It's Liberty Jim... but not how we know it
Ok, so I’m playing around with the vintage Star Trek quotation, and I’ve just realised most folks under 30 won’t have a clue what I’m talking about !
Yes, Liberty fabrics and wallpapers are back out there – and my goodness they’ve landed with a bang !!! In olden days (as Peppa Pig used to say when referring to anything over 10 or so years ago) all pukka interior designers were able to have the full range of Liberty wallpaper and fabric books, and order their lovely goods direct. Then, for some totally inexplicable reason, a few years ago we were all told to send our books back, and that Liberty papers and fabrics would only be available for the public to view and order from the London store.
I don’t know whether they’ve had a change of leadership or simply a change of direction, but they’ve obviously come to their senses and realised that the Liberty brand is so iconic, and the product so amazing that it deserves to be seen by and available to a wider audience.
So, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you Liberty’s new - and truly spectacular – offerings entitled The Modern Collector and The Modern Archive Collection.
When Arthur Lasenby Liberty founded the Liberty emporium back in 1875, he had a singular vision for his store: a great ship, filled with treasures and docked in the streets of London. Known today as the original merchant adventurer, Arthur was driven by a love of travel, wanting to showcase beautiful textiles and objects curated from around the globe. The Liberty emporium became a destination for artists, collectors and those with a taste for the unique, beloved by creative luminaries of the day such as Oscar Wilde and William Morris.
The Modern Collector comprises 2 fabric books and 1 wallpaper book, while The Modern Archive Collection has 3 jam-packed fabric books. I’m very proud to say that we at John Charles Interiors are the only designers in the greater Birmingham area to be granted exclusivity to the entire collection.
I know I sometimes bang on about how great a collection is, and that I certainly couldn’t be accused of a lack of passion for the profession I’m so lucky to be a part of, but these collections are some of the most sumptuous, exciting, and simply magnificent offerings I’ve seen for years !!! Quite often my chief designer, showroom manager and right hand lady (who also happens to be my elder daughter, and for whom I have the greatest respect) will, quite rightly, have different likes and feelings about collections than I do, but this time we’re in total agreement.
So let’s look at the collections in more detail. Celebrating Liberty prints as icons within every passing decade, the Modern Archive Collection reinterprets their most iconic archival designs for a new generation of Liberty interiors.
Before we get to the designs themselves, I really must mention the exquisite base cloths of heavy linen, velvet and cotton, which are printed in Italy’s Lake Como, using cutting-edge textile technologies to combine the most sumptuous handle with exceptional technical capabilities. Even if the designs were mediocre - which they most certainly are not – the base cloths used shout quality and style.
And now for the designs. The six colour stories of The Modern Archive Collection pay homage to the passions of the collector, and the beautiful objects that have long been curated within Liberty’s wood-panelled walls. Pewter, Lapis, Lichen, Lacquer, Jade and Dragonfly tell the story of the emporium through the ages, uniting a diverse archive of hand-drawn designs. I just can’t wax lyrical enough, dear reader, about the subtleties of the colours used, and joy of the colour mixes.
To explore in more detail: Pewter is a modern neutrals story, reflecting the delicate lace and silk designs of Liberty’s origin, inspired by the brand’s contribution to the Aesthetic Movement and the Georgian Era Revival. The crisp blues and whites of Lapis evoke the beauty of the fashionable Dutch and Persian porcelain of the late 19th century, and are designed to be mixed and mismatched with confidence, while Lichen pays homage to the vivid organic shades found within the natural world – a key inspiration of the Arts and Crafts movement, and of Liberty’s early textile prints.
Lacquer is inspired by the buying expeditions of the late 19th century. This extravagant colour story features jewel-like tones of cinnabar, coral and garnet. The bold, ultra-saturated shades of Jade are reminiscent of Japanese and Chinese 19th century artworks and textiles, and are inspired by carved jade, fine silks and hand-painted wallpaper. Dragonfly – possibly my personal favourite, and the embodiment of richness – is a contemporary twist on a classic Art Nouveau-era purple, drawing from the amethyst gemstones of Suffragette jewellery, and Archibald Knox’s pieces for Liberty.
In The Modern Collector, Arthur Liberty’s spirit of discovery lives on. For this new wallpaper and fabrics collections the designers set their sights on the realm of plants – their symbolism, documentation and celebration within Liberty’s rich heritage of art and design. Taking inspiration from three pivotal print stories from the archive – Floribunda, Art Nouveau and The Tree of Life – the vibrancy of the Liberty aesthetic is brought indoors.
The Modern Collector wallpaper book sees a special focus on surface: lustre and matte effects are carefully balanced with line and tone, bold colour and hue, and beautiful, unexpected texture. The collection encompasses five distinct manufacturing processes, which have been carefully selected to bring out the character of each design. Mixing skilful design with artisanal printing techniques, the process informs the designs, and vice versa, in a perfect harmony of art and craft. The result is a collection that combines expert craftsmanship with a powerful depth of storytelling, reflecting the beauty and quality of heritage wallcoverings with a fresh and contemporary appeal.
I’ve done my best to extol the many virtues of these truly stunning collections in a few (or not so few !!!) words. Have I succeeded in enthusing you ??? If so, give us a call and make an appointment to see them in the flesh – you surely won’t be disappointed.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - SEPTEMBER 2021