Kate Watson-Smyth has been a national newspaper journalist for over 20 years. She also writes the UK’s number 1 interiors blog Madaboutthehouse.com and runs a successful interior styling business. Her first book Shades of Grey was published in February.
For the first time Alternative Flooring’s Make Me A Rug service offers Quirky B pattern along with lots of new borders. This fabulous service has a new video that shows the five easy steps -choose a design from natural and wool flooring collections, select a border style, pick a border, add your dimensions and see your finished rug in a choice of different interior settings.
We asked fellow rug lover and star of our Make Me A Rug video Kate Watson-Smyth a few questions about how rugs can transform your home.
Are you a rug lover?
I absolutely am! My house has no carpet and I love the look of bare boards covered in different rugs. It’s a great way to decorate your home as you can change the rugs as the mood suits and, in doing, so completely change the personality of the room.
Do you have rugs in your home?
Yes I have rugs in every room. A very battered vintage Persian one under the kitchen table, which hides a multitude of red wine and food stains, several similar ones layered up in the sitting room and a plain one in the spare room. The bedside rugs are the sheepskins that my children used to have in their pushchairs.
Tips on decorating with rugs?
Well rules are made to be broken, but there are a couple of guidelines that I think are important. Firstly, buy the biggest rug you can afford for the space. Secondly, in the sitting room (for example), a rug should be anchored by the front legs of the sofa (at the very least). A small rug under the coffee table that doesn’t touch any furniture creates an island and doesn’t pull the room together. If you have only small rugs then layer them up to cover a larger space. Or, as I said, one big one that fills the space to about 18inches from the walls.
The one exception I would make is if you have an unusually shaped rug – the cowhides and sheepskins – they can sit as islands because of their shape. Otherwise, the rectangles and squares should be large and luxurious.
Any rug trends that you’ve spotted?
I think, as with all aspects of interior decoration, we are getting braver and bolder in our choices and that’s great. If you’re being sensible and buying a plain sofa so that it lasts for years and goes with everything then have a bit of fun with the rugs. You can afford to be bold with rugs as it’s easy to move them around to other rooms or even to change them seasonally so you don’t have to look at the same thing all the time. We change our clothes with the weather so why not our soft furnishings? Our homes don’t’ have to wear a uniform. The geometric look has been around for a while and shows no sign of disappearing and I’m a big fan of Dotty, which I have on my stairs. We’ve seen stripes around for a long time and I think a move towards spots is overdue. Also, whisper it quietly, I think the patterned carpet is due a comeback but it will be done in a totally new and modern way.
What about layering – the more the merrier?
Layering rugs offers an easy way to add even more colour and pattern to a room or experiment with trends. Do you agree?
Completely (see above). Layering can be tricky to pull off though. So the general idea is that they must all be Persian, or all Kilims or all Dhurries or all carpets. You can’t mix the materials. Then, you can totally clash the patterns as long as there is a common thread in the colours to hold your scheme together. If you have wildly clashing colours then try to keep the patterns similar: geometric or floral or striped. As with all these things, it’s hard to know what works until you see it. If you are planning this look in your home then just keep experimenting until you feel it works. Then roll up the ones that didn’t and use them in another room.
What about size?
Don’t skimp on size – are rugs getting bigger or it is just our imagination?
As I said, rugs should be as big as you can afford. Small rugs dotted around look dated and create a series of islands in your room rather than one cohesive space. The rug is the anchor that holds everything down. In addition to that, small rugs are not inviting. A large rug should invite you to step on it, preferably in bare feet.
See how Kate gets designing her personalised rug with Alternative Flooring’s Make Me A Rug online service! Watch the video here:
The new Make Me A Rug Service has all the fabulous patterns from before but now they can be made into large rugs so they are perfect for any room in the house. There are lots of choices of border, so you can experiment to find the right look for you. Or, you can play it safe with the large range of neutrals but, if you do want to do that, can I urge you to have fun with the borders?
How easy did you find it?
It’s incredibly easy and user-friendly and I love that there is a choice of room photographs so you can see how a rug might look in a different space. There are also a variety of floors so you can tell how it will look on painted boards, or parquet for example.
