Liberty is one of the most visited and iconic (and I don’t use that word lightly) shops in the capital. Its huge beamed presence stands behind Oxford Street Tube station and if you haven’t posted a picture of its distinctive floral displays are you even an Instagrammer? Now the store has reintroduced Liberty wallpaper to its collection – recolouring and reimagining some of those famous designs to work on your walls and not just your shirts.
The store’s founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty imagined the building as a great ship docked on the streets of London and filled with treasures. He was known as the original collector and started the store with a £2,000 loan from his future father-in-law and just three staff. The distinctive building on Great Marlborough Street was erected in 1922 using timber from three ancient battle ships; the decks were used to make the shop flooring.
Although he died before the shop was completed and opened in 1924, Arthur filled it with his collections of fabrics, objets and ornaments from around the world. Now The Modern Collector launches with wallpaper and fabric that recall the store’s legacy of home design and craftsmanship with designs inspired by Arthur, the original collector. Some of you might remember the other day I was talking about choosing wallpaper and how you really need to see it up close and from a distance to see how the pattern works?
I spoke to Genevieve Bennett, head of design interiors, about the new collection (some of which is pictured here) and about the amount of work that goes into moving a pattern from a fashion fabric to an interiors product.
“It’s not as simple as blowing up the pattern although it might seem like that is what we do,” she said. First of all the designs have to be scaled up and often the repeat of the pattern has to be changed to make it still work when it’s larger. Then large samples are pinned to the wall and we “stand back looking for weirdness”.
This might mean odd clumping, or stripes forming which means the details need to be redone. “It’s a big challenge going from fashion to wallpaper and it takes time to rebalance the design.”
In some cases the design was simplified to appeal to the modern eye and then, once the scale was sorted, the colours were modernised while still remaining true to the Liberty look. The resulting collection does, as its creators intended, feel fresh and modern and yet still Liberty.
The wallpaper is printed in the UK on FSC paper using water-based inks and a variety of techniques have been used from surface/block printing with a rubber roller to give a more handmade look, to gravure – a more complex layering of colours.
The collection includes fabric – again this has to be scaled up so it will work on a large sofa as opposed to a scarf – as well as wallpaper but Genevieve says the team also looked at paint and carpet collections from other brands to make sure the range will work with them.
“I was a colour consultant for many years and that was part of the job. People aren’t going to spend lots of money on all new pieces to you need to make sure it can all work together,” she said.
The collection launches on 12 April; the day the store re-opens for business and if you are able to go you will find pattern books in store. But you can, of course, look at digital brochures and order samples online.
Meanwhile Genevieve and her team are already looking to the next collection where she is hoping to bring in embroidery, weaving and more trailing patterns.
What do you think? I was fascinated to learn about how much work goes into scaling up a design. You can see more here.