When I was a child I used to love visiting friends' houses and seeing all the different designs of wallpaper around the home. As my first taste of the joy of wallpaper, I used to find this so exciting. It was, I realise now, a sign of the passion for print that was to come.
I’m fondly reminded of these memories as we launch two new wallpapers - Strawberry in grass green from our Greencombe collection, and Bindi in blue from our Bagru collection - in what is a bit of a dream come true. Until now, all our wallpapers have been digitally printed - an innovative and small scale way of replicating the craft of hand block printing. But we are seriously excited to add to our repertoire the heritage technique of surface printing for the first time - it really gives a luxurious, tactile finish and feels closer to the beautiful craft of block printing, and how wallpaper used to be made.
The first surface-printing machine was invented in 1838, in Lancashire, which is still the centre of British wallpaper today, and also where our new designs are being printed - on those very same machines. It’s absolutely mesmerising to watch - each colour has a different rubber roller, and they’ll all be going at once, layering on the different colours one after the other. When it's up on your wall, the paper - now textured with paint - gives the design more of an energy, a depth. And thanks to the tiny variations in how the paint lands on the paper, the result looks more like it might have been hand block printed - it has a beautifully nostalgic feel.
Talking of nostalgia, is there anything that says innocent good times and fun, lazy summer picnics more than the humble strawberry? And who couldn’t do with more of those right now - both good times and strawberries?! We wanted our first surface-printed designs to include the strawberries because it just felt so right for the moment, and for the technique. The wallpaper may be a natural fit for a child’s bedroom, but I’m going to put it up in our kitchen, just in case anyone needs reminding of life’s simple pleasures.
Our new Bindi wallpaper was inspired by Indians’ love of hanging fabrics on their walls, and we thought that, because it’s such a sweet, simple pattern, it would work really well as a decorative background. Traditional Indian paisleys often required something like 17 different blocks, where every mark meant something, but because I’m not using it as a canvas to tell my family history, I was able to pare the design right back to one colour, one mark, and bring it into the 21st century so that it works for contemporary homes. We’ve put it up in our son Orlando's bedroom and it’s actually created a lovely, zen atmosphere where we’ve been able to hang up lots of paintings without it looking busy. I can also imagine it looking good in a gentlemen’s club or dressing room.
We’ve also worked really hard to match all the colours, so that - should you wish - the fabric and wallpaper can be used together in one big matchy design. “Matchimalism” - it’s a thing, apparently.