Take us through your Make Me A Rug Experience
I have long been a fan of the Quirky B Zebo but knew that if it only came as a runner it wasn’t quite right for my house. When I realised that it was possible to make a rug from it, I didn’t hesitate. My only decision was in choosing the border. I couldn’t decide if black would be more subtle and allow the zebra pattern to stand out, or if a contrasting colour would be better. In the end I got samples of both so I could decide in real life and in my house rather than just online. You can see which way I jumped below….
Et Violà – here’s the rug and runners in my home!
Sprinkles of spring for interiors
Put your best foot forward with Alternative and discover the latest trends for floors. The new Wool Sprinkle is just right for spring. It is naturally tactile with a sprinkling of colour. The rose shade is perfect for this season’s passion for romantic floral prints ranging from delicate cherry blossoms to big showy blooms.
This mood for soft pink started to flower with The Pantone colour of the year, a blend of two shades – gentle Rose Quartz and the light and airy Serenity. Both join easily with other mid-tones including greens and purples and all shades of yellow and pink.
Mix in brights and silver for more splash and sparkle. Or add this season’s hottest trend accent shade of Chartreuse – a delicate but vivid green, and your home will be full of energy.
Images clockwise from top left: Alternative’s Wool Crafty Hound Whippet, Wool Crafty Diamond Lasque, Wool Crafty Cross Celtic, Wool Crafty Cross Celtic detail, Barefoot Ashtanga Silk Hero, Barefoot Ashtanga Silk Hero detail, Barefoot Ashtanga Silk Firefly
If springtime calls for softer shades then it welcomes softer surfaces too. Why not liberate your senses and indulge in the pleasure of touch? It’s time not just to bring the refreshing outdoor tones inside but it’s time to feel your floor! Go for wall-to wall wool carpet or Make Me A Rug and layer rugs on top of a wood floor for interest and comfort.
Pink shades and plush surfaces are popular this season but the trend for contemporary craft just keeps on growing. Step out in style with Alternative’s new Wool Crafty, a jaunty trio of subtle patterns in nature’s palette. The hounds tooth canine check creeps off the catwalk and onto our floors. The classy diamond is a fashionably cool geometric and the cross is this season’s natural plaid.
We love wool but combine with silky highlights and you have an even more fashionable floor to sink your toes into. Barefoot Ashtanga Silk is a deliciously luxurious carpet full of softness and warmth that is the ultimate in discreet glamour. It marries the beauty of wool with the lustre of silk rayon.
It not only has that handmade feeling but its design-led natural palette can be dressed up with blush pink, pearly grey and smokey brown to create chic looks for both classic and contemporary schemes.
Why not browse the collections for further inspiration?
Get inspired from our Pinterest Board – Alternative Pink:
Follow us on social media for more creative floor ideas:
Images clockwise from top left: Quirky B Lattice and Quirky B Tetra with swatches – Ben Pentreath for Alternative Flooring, Quirky B Daisy and Quirky B Chainmail with swatches – Ashley Hicks for Alternative Flooring , Quirky B Fair Isle and Quirky B Shuttle – Margo Selby for Alternative Flooring, view from the interior of Pentreath & Hall’s London shop, view of interior designed by Ashley Hicks, still from Margo Selby‘s new Santa Fe patterned weave
It’s time to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday! It’s also time to shout about great British design and our nation’s love of pattern. Who better to talk about patterned carpet then Alternative Flooring’s three collaborators Ben Pentreath, Margo Selby and Ashley Hicks?
Ben Pentreath is one of the UK’s leading architectural and interior designers. He is a great exponent of English style. His architectural practice has worked on projects including projects for The Prince of Wales.
‘I am thrilled to add pattern to Alternative Flooring’s distinguished ‘Quirky B’ collection. Pentreath & Hall designed a range of printed papers based on stone and marble flooring patterns by the prolific 18th century architect, Batty Langley. It was a delight to put these back where they belong, on the floor – but re-worked in a range of vividly coloured patterns in the Alternative Flooring wools.
