London’s annual Design Festival kicks off this week and one of its star attractions, Decorex, has moved off the beaten path to Syon House. Located in Brentwood, just outside Kew Gardens, the historic estate was named after Syon Abbey, a medieval monastery founded by Henry V that’s been in the family of the Duke of Northumberland for more than 400 years. Its legendary halls boast copious amounts of art and antiques ranging from neo-classical sculptures to Old Master paintings and it got me to thinking about history in the context of art and design.
Tapestries in particular, are one of the genres most enduring icons. The intricately woven textiles came to prominence in the Middle Ages as a chic way to keep medieval walls insulated from the elements. Labour-intensive and incredibly ornate, only the nobility could afford these sweeping displays but today there are countless examples available at a range of price points. A true representation of timeless design, British interior designers are using styles like mille fleur (thousand flowers) and verdure (garden) in unlikely ways: to dress up the bathroom.
For London-based designer Douglas Mackie, a house in the Languedoc region of the South of France provided ample opportunity to display his collection of antique textiles, including this 18th century French tapestry hung above a copper bath to stunning effect. In a modern twist, Hampshire-based designer Max Rollitt salvaged a painted panel of foliage from a Victorian photo studio for a tapestry-like backdrop in a client’s bathroom. In both cases, they created an instant focal point that’s easy for anyone to achieve, whether you’re a purist or game for a reproduction.
Photograph © Richard Powers, Mel Yates