Home decor is currently a doodle

Welsh designer Bethan Gray did something she hadn’t done in a while during the enforced hiatus of 2020: she took up painting. She chose Chinese calligraphy brushes and began drawing free-form lines with ultramarine ink on a canvas that lay on her studio floor. It was an impromptu act, but what turned out to be an evolution of an earlier design she had intended for the inlays of her dhow cabinet collection: a pattern inspired by the curved sails of traditional Omani boats.

Bethan Gray with her Inky Dhow Collection: Large Triptych Artwork, £11,900. Three door cupboard, £16,200. CC Tapis carpet, POA. Glossy coffee table, £8,220. Seven Sisters ships from £231. Ripple armchair, £9,000 © Julian Abrams

The conception of their new Inky Dhow design was a catalyst for countless new projects. London-based leather expert Bill Amberg saw potential in Gray’s original artwork for his third collection of digitally printed leather hides. Gray has recreated her paintings on a one to one scale to bring them to life on leather. “They were 1.5m x 3m – the largest I’ve ever made – because I didn’t want to lose the quality of the brushstrokes or the way the dark ink would lighten against the skin.”

This June, as part of Milan Design Week, Inky Dhow will also be featured in an immersive installation at Rossana Orlandi Gallery, featured not only on the leather upholstery of Gray’s new Ripple sofa and armchair, but also as marquetry on their Shamsian furniture (the sideboard). consists of more than 500 individual pieces of veneer). The flowing lines shine on the top of the brass-based Luster table, in her silk and wool rugs for Milan-based specialists CC-Tapis, and on hand-blown Murano glass lamps in collaboration with Baroncelli.

The stained glass window based on an artwork by Annie Morris in the Bar Painter's Room at Claridge's, London

The stained glass window based on an artwork by Annie Morris in the Bar Painter’s Room at Claridge’s, London

A vase from Bethan Gray's Inky Dhow collection

A vase from Bethan Gray’s Inky Dhow collection

Baloo checkmate placemat, £20, libertylondon.com

Baloo checkmate placemat, £20, libertylondon.com

The design caught the attention of Emily Johnson, co-founder of 1882 Ltd, who asked Gray to transfer her design to seven earthenware vases in the shape of the original Seven Sisters pottery kilns in Stoke-on-Trent, where the company is based. “I didn’t throw the pots, but I went to Stoke to paint them. I really enjoyed being so hands-on,” says Gray.

The brushwork here evokes the expressive artistry of some of Gray’s heroes. “I have always been inspired by linear illustration art. I love Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Matisse,” she says. “We have a few pieces in the house: a couple of Picasso and Cocteau plates and a Matisse lithograph, and a Cocteau tapestry embroidered in felt. It’s inspiring that these artists weren’t limited to the canvas, they worked in different mediums and it’s nice for me to be able to do the same.”

Petra Borner at Partnership Editions Home, hand-painted candelabra and chandelier 2, £450, partnerseditions.com

Petra Borner at Partnership Editions Home, hand-painted candelabra and chandelier 2, £450, partnerseditions.com © Christopher Horwood

Frances Costelloe at Partnership Editions Home, hand-painted ceramic plates and bowls, £120, Partnershipeditions.com

Frances Costelloe at Partnership Editions Home, hand-painted ceramic plates and bowls, £120, Partnershipeditions.com © Christopher Horwood

Beyond the canvas, increasingly figurative, illustrative art is found on furniture, furnishings, ceramics and wall treatments. “We’re definitely seeing a trend of people experimenting with their spaces and turning to illustrative patterns,” says Bryony Rae Sheridan, purchasing manager at Liberty, calling new designs in the Liberty fabric collection, like Delaney Dragon Tana Lawn in cotton, decorative Plates by Willemien Bardawil and the playful organic patterns in the hand-painted ceramics from the Balu brand by Popolo and Anna Vail.

Last fall, online contemporary art gallery Partnership Editions launched its first “Home as Art” category: a curated collection of works where “everything has a story to tell.” Consequently, Frances Costelloe’s free-line drawings of faces and plants are transferred to ceramics, Julianna Byrne’s ethereal paintings find their way onto wall hangings and Petra Börner’s illustrative art is featured on an ornate candelabra.