These three-dimensional patterns play with space in a way that creates rich textures for the contemporary interior. Rooted in tradition, I am always surprised how fresh and modern these classical designs can be, and it’s been a real honour to work with the talented people at Alternative Flooring to bring this collection to fruition.’
Margo Selby is the Queen of weave, who has translated her colourful handcrafted fabrics to carpet and runners. Fair Isle and Shuttle reflect her trademark 3-dimensional graphic pattern in a punchy palette. These designs are developed on handlooms by Margo in her studio and then woven into broadloom carpets. These geometric carpets are also at the forefront of design for 2016
‘I am excited to see both carpet and colour are back in fashion. The designs were originally produced as soft silk and wool fabrics on my hand loom and have been blown up and re-coloured to make them suitable for flooring. The graphic colour combinations with contrasting light and dark shades give a deep textural feel to this patterned carpet and runners.’
If Margo is the Queen of weave then Ashley Hicks must be the king of British interior and furniture design. He has made his distinctive mark on pattern carpet too, designing Chainmail and Daisy.
‘I love pattern and especially on the floor. It gives instant character and vitality to a space. I created the Chainmail design for a roomset at Somerset House, but its angular geometry would work just as well anywhere. A play on traditional hexagon grids, its interwoven chain links give a dynamic edge to a room. Daisy, inspired by wall-decoration in an old temple in Sri Lanka, has a punchy, Pop presence that will inject a touch of 60’s glamour into any room.’
Britain has a fine history of craftsmanship and Alternative Flooring, continues this tradition making cool, contemporary carpet on axminster looms in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Supporting both British industry and manufacturing were key factors in launching Quirky B. Anything designed and made in Britain is quite a coup these days, making this patterned wool carpet a collection to celebrate.
As a stylist Susie helps create beautiful and inspiring editorial and advertising shoots for some of the world’s leading interiors magazines and brands. Susie has been ‘shopping, propping and making things look pretty’ for more than 15 years.
Her passion for interiors has a strong basis in design. Susie studied both furniture and interior design before working as a buyer and trends forecaster for a leading Interiors brand. This background led her naturally into the world of styling and she established her own business.
Alongside Styling, Susie has now curated an online shop, being out and about all the time means Susie can spot the most amazing things in the most unusual places.
Props and Location
Prepping & Propping: The day in a life of an interior stylist….
The planning for the Alternative Flooring shoot is a detailed and thorough process, and is just as important as the shoot itself.
Once I have the brief from Lorna Haigh, head of creative and marketing at Alternative then the planning can begin. Lorna appoints a bespoke team comprising the stylist, photographer and art director.
For me, the first and most pivotal part is the selection of a location to shoot in, which reflects the themes of the product and the brand well.
After making a selection of suitable location houses, I will go and recce them and then choose the best location that suits the style of the shoot. This time it requires something, calm, eclectic and homely. I found this house through Light Locations – a photo location agency providing beautiful, inspiring lifestyle locations to the film/TV and photographic industry.
Location hunting is great fun but the trick is finding original gems that haven’t graced the pages of every magazine. This black cladded forest house in East Sussex is different and has fabulous open plan spaces filled with natural light.
Locations have to be spacious for a flooring shoot and have good stairways. I look for large windows, paneled walls and in this case rustic floorboards. It may look white but this is a location house that allows us to paint and decorate. The only condition is that leave it as we found it.
Whilst searching for the location, I am constantly thinking about Alternative’s new collections and which furniture and props I am going to use as part of the shoot. These extra incidental items will create the environment to hero the product within the shot. These items will enhance and present that product in the best way possible.
Whilst searching for the location, I am constantly thinking about the selection of which furniture & props I am going to use as part of the shoot. These extra incidental items will create the environment to hero the product within the shot. These items will enhance and present that product in the best way possible. Two of the ranges that we are shooting are Wool Crafty from the eco-friendly all wool carpet collection and the luxurious new Barefoot Ashtanga Silk designs.
Swatches – Big Jute Herringbone Bagel, Wool Crafty Diamond and Cross
Swatches – Barefoot Ashtanga Silk
The props may need to reflect a certain trend or feeling, for this shoot I needed a mix of vintage and natural props to create the overall look.
