Last week I travelled to south London (a journey involving a bus, a tube, a train and Shank’s pony) to meet the award-winning textile and tile designer Lindsey Lang for the launch of her new range of tiles at Domus. Regular readers and podcast listeners will know that I’m fairly decisive. I know what I like (and crucially what I don’t) but, strangely, when it comes to tiles I’m lost. There are very few in my house – none in the kitchen and the minimum in other rooms – and it’s because I love so many of them so much that I’m paralysed with indecision. I can’t choose just one. And no sooner have I spotted my one true love that I turn a corner and see another.
And so it was with Lindsey’s new Bermondsey collection for Domus. Although I’m going to start by saying that these 3D pink cement tiles are definitely my favourites. Probably. They’re pretty amazing in white too. Just sayin….
Lindsey’s path to design was, well I’m going to say meandering. Growing up in Kansas, she loved nothing more than digging for fossils outside. Apparently Kansas was completely underwater in the Jurassic period – astonishing as it’s right in the middle of the USA – and there were rich pickings. Even today Lindsey’s designs are nearly all based around the geometry found in nature.
But Lindsey was also good at sport and went to university on a sports scholarship as a softball pitcher. There she tried to juggle her work, her sport and her photography course. Eventually something had to give, and she switched to Kanas University, which was closer to her parents, to study textile design. Ever resourceful, she managed to arrange another scholarship – this time dependent on her studying Japanese culture. A trip there instilled not only a love of travel but admiration for the aesthetic – the beauty of imperfection (wabi sabi) which comes through strongly in her handmade cement tiles as well as her love of circles and the scallop shape, which is a traditional Japanese pattern.
Travelling once more, this time to Maine on a summer printing course, Lindsey met her future husband, a metal worker, blacksmith and lecturer from Highgate, and moved to London to finish her studies at Central St Martins. The couple now live on a boat in Bermondsey with their 15-month old son. And yes they do have these Bermondsey tiles in their kitchen.
That tile came from an earlier collaboration with the London Transport Museum. Invited to rummage through the archive, Lindsey spotted this design on an upholstery pattern designed by Enid Marx (1902 – 1998) who was best known for her patterns on tube seats. It was in a rather lurid “Christmas tree green and red” but Lindsey saw past the colours to the design she could create in her signature muted shades. Even the cobalt blue tile takes on a calm chalkiness when rendered in cement.
3D tiles aren’t new but they have tended to be more about natural relief shapes rather than a more man (woman) made design and it’s exciting to see where this might lead. The tiles are made in Spain and Lindsey admitted that when she turned up with this idea the manufacturers were sceptical.
“They said no,” she said. So, ever practical, Lindsey told them how she thought it could be done and, well, now you can buy them. She also has other 3D designs with curvier shapes on.
Her other designs for Domus are no less groundbreaking if you know anything about tiles. A mix of cement and terrazzo they are honed and the terrazzo chips sparkle in the light. Her factory wasn’t so keen on those either to start with, but she won them round.
Talking to Lindsey, it’s easy to see her passion for her work and her desire to push the boundaries and create something new from this wall covering which dates back to the 13th century. And the 3d tiles are for walls. Not least because they would be hard to keep clean on the floor but also because, as a natural material, they need sealing and cleaning with a ph neutral soap.
Lindsey has also found, as a British resident, a love for pattern in this country. We might think we’re all quite neutral and afraid of colour but both Lindsey, and everyone at the Domus showroom, says it’s the opposite. We love a patterned tile it turns out.
And, oddly a towel too. Lindsey collaborated with John Lewis on a range of bath towels (currently out of stock) and said this was the first time she had come across such a desire for patterned towels. Most countries like white she says.
We like a patterned rug too and Lindsey hasn’t forgotten her textile roots. She has a growing collection of graphic designs including Gridwork – a carved rug version of the the Bermondsey tile. Imagine how perfect that would be in an open plan kitchen diner – tiles on the wall in the kitchen part and a rug on the floor in the dining end. Yes it would match but there such a radical change in texture and pattern size that it would be amazing. This would also work…. I’m plotting now… in an en suite bathroom with a bedroom next door….
The rugs start at £395 for a 180cm x 120cm and go up from there and don’t forget you can always talk to Lindsey about custom sizes. Now you know I said I the 3D Bermondsey was my one true love? Well worraboutthis in my dark green bathroom….. that green lichen (which is a bit leopard print) is just wonderful no?
Browse Lindsey’s full collection here
And her range for Domus