The names Adam Bray and Lulu Lyttle carry such weight in the interior design industry that it was only a matter of time before the two collaborated. And when they did, the result was bound to be as stylish and spirited as the designs the two respective studios have become known for. This week, Soane (the British design brand and interior design studio founded by Lulu) announces a collection of fabrics designed in collaboration with Adam.
Lulu and Adam – who's an interior designer and antiques dealer – have long been friends. The collection is the result of myriad conversations between the two, mulling over the antique fabrics and archive prints which have caught their attention over the years.
These patterns take Soane ‘into new territory’ says Lulu: until now, Soane was a fail-safe place to turn for traditional motifs with a contemporary sensibility, pretty florals, classical designs and the perfect stripe. Though as Adam maintains: ‘We’re at a point where the 20th century design language is as much a part of modern decorating as neo-classical or Indian motifs are’. These prints are bold, geometric and mostly inspired by 20th century and mid-century designs.
There are four fabrics in the collection, all drawn from Adam’s extensive personal collection of 20th-century textiles. Describing it as ‘things he’s collected over years of mooching about', it’s a hoard that he’s amassed from across the globe. He has an eye for prints with wit and colour, which he has reworked to bring a contemporary, graphic edge and to create fabrics which will sit well with other Soane collections.
‘I was aiming for something quite masculine with a mid-century feel’ explains Adam. The first fabric which came to the collection is the ‘Suze’, named after the popular French aperitif from the late 19th century. Similarly, the inspiration fabric is French, originally from the 1930s and one which Adam has had in his archive for ‘many, many years’. He recreated the bold geometric print on a larger scale, which ‘lends itself well to being used on larger areas, like walls, upholstery and curtains’.
The many colours within the ‘Martinez’ colourway (the only one ‘Suze’ is available in) are also pretty handy when it comes to designing a scheme. It's easy to build a room around the fabric by picking out any one of the bright, primary colours within it.
It was a 1950s print on paper which inspired the ‘Sgraffito’ print. Referencing the pottery making technique after which it is named, whereby the surface of the clay is scratched away leaving a textured surface, the fabric’s motif is equally ‘scratched’ and full of movement. There are fragments of triangles and zig zags: the type of print which you could look at for some time and see something new with every glance.
The ‘Fontwell’ on the other hand is far less geometric: it’s busy, yes, but from a distance the imperfect cross-hatching, splotches of colour and small, sporadic black dots blend into one and make for a cohesive, almost single colour textile.
Because it’s Soane, which is known for being the driving force behind the modern global obsession with rattan (so much so that in 2020 Lulu released a book called Rattan - A World Of Elegance And Charm), there’s also a pretty woven lattice print. ‘Webbing’ comes in three colours: ‘Pillar Box Red’, ‘Azure’, and ‘Portland’ (a neutral, greyish). Thanks to some clever shading which makes it look almost like an artwork, it has the air of being three-dimensional.
A departure from the other fabrics, whose roots are all more modern, the original fabric on which ‘Webbing’ is based is Edwardian. It was uncovered some time ago by Adam's upholsterer, who found it when stripping a chair, and quickly called Adam to take a look.
All of the fabrics are designed to have fun with: use them on the walls, the furniture, the blinds or the curtains, stick them in a frame and they become artwork. They are just as fun as you’d expect, and most likely will be cropping up in the projects which make up the pages of House & Garden before too long.