William Morris: Possibly the best wallpaper designer of all time?

Image credit: Strawberry thief wallpaper

‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’ 

This was William Morris’ approach to design and I often return to it when I’m thinking about making my home lovelier or simply decluttering.

It’s so easy to follow.

Morris produced over 50 wallpapers in his time, all produced from hand-cut blocks and using natural mineral-based dyes. His designs were not fashionable in the 1860s when he started making them. 

The fashion then was for very ‘pretty’ exotic foreign blooms and fancy trompe l’oeil effects or severely formal geometric patterns.

This one is by Augustus Pugin, famous for decorating of the Houses of Parliament.

Augustus Pugin design in House of Parliament

Image credit: V&A

Morris was making subtle, stylized forms of native British flora and fauna.

The forms were more natural and flowing, though he was meticulous with his patterns, insisting ‘it is with a pattern as with a fortress, it is no stronger than its weakest point.’

Acanthus wallpaper William Morris

Image credit: Acanthus wallpaper

In his statement I love that he says ‘know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’.

So if his more highly-coloured designs are a bit much for your personal style, you can now choose a more neutral colourway. You can even have them in a textured flock!

Strawberry thief re-coloured wallpaper William Morris

Image credit: Strawberry thief wallpaper

His genius with the natural, everyday forms artfully rendered and perfectly balanced have ensured that 160 years after he made them we are still living more beautifully with them.

Just gorgeous.

Victoria x

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