There is a certain mystique about wallpaper and fabric brand Lewis & Wood. When I think of their designs, ideas of enchanted woods and fairy tales of faraway places spring to mind. So let me take you ‘into the enchanted woods’ and show you behind the scenes of one of Britain’s national design treasures as they launch Spitalfields – a fabulous new collection for Chelsea Design Week…
What appeals to stylists and TV set designers is that many of the designs have a strong visual narrative. Designs have been inspired by historical illustrations and manuscripts from quirky sporting scenes to Welsh and North African geometrics, tartan patterns to bohemian vines and beech trees. There is sometimes a sense of humour and always a sense of history and unexpected drama. The wide widths and variation of scale available don’t go amiss either. In years to come, I suspect it will be difficult to predict when each pattern was designed as they neither conform to times nor trends.
The history bit – back catalogue
In the digital age, over-sharing of information is an issue for many but is also a particularly sticky problem faced by companies wishing to protect their brand from over-exposure. When that company produces luxury wallpaper and textile patterns this becomes a bigger issue. At the luxury end of the market clients really don’t wish to be seen in the same dress, nor their house or private members club to be decorated in the same designs as their neighbours.
The decorative magic weaved by companies such as Lewis & Wood is really rather special. It requires an intuitive hand to produce and release just the right amount of designs without saturating the market. This isn’t about being elitist, but is about allowing space for all of us to experience the thrill of seeing a pattern for the first time – and then not to be bored with the design due to over-exposure. The design needs to stand the test of time for the owner too. It is a balancing act which creative director Magdalen Jebb has been successfully orchestrating on behalf of Lewis & Wood for the last 9 years.
(Lewis & Wood’s Bacchus by decorative artist Melissa White is an English bohemian style print for wallpaper and fabric. It gives this landing even more presence and sense of history. Although the inspiration for the design is from Elizabethan wall hangings, it reminds me a little of Bloomsbury group designs at the Charleston Farmhouse. See my previous post on Vanessa Bell’s granddaughter, Cressida Bell.)
Town and country
Lewis & Wood are one of several British wallpaper and fabric companies whose shop fronts (showrooms) are at the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour. The manufacturing and creative bit of this brand is done deep in the Cotswolds. The company was started by textile printer Stephen Lewis and interior decorator Joanna Wood in 1993.
“We launch three designs, twice a year. Inspiration isn’t heavily trends-based, we just create what we believe to be beautiful designs,” says Magdalen Jebb. One of the most important things for Magdalen is that her designs give you an emotional response: “Decoration should make you feel happy,” she says.
Lewis and Wood collaborate with several freelance decorative artists on their designs. Magdalen’s idea for decorative artist Alex Hamilton’s Beech design came from the windy country lanes around Woodchester Mill and the Stroud valleys where Lewis & Wood is based: “I pass all these beech saplings on my way to work and thought they would make a beautiful design.”
2016 saw some geometric collections such as Metrica from North African designs as well as Conway and Casablanca (both designed by Adam Calkin). Magdalen explains how the motif for these two designs is exactly the same shape – or if you like – shares the same design DNA or geometry. Whilst the motif is increased in size for Moorish Casablanca, it is smaller when used for the Conway Welsh blanket inspired design. Magdalen often balances what she calls “warm with cool colour ways” in Lewis & Wood designs.
(Left: Casablanca; Right: Conway)
One of the designs I am particularly drawn to was spotted at decorative artist Adam Calkin’s house by Stephen Lewis over 15 years ago. “Adam had painted this beautiful vine pattern on the walls of his hall and I thought it would make a fantastic wallpaper,” says Stephen. It continues to be one of the company’s bestsellers. It is also perhaps no surprise that Adam’s Eden was recently used in a dark colour way by set designer Mike Britton for BBC’1s dark drama, Taboo.
(Left: Adam Calkin in his home with original hand painted design for Adam’s Eden; right: wallpaper works well with panelling: image courtesy of Remodelista, Pinterest)
The grand sweeping vine of Adam’s Eden works really well in large spaces such as grand hall and stairs but can also make a modest room look grander too. I love the way US interior designer Tom Scheerer has used it in this guest bedroom so that it peeps through veils of voile bed canopies and clear glass bottle lamp base.
Spitalfields – new designs for 2017
When my heart skips a beat when looking at something for the first time, I know it has moved me! I was privy to a sneak preview of ‘Hawksmoor’ one of the new designs inspired from Lewis & Woods’ Spitalfields archive collection (1720 – 2017) at the V&A. I was primed for Hawksmoor to be the big one for me. It really hasn’t disappointed but the power of the subtle really surprised me with ‘Vallance’. It was originally designed by an 18th Century Spitalfields Huguenot silk weaver and mill owner called James Leman. With all its classical prettiness and soft blue and citrine colour palette it has the texture and colour of its history but a relevant colour palette for 2017.
Decorating scheme for Vallance
Just playing around with some textures both rough and smooth to compliment Vallance. Sometimes the underside of things works just as well (Harlequin trimming) and it just seems appropriate to bring a little of 2017 Spitalfields urban style into the mix with a faux concrete wallpaper from Notonthehighstreet.com …
Styling mood boards for Hawksmoor
It is always useful to try and visualise how fabrics and wallpapers might work in an overall decorating scheme so I have put together the following. However, as with any Lewis & Wood versatile designs – they could be used with so many different decorating styles!
I have no doubt that the new Spitalfields collection launched on Sunday 12 March for Chelsea Design Week 2017 is going to be a massive hit. This cleverly balanced collection of brights and neutrals are going to be just what we need in our homes in 2017.
*Note to all agents of style
Please enjoy the above and then kindly wipe your memory to preserve the magic that is Lewis & Wood! Seriously though, who could blame you if you are seduced into buying 3 rolls of one of Lewis & Wood’s wallpaper designs for your downstairs loo (a premise on which the business started in 1993) but please just promise to keep schtum as to where you bought it…
Thank you so much for reading. If you need help putting together a decorating scheme or styling a wallpaper and fabric collection for photography and press, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. In the meantime, don’t miss out on future posts – just press the large blue ‘Follow’ button either at the beginning or end of this post. Charis x