Where would our world be without the United Kingdom? Vivienne Westwood, The Smiths, James Bond, Mini, Lady Di, Monty Python, Kate Moss, Miss Marple, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and so many more. Could we, just once more, ask to “Remain!”, before our time together hits the figurative brick wall?
The list above fails to mention another wonderful Brit: The manufactory Cole & Son, which has been a part of our product range since last year. Founded in 1875, this company traditionally produces marvelous wallpapers and textiles. Its fantastical designs grace mansions, palaces and theatres alike. If wallpaper makes you think of woodchips, we might need get out the papering brush for a little spanking – and urge you to continue reading.
Cole & Son has an impressive and, in fact, one of the largest archives of blockprints (1800 panels), covering all styles of the 18th, 19th, and 20th century. Blockprinting is one of the oldest printing techniques and was invented in China and, speaking in very broad terms, works like potato printing. Until the 20th century, wallpapers were an absolute luxury; only new manufacturing methods made them accessible to the masses. In the 19th century, however, elaborate designs were hand-carved into pearwood or sycamore, then applied to the textiles in rows, so that the pattern would repeat seamlessly – a process inconceivably effortful.
Cole & Son still uses the original blockprints, some of them over 100 years old. While they used to be stored in damp cellarspaces, an air conditioning system ensures the appropriate storing of these precious originals nowadays. A specialist is in charge of the printing process. Even with their single focus on printing, they produce merely 100 meters of wallpaper per day.
For every section, the specialist dips the 6-kilo block into dye and presses it onto the paper together with a balance weight. The exact joint of two sheets is ensured through discreet markings. This accounts for the relatively high price for the part of the collection which is still made with this technique. Upon close inspection, it is exactly this time-consuming process that makes the wallpapers so unique and valuable. The carrier paper is interlaced with fiber, making it extra sturdy and resistant to the paste, neither expanding nor shrinking. Its durability is legendary: The wallpapers at Picadilly Theatre were renewed only after a whopping 50 years.
But not the entire collection is produced in this way, screen printing and other processes are also used. This allows a wide variety of designs and effects to be implemented: glossy and matt surfaces, metallic effects, relief-like paint application and much more. The designers at Cole & Son can draw on a huge fund of designs.
Besides the blockprinted patterns, there are 350 screen-printed patterns, as well as countless original drawings and archived wallpapers. Contemporary interpretations sensitive of the originals frequently refresh the collections through interesting new color combinations – the range goes from colorful jungles with monkeys and birds to minimalistic, graphic patterns.
A collaboration with the Italian company Fornasetti was introduced at the 2019 London Design Week, thrilling the design crowd with stunning patterns and colors. We were able to preview four of the designs available at the Paris Deco Off Fair. The collection by the name of Senza Tempo plays with the fantastical imagery characteristic to both manufacturers – a little crazy, very original and always distinctively Fornasetti, bottom line: definitely worth seeing, and, entre nous, very trendy.
The Senza Tempo collection marks the fourth collaboration of Fornasetti and Cole & Son, further augmenting the existing collection of notable wallpapers.
In order to gain some insight into the diversity of Cole & Son wallpapers, to feel their quality and splendor, to find the perfect fit for your own home, having a look at their large sample books is a must. I will be quite happy to consult you in a personal appointment – with regard to wallpapers as well as any other question regarding your interior design project.