My appreciation for floral patterns has grown immensely in recent years. Reflecting on my early attempts at decorating the places I’ve called home, I vividly recall opting for the safe and straightforward route: plain upholstery, bland curtains, and pristine white walls. At that time, my primary goal was to quickly settle into a new space and make it feel like home without the hassle of coordinating patterns and colours. Looking back, I now realise that I may have shied away from taking design risks, driven by the fear of making irreversible mistakes.
As I became more exposed to a diverse array of textures, materials, and design styles, I began incorporating patterns into my interior decor. It all started with subtle touches like patterned cushions, wall art, and floral bedsheets. Today, I find myself embracing bolder design choices, with floral patterns playing a significant role in decorating my stone house in France.
Whether adorning wallpaper, upholsteries, rugs, or serving as accents like cushions, vases, and throws, florals can enhance any interior. They have the power to transform a minimalist Nordic sofa, for instance, with the right textured cushion or throw, adding depth and character to the room.
Image Credit: Marie Flanigan Interiors
Yet, in my view, not all floral patterns are created equal. The challenge lies in navigating the multitude of choices without succumbing to the pitfalls of designing a dull or, worse yet, an outdated, stuck-in-the-past interior. Floral patterns, when chosen thoughtfully and intentionally, have the power to offer much more than just attractive, colourful aesthetics. They can undoubtedly infuse a room with a healthy dose of energy and charm. However, I believe that floral patterns can serve a deeper purpose. Consider wallpaper, for instance; it’s not merely a means of concealing plain, clinical walls or brightening up a living room or mezzanine. Instead, it’s a way to cultivate an atmosphere that nurtures curiosity and instils tranquillity. It’s about crafting a scene that remains perpetually captivating, never fading into familiarity, and one that our eyesight doesn’t adapt to so quickly that we cease to notice it. In fact, certain floral motifs can spark our imagination and evoke the essence of a season, a culture, a past civilisation, or even tell a story.
The artful depiction of nature, especially botanical and flower motifs, spans thousands of years and transcends various civilisations worldwide. It seems that humans, regardless of their race or the era in which they lived, collectively felt an innate need to capture the beauty of nature, freezing it in a timeless moment for all to behold.
My admiration for the most exquisite patterns shows no sign of fading anytime soon. I find myself continually appreciating the artist’s meticulous craftsmanship, the delicate intricacies in the graceful lines of a peony or a tulip, as well as the interplay of finely drawn leaves. The precise balance of colours, the perfectly proportioned elements, the expert blending of tones, and the selection of just the right textures all come together to create a harmonious design.
I particularly favour floral patterns that draw inspiration from history, especially those that exude the elegance of 17th and 18th-century designs. These patterns were meticulously handcrafted, and one can imagine the countless hours of labour, research, and many trials and errors that culminated in the creation of a single pattern sheet. It’s worth noting that even the most beautiful designs began as blank canvases. Many of these historical designs undergo skilful reimagining and updating to harmonise with contemporary aesthetic standards, achieving an impressive level of near perfection that seamlessly bridges the past to the present.
Take, for example, the beautiful ‘Mary Isobel’ wallpaper design adorned with its intricate acanthus leaves, tulips, and blossoms. This captivating design traces its origins back to the 1890s when it was initially created as an embroidery pattern by J.H. Dearle, a hardworking and dedicated designer who spent 54 years honing his craft at Morris & Co, starting from the lowest rungs of the hierarchy. Interestingly, his remarkable contributions often remained overshadowed by the legacy of William Morris, the celebrated British designer. But the story doesn’t end there. In fact, the design was named in honour of the woman who meticulously embroidered it. To add further depth to the story behind this design, I’ve discovered that acanthus leaves symbolise rebirth and hope, while the tulip, a prominent motif in Ottoman design, represents prosperity and protection.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the exquisite chinoiserie patterned wallpaper from DeGournay, known as Chelsea. This design showcases oversized tree peonies boasting voluptuous petals amidst a profusion of smaller blossoms. Chinoiserie, a captivating decorating style originally rooted in Asian aesthetics, was embraced, and adapted by Western decorators around the 17th century. These hand-painted papers, characterised by sinuous flowering trees adorned with birds and butterflies, all set against richly coloured backgrounds, became a hallmark of timeless elegance in interior design.
‘Le Grand Corail’ by Braquenié is another example of how design can evoke the essence of a past civilisation. This print features large Indian flowers on tree-like stems, reminiscent of the Indian palampores—a type of hand-painted and mordant-dyed bed cover that was made in India for export during the eighteenth and very early nineteenth centuries. In fact, this is a contemporary interpretation of the Indian Tree of Life. Often represented by the Banyan Tree, the Indian Tree of Life symbolises creation, longevity, and protection, with the belief that it can fulfil wishes. Adapted from an original archive dating back to the 19th century, the ‘Le Grand Corail’ design would be perfect as a wall panel, adding focus and interest to a specific area within a room.
With these examples, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the captivating experience that carefully chosen floral patterns can provide.
I believe that such patterns have the remarkable ability to infuse, even the gloomiest of days, with the ideal combination of energy and warmth, offering a much-needed lift and a sense of purpose to those spaces and moments that require it.
Featured Image: de Gournay hand painted wallpaper, ’Earlham’ design. Interior by Joanna Plant | Bathroom of Poppy Delevingne.