The inspiration for contemporary textiles can come from many sources, and none more intriguing than two much-loved English Heritage properties.
The architecture and interiors of Down House and Eltham Palace have inspired a range of luxury bedlinen. The collection has been produced by Christy, the home furnishings company established in 1850, in a joint venture with English Heritage.
'This is an exciting development,' says Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage. 'The tie-in with Christy is an innovative way to tell people what English Heritage does and another way for people to support the organisation. A great emphasis has been put on creating something wonderful that is directly connected to our properties.'
Down House, Kent, and Eltham Palace, on the outskirts of London, are markedly different properties but both have provided Christy with a wealth of design options.
The association with Eltham Palace is particularly apt. The property was acquired in 1933 by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, who built an outstanding house adjoining the Great Hall of the ancient Palace. As Christy was previously part of the Courtauld textile empire, a renewed connection with the house adds an appealing twist to this creative collaboration.
Annie Kemkaran-Smith, Collections Curator for both Eltham Palace and Down House, invited Christy's designer Rachel Paley to Eltham to explore the Courtaulds' approach to architecture and interior design. 'Eltham Palace has so much warmth for such a glamorous house,' says Rachel. 'You can sense that the Courtaulds lived life to the full here.'
The resulting Eltham Palace range is contemporary but, above all, authentic. It includes 'Clarice', an elegant jacquard weave with a Greek key motif and a luxurious black velvet border and piping. This evokes Eltham's dramatic black dining room doors, while the 'Park Lane' design takes the same key motif but embroiders it as a panel on the duvet cover and an edging on each pillowcase. Both designs use pure cotton fabric with a high thread count, in shades of charcoal and warm taupe, reflecting Eltham's marquetry walls and ebonised doors.
Down House, in Kent, has been returned to how it was when Charles Darwin and his large family lived there. It is comfortably furnished with wallpapers and fabrics very similar to those chosen by the Darwins. These, together with the garden and the teal blue-painted greenhouse, where Darwin conducted many of his scientific experiments, are the inspiration for another of Christy's new bedlinen design themes.
Climbing plants appear on 'Darwin Leaf' and pretty floral motifs are embroidered on 'Emma'. A third design called 'Harmony' is a jacquard weave that incorporates Darwin's beloved flowers into a classic oriental design.
'Everybody involved in the project wanted to make sure the designs were properly referenced and linked to the sites,' says Annie. 'Both organisations are thrilled with the results.' HT
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