Wednesday, 13 April 2011


The world of interiors is currently inspired by The Cult of Beauty Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum (2 April to 17 July 2011).

The Cult of Beauty is the first major exhibition to capture the essence of Aestheticism, exploring an artistic movement which sought to escape the ugliness and materialism of the Victorian era by creating a new kind of art and beauty. This artistic movement encompassed artists, designers and poets, and explores how they promoted the idea of ‘art for art’s sake. This myriad of artistic influences would greatly affect how domestic interior design evolved for the middle class home, with the notion of ‘The House Beautiful’ as an embodiment of cultured living.

The collaboration between artists and designers continues today, and in the UK, we are fortunate enough to have our own quiet design revolution adhering to the principles of the Cult of Beauty. Hence, it is possible to recapture the essence of Aestheticism, yet reinterpret the original design ideas for contemporary living.

Influenced by natural motifs, classical art, Japanese and Indian design, Cole and Son have been manufacturing wallpaper since 1875. The Cole & Sonarchive consists of approximately 1,800 block print designs, 350 screenprint designs and a huge quantity of original drawings and wallpapers, representing all the styles from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Amongst these are some of the most important historic wallpaper designs in the world.

The large scale floral motif of this ‘magnolia’ design, with its simple background, has a contemporary edge and would work well as a feature wall. For a bolder design statement, the ‘woods’ design works beautifully in a long hallway or garden room. For smaller rooms, the classical landscapes from the Fornasetti collection are an intriguing design feature.

Demonstrating that the collaboration between art and design has never been more intertwined, Benchmark Furniture produces contemporary furniture in a sustainable way that will last several lifetimes. As well as championing up and coming designers, world renowned names such as Terence Conran and Thomas Heatherwick are also part of the design team.

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