A game of two halves
This well-known and oft quoted cliché sprang to mind when the team here at John Charles Interiors and I were thumbing through the newly arrived pattern books from Colefax and Fowler and Jane Churchill – mind you, apparently nobody knows who actually first said it.
Although both brands come from the same stable, they each have a very different ethos, feel and indeed target audience. The former was founded in the 1930s by Sibyl, Lady Colefax (1874-1950). In 1938 she was joined in the business by John Fowler, and the business became known as Colefax & Fowler. In 1944 the business, managed by John Fowler, took a lease on 39 Brook Street, Mayfair where it remained until December 2016. It is still located in the heart of the West End today. The company is renowned for pretty much inventing, and most certainly excelling at the quintessential English Country House look, producing gorgeous, often understated fabrics and wallpapers which exude timeless elegance.
Jane Churchill on the other hand offers a fashionable, informal take on the British look. Designs tend towards contemporary elegance with an artistic twist, envisioned with modern living in mind. The studio creates striking embroideries, lively prints, and rich weaves in a generous palette of inspiring hues.
This season, Colefax and Fowler’s new collection is Leonora, an incredibly elegant series of understated floral designs in radiant subtle colours. This sophisticated collection draws on historical French elements, alongside traditional Swedish notes, to create a highly refined take on the artisanal hand-drawn look. The range combines traditional production methods with the latest technology, employing clever combinations of hand printing, block printing, and digital printing to create graceful effects.
Callista, Leonora and Meriden are out and out Colefax and Fowler – beautifully subtle, elegantly drawn prints on linen or linen union cloths. Trailing tropical floral Callista is a bohemian reinterpretation of a French antique textile, the birds and branches of Leonora are composed and inspired by historical documents, while the splendid floral Meriden adds a very pretty rhythmic impression to an 18th-century depiction of a billowing overblown poppy.
Swedish Tree is a muted white print on tactile woven linen, drawn from an archive wallpaper designed by the studio and recreated in similar pastel shades. The indigo flowers of Sollander appear inked onto a hand-woven linen with opulent hand spun raw silk running through it, giving it a very on trend feel. In Lismore the damask is re-imagined in block-printed style to give a contemporary look, set back in reds, blues and silvers.
Three embroideries contribute exquisite detail, and complete the collection beautifully. Selena depicts blossoming peonies, stylised ogee sheer Vienne comes in new hues including subtle pearl, and decorative fuchsia Viviers – a beautiful summery design, and an old friend to Colefax and Fowler devotees – returns in striking colours on herringbone ground.
On the other hand, Jane Churchill introduces a light-hearted mood this season with a striking Eastern-inspired collection that emphasises colour and pattern. Designs include spirited embroideries, vibrant prints, and interesting diverse weaves. Colours are fresh and modern for relaxed decoration with lively flair.
Fabulous embroideries come in rich bright colours, such as pictorially striking Jaipur Peacock, and Animal Tapestry, an Indian inspired antique-looking design. Azara provides a fabulous embroidered geometric with shapes in zingy hues.
Kashmir Garden leads an outstanding prints range. This whimsical narrative design features patchwork scenes of plants, animals, and architecture. Elephant Parade offers a muted version in single tones, while Shiloh draws out the geometric aspects for a tribal look. Tapestry Stripe and Zhiri combine print with embroidery to rich effect in stunning shades.
Eye-catching Sumba reinterprets geometric kilims through modern print, echoed in inky Ikat design Jaru, both on soft linen mixes. Pretty Amber is inspired by an Indienne document with a block-print look in vibrant hues, a complementary contrast to Ikat stripe Makai. Horizontal stripe Inara chenille has a kilim feel again, along with Charo, a patterned weave softened with mixed yarns, with a hint of the ethnic vibe also found in mottled graphic geometric Kamali.
Three Ikat variations complete the collection. Ziva, modern Fontane, in new shades, and large-scale Sansa. Ria features a geometric with an accent of modernity, set off by Lloyd, a relaxed plain with a marled look.
Both collections are equally lovely, and as I said earlier, will appeal to different folk. If understated elegance is your preference then Leonora is a timeless delight. If however you’re after a bit of fun, the bright geometrics and Ikats of Azara will definitely tickle your design taste buds. Why not drop in to our Edgbaston showroom and see for yourself.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - June 2019
Images copyright Colefax & Fowler / Jane Churchill