Arts and Crafts designer William Morris may be a national treasure today – the fabrics and wallpapers designed both by him and by his company Morris & Co are regarded as agreeably familiar and comfortable. Yet, in his time, Morris was a revolutionary, and his products were purchased by trend-setters and forward-thinkers who wished to challenge convention.
The Victorian fashion was for chintzes or formal patterns, machine-printed using harsh, chemical dyes. Morris, a self-taught designer, worked English flora and fauna into layered patterns, and printed them by hand using natural dyes.
The organic nature of his prints gives them more appeal today than ever before. Trends this season hark to the natural and rustic and, when you’re providing a backdrop to much-loved antiques, soft Morris prints are ideal – allowing woods and stones in particular to sing out.
The great thing about Morris patterns is that they can be used anywhere. Designs range from simple, one-colour prints to intensely ornate showstoppers – something for every room.
Here, we explore stylish ways to incorporate his timeless prints into even the most contemporary of homes.
Mix and match patterned swatches to create a colourful display
Morris & Co, the firm that Morris launched in 1875, reproduces Morris designs that are faithful to the originals, alongside new adaptations. The designs complement each other beautifully so try creating a moodboard and pinning a variety above your desk.
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Use William Morris prints as a backdrop for a period fire place
As its name suggests, this ‘Bachelors Button’ design has a masculine feel and could bring a soft edge to a shapely period fireplace. Here it also brings contrast to a collection of decorative pieces with Morris & Co references and simplicity.
Make your home vibrant with pops of colour alongside William Morris prints
Use bright accents to bring a contemporary edge to Morris prints. Here chartreuse add a punchy note, while the velvet cushion and metallic vintage table provide a layer of luxurious texture.
Use William Morris prints to unite a collection of antiques
Why not choose a Morris pattern to provide the perfect backdrop to a collection of antiques? Theme your pieces roughly by colour (such as on this chest of drawers) and pick out a shade and print that will bring together what seem to be otherwise disparate finds.
Keep your scheme contemporary by layering William Morris prints
Contrasting patterns in fresh, complementary colourways provide an ideal setting for dining, especially a pretty spring lunch. Layering prints keep the scheme contemporary. Make sure you choose tones to suit your china.
Go bold with a William Morris block print
The block-printed feel and simple enlarged scale of the ‘Woodland Animal’ pattern from the ‘Archive’ collection from Morris & Co gives these archive prints a youthful appeal. Adding striped and smaller-scale leaf prints creates an informal scheme. Why not try a large-scale floral against a neutral scheme to give the print maximum impact? Pull out key colours and add texture with beautiful but useful accessories.
Words: Katherine Sorrel
Photographs: Katya de Grunwald/Morris & Co
Styling: Anna Malhomme de la Roche