvets collection. Not only does it contain the fabric versions of the leopard and ocelot designs, but backs them up with a delightful velvety chenille version of the silhouette leaf print, and a most stylish self-coloured cut velvet diamond trellis.

There are, as per usual when a company does a seasonal launch, a number of other very useable but not quite so bold companion collections. These include Sultan, a book of silky woven fabrics in vibrant colours for curtains and cushions, and Ormond, a collection of subtle linens and chenilles.

I can’t finish without at least a brief mention of Lorca, a Parisian company distributed in the UK by Osborne & Little. Lorca offers a wonderful variety of fabrics; embroidered silks, grand-scale prints and jacquards, opulent velvets and a wide choice of glamorous upholstery weaves. Their latest offering Chandor is a collection of embroideries and velvets inspired by the exoticism of India and the East Indies. If you love bold design statements and rich, bright colours that will instantly lift your spirits, then you really need to come and check these out in the flesh, as pictures simply don’t do them justice.

John Biddell, John Charles Interiors

Live 24 7 magazine editorial - February 2015