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Reviving the Classics

March 30, 2017

Style Library Contract breathes new life into priceless William Morris designs with its Pure Morris collection.

A brand with deep-rooted artistic history, Morris & Co. is one of the many names offered under the Style Library Contract umbrella. This particular brand stands out, however, as custodian of the Morris & Co. archive, the contents of which have inspired the recently launched Pure Morris collection consisting of both wallcoverings and textiles.

For those who may be unfamiliar, William Morris was a famed British artist in the 19th century and had a strong presence in textile and wallpaper design. “As a designer, [Morris] never liked to design anything he couldn’t produce himself,” noted Carolyn Mitchell, head of group contracts for Style Library Contract. “But he never manufactured wallpaper himself; he outsourced it to Jeffrey and Co., and worked closely with them as they possessed the same ethics. As history evolved, another brand within our portfolio, Sanderson, acquired Jeffrey and Co. and was printing the wallpapers when the company was still in existence. After Morris’ passing in 1896, fashion changed, his company, Morris & Co., went into voluntary liquidation, and Sanderson bought rights to the company and all wallpaper hand blocks for £400.”

Much of the Morris & Co. archive is considered priceless national treasures in the UK. The wallpaper collection is “an amazing treasure,” Mitchell said, which is not used often as reproduction of the designs is costly. With that, Style Library Contract’s Morris & Co. name took a different approach: brand representative Alison Gee worked with craftsmen at the production site to use the original hand blocks and recreate designs that would be translated to wallpaper for the Pure Morris collection. The coordinating textile selections use natural linen-based cloth with visuals that replicate the original handcrafted designs and hand stitching.

As custodian of the Morris & Co. archive, Style Library Contract has all of the wallpaper, samples, and original blocks from William Morris. Previous collections from the Morris & Co. brand from Style Library Contract used original colorways and looks, but Pure Morris is a departure, looking at things from a different perspective based on the needs and tastes of today’s market. “There is a trend toward simple living and taking things back to their natural essence,” explained Carolyn Mitchell, head of group contracts for Style Library Contract. “We found monochromatic designs for wallpaper in the archives in addition to wallpapers with different textures, which we didn’t normally think of. We wanted to incorporate all of these things into a new collection.”

The hand-blocking process is an original technique Morris would have used. For contract interiors, wallcovering has to be durable and produced with up-to-date, modern techniques; hand-blocked wallpapers wouldn’t work for various reasons in these environments, particularly budget constraints. Because Style Library Contract owns its wallpaper designs and production, the process is integrated and
vertical, meaning the company is able to take “craft-like” techniques and convert them to modern mechanical methods in factories. Pure Morris provides commercially viable prices and quality with
the classic Morris visuals.


Photography courtesy of Style Library Contract

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