William Morris (1834-1896) is one of the most iconic designers of the last few centuries. We’ve seen his work in all facets of the decorative arts from furniture to fabrics and wallcovering patterns. His influence cannot be overstated. As I wrote previously – English Country style is seeing a resurgence and so too are William Morris designs.
Here is a wonderful video which highlights the career of William Morris – his way of viewing design and the decorative arts (and it’s makers and workers who deserved respect for their craft) and his influence on the decorative arts AND the rise of industrialism and cheaply made consumer goods.
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. ~ William Morris
So – can these 150 year old patterns and designs work in today’s home? The answer is most definitely yes. William Morris & Co. is still actually in business and does a great job mixing the classic William Morris prints with a more modern sensibility via their licensee Sanderson who has the license to do fabrics and wallpapers.
The official license of William Morris designs on fabrics and wallpapers is with Morris & Co./Sanderson. They have access to the original printing plates and artwork. However, the patterns themselves have gone into public domain – so pretty much anyone can take the patterns and turn them into products – including fabrics and wall coverings. There are tons of fabrics and wallpapers available from different people on Spoonflower which is a great way to get them on the cheap. However – I would want to post the caveat that if you go this route – make sure you buy a sample first. There’s no guarantee that the quality will be very good because the Digital images they are using are copies. And could be copies of copies.
A friend of mine – Shelly Turner is a prolific artist and textile designer and has created her own homage to the famous William Morris pattern Strawberry Thief which she is calling Blackberry Thieves.
The “William Morris style” is characterized by several key elements:
- Nature-Inspired Patterns: Morris’s designs often featured intricate, organic patterns that drew inspiration from nature. His wallpaper and fabric designs frequently showcased floral motifs, leaves, and birds. He believed that these designs brought the beauty of the natural world into everyday living spaces.
- Handcrafted Quality: Central to Morris’s philosophy was the idea of creating beautiful, high-quality, and handcrafted objects. He believed in the value of skilled craftsmanship and rejected the idea of mass-produced, shoddy goods.
- Use of Natural Materials: Morris advocated for the use of natural materials like wood, stone, and stained glass in his designs. These materials added warmth and a sense of authenticity to the interiors he decorated.
- Simplicity and Utility: Morris believed that functional objects should also be aesthetically pleasing. His designs were marked by their simplicity and utility, and he sought to create items that were both beautiful and practical.
- Medieval and Gothic Influences: Morris was heavily influenced by medieval and Gothic art and architecture. His designs often featured elements such as arches, pointed arches, and medieval-style lettering.
- Earth Tones: Morris’s color palette often consisted of earthy and muted tones, including soft greens, browns, deep blues, and reds. These colors complemented the natural and organic themes in his work.
- Socialism and Reform: Beyond design, Morris was also a social activist and writer. He was associated with socialist ideas and believed in the reform of society to improve the living and working conditions of the working class. While not a design element, his social and political beliefs were an integral part of his overall philosophy.
Here’s a William Morris Boutique(*) of some William ororiginal furniture as well as all the various products currently available – something for all price points! (*Affiliate links – a small commission is paid on sales resulting from clicks at no additional cost to the buyer. This helps support this blog.)