Annie Morris' Sharpie pen illustrations at her home in France

Annie Morris’s Sharpie pen illustrations at her home in France © Matthieu Salvaing

Willemien Bardawil Angels Delight Teller, £52, libertylondon.com

Willemien Bardawil Angels Delight Teller, £52, libertylondon.com

Popolo fish carafe, £55, libertylondon.com

Popolo fish carafe, £55, libertylondon.com

It’s a concept that echoes in the Bloomsbury Group’s quest to immerse everything in art, most famously at Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s home in Charleston, Sussex. You can see his influence in the work of British artist Annie Morris, for example, who used a Sharpie to paint her distinctive figures and flowers directly onto the walls during the renovation of the French home she owns with her husband Idris Khan. In 2021, Morris was commissioned to paint a mural for The Painter’s Room, a new bar at Claridge’s hotel, where a stained glass window also replicates one of her watercolor collages.

Clive Bell's study in Charleston in Sussex

Clive Bell’s study in Charleston, Sussex © James Bellorini

Claire de Quénetain's hand-painted mural in her home

Claire de Quénetain’s hand-painted mural in her home

There are a number of artists who can be called upon to bring art into the home: London-based Jan Erika creates hand-painted wall art in bold, kaleidoscopic colors in both homes and public spaces, as does Brussels-based Claire de Quénetain, but also works in the UK. “It’s a lot easier for me to work than it was three or four years ago when I started,” says the artist, who grew up in the Normandy countryside and whose freehand brushstrokes are inspired by flowers, plants, trees and gardens. “People are now more open to bringing these patterns into their homes.”

Tess Newall's commissioned mural in the style of illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans

Tess Newall’s commissioned mural in the style of illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans

De Quénetain’s business took off shortly after graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2014, posting a picture on Instagram of a mural she had painted at her home. “When something is popular on Instagram, things happen quickly,” she laughs. “But I liked the idea of ​​bringing my own brand into my home. I have my own ornamental design language and the closeness to nature – the real motivation of my work.” In December 2021, she launched a collection of 15 wallpaper designs, which she added to her existing fabrics.

Tess Newall from East Sussex is another sought-after artist, recently commissioned by Soho House Design Group to paint a child’s room for a client in the style of Ludwig Bemelmans, creator of the bar mural at New York’s Carlyle Hotel. Two years ago she created a limited collection of hand-painted chairs inspired by the Bloomsbury Group and Charleston for the young British furniture company Ceraudo. This February, the brand launched the new Orpha range, which co-founder Victoria Ceraudo describes as “phase two” of the Bloomsbury connection. This capsule furniture collection – armchairs, a slipper chair, dining chairs and a footstool – is embellished with a bold ink and brush print that represents a marked departure from the brand’s traditional and geometric offerings. “We wanted to do something more contemporary and abstract, blurring the line between art and design,” explains Ceraudo. “You essentially have a work of art that has been translated into different formats – it’s something three-dimensional in your interior space instead of hanging on the wall.”

Ceraudo Orpha Elio armchair, £1,775

Ceraudo Orpha Elio armchair, £1,775

Hand painting at Ceraudo

Hand painting at Ceraudo

The print is inspired by the cutout work of Henri Matisse and the Orphism movement led by Robert and Sonia Delaunay in the early 20th century. “We went down quite a rabbit hole with Sonia Delaunay,” says Ceraudo. “She was an intriguing character with such fluid movements between art and design. Robert was a purist and so that he could devote himself fully to painting, Sonia tried many different kinds of work: costume design, interior decoration – she even designed a print on a car. She was primed to be commercial and monetize various mediums so Robert didn’t have to. He got most of the credit then, but she was the powerhouse behind it all.”

Few of us have the creative skills of the Delaunay, and those who want to jump into the trend without hiring an artist to paint their home might consider luxe hand-painted wallpaper. Just ask actress and Goop entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow, whose dining room in her Montecito home was recently featured Architecture Digestis a vision of whimsical blue-grey skies and hand-painted trees – a reverie captured without brush or easel.

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