365 Objects Of Design

Wallpaper and an Unsolved Murder – the Florence Broadhurst Archive is Revived

10th September 2019

And if that doesn’t draw you in as a headline I don’t know what will…. so yes Florence Broadhurst was a prolific wallpaper and textile designer based in Sydney, Australia, who was found bludgeoned to death in her studio with two cups of tea by her body in 1977. It has been speculated – but never proved – that she was the victim of the so called Granny Murderer, a serial killer called John Wayne Glover, who was later convicted of the murders of six other elderly women between 1989 and 1990 and who has been linked to a number of other deaths. The teacups suggested that perhaps she had known her killer or had arranged a meeting with him and, indeed, she had apparently sat next to Glover at the wedding of one of her employees.

florence broadhurst black and white

florence broadhurst black and white

After her death her designs were sold for a few years in Australia and the US and also for a while in Liberty of London and Selfridges,  but they gradually disappeared from view and it has not been possible to buy her designs in the UK for over 10 years now.

chinese floral by florence broadhurst

chinese floral by florence broadhurst

That was iuntil a group of designers, Rebecca Lawrence, Carole Spink, and Jane Martin, decided to investigate. Rebecca, an interior designer, was working on a project for which she felt a Florence fabric would be perfect. When she was unable to find it, she swung into action. They have now obtained exclusive rights to Florence Broadhurst’s eccentric and exuberant archive. The initial launch comprises 61 wallpapers across 12 designs and 23 fabrics over six designs.

The patterns originate from scans of Florence’s original silk screens, making them a faithful re-creation of her work that was created more than 50 years ago. Florence loved to layer patterns and the collection has been designed to make it easy to do the same. As she said: ” I tell my clients they must surround themselves with the colours that inspire or uplift them.”

courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Many of the wallpapers here have ‘companions’ that can be used to complement or contrast one another in the same room – such as on different walls, on and around panelling or above and below a dado or picture rail. Likewise, the fabrics have been designed in clever ‘layering palettes’ making it easy to mix and match fabrics within the theme of a room or, even on the same piece.

fabric by florence broadhurst

fabric by florence broadhurst

Rebecca Lawrence, who still has a 2003 copy of Living Etc with a picture of Japanese Floral on one of the pages – the corner is still turned down where she fell in love with it 16 years ago – says the designs are perfect for the new mood of maximalism that is sweeping in.

“I don’t think minimalism will ever die but people are definitely getting much braver with colour and pattern and these designs still work as well today as when Florence created them,” she says.

“Instagram and social media has definitely helped with that as people are able to see what patterns will look like and the scale of them so that has encouraged us all to be a braver in our choices.”

japanese floral by florence broadhurst in the home of bianca hall french for pineapple

japanese floral by florence broadhurst in the home of bianca hall french for pineapple

In addition to the fabric and wallpaper Rebecca and her colleagues are putting the finishing touches to a collection of lamps and cushions and will be releasing more colourways of the existing designs. They are the exclusive distributors of the wallpaper in the UK and have complete creative freedom with the fabrics.

“We can play with colour and scale as well as creating new pieces from the designs,” she said before revealing that a collection of paint is due next year.

egrets wallpaper by florence broadhurst

egrets wallpaper by florence broadhurst

What do you think? I love the graphic black and white of Japanese Floral but maybe that’s helped because I have seen it in Bianca’s home. Anyone up for a return to wallpaper and pattern?

courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

 

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  • Jen 10th September 2019 at 1:42 pm

    These are lovely, I’m doing the layering of pattern and colour thing with some Emma J Shipley wallpaper and fabrics in my sitting room, and these designs are making me wish I had another room to unleash them on!

  • Mandy 10th September 2019 at 12:07 pm

    I love pattern and love to mix patterns too ( something I learned when I lived in India and Pakistan for a couple of years). The photo of the fabrics hanging on the back of the door is a wonderful example of how it can work so beautifully (and help one to be fearless about it, hopefully !) I see no argument between all the patterns in that photo – love it !
    What an extraordinary story about Florence! In this day and age, you’d hope the murder might be solved …

  • Georgina 10th September 2019 at 11:30 am

    I think they’re wonderful

  • Jade 10th September 2019 at 9:42 am

    I really like them, which has surprised me as I’m not usually into much pattern. What a bloody awful story, though. That poor woman.

  • Janet Whincup 10th September 2019 at 9:19 am

    I love them.

  • Kerry Hyland 10th September 2019 at 8:18 am

    Oh I love this! I lived in Sydney from 2000 to 2007 where I fell in love with Florence broadhurst prints. Japanese Floral is my absolute favourite! I have some (very faded) cushion covers that I bought in a warehouse sale in Sydney (they were very well used & lived with toddlers!). This is very exciting, thank you!

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