By Karen Parr-Moody
In recent years, decorators have been jumping the proverbial “pond” from the U.S. to Britain in terms of inspiration. It all seemed to begin with the rallying cry of “Keep Calm and Carry On,” a saying which was embodied in a silkscreened poster. One of the first places to feature this poster, made in a small village in England, was the magazine House Beautiful. The poster, a copy of a WWII sign designed by the British government, has since mushroomed into a variety of goods beyond home décor, from notebooks to coin purses. (Unfortunately, while this design is still fetching, many people now complain that it is over-used).
Along similar lines, the British flag has seen a massive resurgence, with many designers jumping on the double-decker bus to follow the trend. Designer Jonathan Adler has been having what he calls a "Mod '60s Moment" with all things British. Inspired by Mary Quant and "Swinging London", he created an array of pillows featuring the Union Flag (technically, it is only called the Union Jack when flown at sea).
The Union Flag, an emblem for England, Scotland and Ireland together as the United Kingdom, is in the colors of red, white and blue. However, with his needlepoint pillows, Adler changed these colors into blends including blue and green, brown and yellow and pink and orange. In another irreverent move, Adler transformed his hand-loomed zebra rug by keeping the shape of a zebra while replacing animals stripes with those of the Union Flag.
These GasLamp pillows in the photo, above right, interpret the flag in their own right. While keeping the traditional flag colors, the one at left replaces the solid background with a classic toile and the solid stripes with cotton ticking ($28; Booth B-2012). The pillow at right has simply distressed the flag's original pattern and added a black crown ($28; Booth B-2012). Both carry a whiff of pop Victoriana. British décor is always fun, isn't it?
The pillow in the photo, above left, takes a page out of Jonathan Adler's book by replacing the classic red, white and blue tones of the Union Flag with an irreverent mix of new colors ($52; Booth B-222). The result is a a pillow that should appeal to every Anglophile in the house.
With both the Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics on the horizon, London is basking in the limelight. In anticipation of the Diamond Jubilee, which celebrates the 60 years of Queen Elizabeth's reign, British textile artist Ann Carrington was commissioned to make several pieces of art out of pearl, troca and abalone shell buttons on cloth. These were The Pearly Crown Jewels of Pentonville, The Pearly Queen of Trafalgar and The Pearly Queen of Lavender Hill. Her work caught on: Actress Gwyneth Paltrow has Carrington's Pearly Crown Jewels of England hanging in her East Hampton home (photo, right) and Carrington's Queen of Bow resides at the home of interior designers Bob and Cortney Novogratz.
Along with the Carrington trend, a variety of graphic designers have been repurposing crown motifs in their works. Interior designers have jumped on that double-decker bus, too. In the photo, left, is a pale pink box graced with a royal crown; it is simply perfect for this trend ($16; Booth B-309).
Another crown is found in the metal sculpture in the photo, right ($49; Booth B-103). Nestled inside this crown is a small piece of art featuring a crown ($15; Booth B-103). What a princely duo these would make.
When one thinks of British items used in home decor, several items come to mind: London street signs, old steamer trunks, Staffordshire dogs. Then in the kitchen — along with the tea kettle kept permanently on the stove — there should be this little contraption known as a toast rack (photo, below left; $40; Booth B-2012). Made in England (where else?), this invention dates back to the 1770s. Such items have been produced in massive quantities ever since and, despite modern conveniences such as electric toasters, are still being made today. Even if you don't use a toast rack at your tea table or breakfast table, it could grace your desk in a particularly British way to hold mail, photos or business cards.
April 29 is just around the corner, marking the anniversary of the big day when Prince William and Catherine Middleton got married at Westminster Abbey. Whether going Austin Powers "mod" or turn-of-the-century classic, decorating with a little British style is right on time.