‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’—William Morris
William Morris, an Arts and Crafts pioneer with distaste for capitalism and passion for natural beauty continues to inspire over a century later, resulting in quintessentially British collections.
When William Morris died in 1896, aged 62, he would have been undoubtedly contented with his valiant efforts at beautifying the world through his craftsmanship—and commanding a revolution in British design during the Arts and Crafts movement. He couldn’t have predicted that his iconic prints would still be a source of inspiration over a century later.
Perhaps the best known figure from the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris was inspired by nature and keenly focused on the importance of expert British manufacturing—William Morris co-founded the interior design business, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company (now Morris & Co.) in 1861 as a rebellion against mass-produced industrial Britain, instead championing the highest standard of craftsmanship. As Morris himself explains, ‘if our houses, or clothes, our household furniture and utensils are not works of art, they are either wretched makeshifts, or, what is worse, degrading shams of better things.’
See also: Collecting Hermès
Morris & Co still exists today, advocating William Morris’ innovative vision using original logbooks that provide samples of every wallpaper produced, accompanied by the printer’s hand-written notes on precise colourations.
The company produces exquisite fabrics, honouring Morris’ extremely difficult indigo discharge print method, along with decorative home accessories.
They also still produce the product that William Morris’ name is universally connected to—wallpaper. William Morris began designing wallpapers in 1860, with the first design (issued in 1864) thought to be inspired by the rose-trellis in the garden of his home in Bexleyheath, Kent. His primary inspiration was nature, specifically plants: many of his designs contain floral imagery, capturing both the unpredictability and the symmetry of the natural world. Morris & Co. continues to use the same designs that William Morris created in the 1860s, albeit with a contemporary twist to give the designs ‘a new lease of life’.
See also: Marie Antoinette’s Shoes and Artioli