I use a mix of sources, some props I would hire from a dedicated prop house – where they stock a large variety of furniture and accessory pieces and then to mix with these, a few key pieces from the high street and then a good handful of vintage pieces.
I shop a lot! I find pieces everywhere. Once I’ve been properly briefed for a project I keep my eyes peeled wherever I am. During weekends away, driving around, I am always on the look out for vintage shops and little independent boutiques. Mostly the products I am shooting are direct from my clients’ new ranges, but I do add in incidental props to help the shoot have a real-life feel.
Each shot for the day, is planned and sketched out, so on the day the whole crew, photographer, client, assistants, know what we are doing, where & when.
I decide within each shot what items of furniture, product and props we are using, and where in the location we should set up.
On the shoot day, from the start we are busy receiving the delivery of props and products, unpacking all the props and setting up the product to shoot. There is a lot of unpacking and packing, it does feel like you are moving house everyday.
Photographer Ben Roberston of 7am Creative works his magic helping me direct the shoot and capturing Alternative’s new designs on camera.
Being on a shoot is hard work but gives a great sense of achievement, once the day is over and the shots have all been done. Packing up and loading the van and car is a great end to the day and then it is on to the next and doing it all again!
We know that our readers are smart, so we are going to straighten out the difference between herringbone and chevron flooring. It’s all about the zigzag. In the chevron, the rectangles run point to point and the ends are cut at an angle to create a continuous zigzag design. With the herringbone, the rectangles finish perpendicular to each other, resulting in a broken zigzag.
This leads nicely to the theme of this month’s blog – texture and herringbone. We are honing in on Alternative Flooring’s great range of natural fibre floors sourced from the world of monsoon-grown grasses – Sisal, Coir, Jute and Seagrass. Each gives herringbone a different texture from husky coir and rustic seagrass to smart sisal. All bring the great outdoors in and are full of tactile goodness.
To begin with a bit of history. The condensed read is that herringbone gets its name from the way the pattern resembles a fish skeleton. The origins of herringbone lie in the road system developed by the Roman Empire around 500 B.C. It’s got Celtic history too: horsehair herringbone cloth has been found in Ireland from 600 B.C, which explains why it’s also a traditional choice for tweed.
Fast-forward, and herringbone is as popular as ever. It is one of the easiest patterns to wear in fashion and on floors. It’s classic, contemporary and cool.
Sisal Herringbone Hockley
Alternative Flooring’s natural fibres are sustainably sourced. Sisal breezes in from Africa and the Mexican Gulf where it is extracted from the leaf of Agave Sisalana. It’s soft and exotic but the toughest natural fibre in the range.
Alternative’s Sisal Herringbone makes a subtle architectural statement in both classic and contemporary interiors. This pattern that creates a feeling of space and elegance with textural interest that doesn’t overpower. This range gives directional charm and instant character used as a carpet, rug or runner.
For nature lovers everywhere and the more minimalist-minded Sisal Herringbone is a great solution for people who want a tactile wall-to-wall carpet to look more crisp and contemporary. Spread lovingly across a whole room this design gives a multi-hued sense of wellbeing.
Sisal Herringbone Hockley
Herringbone is fabulous for runners and stairways as the design elongates the space. Tonal shades add interest whilst complementing the beauty of wooden floors. Alternative’s Sisal Herringbone is available in nine natural shades and the good news is it now comes in pre-cut runner widths.
Sisal Herringbone Hythe
For rugs and runners the border choice is endless. Get in touch with your creative side and try out the ‘Make Me A Rug’ online service. Herringbone borders add a crisp contrast in six smart shades – black, grey, blue, green, lilac and pewter.
Full of natural goodness coir comes crafted from Indian coconut husk fibres softened in seawater. Hearty and homely, rich and resilient Coir is fibrous and tactile. The Natural and Bleached Coir Herringbones are the husky, hairy members of the natural fibre family. This homespun herringbone runner contrasts beautifully with the wooden herringbone floor.
Coir Herringbone Natural
Seagrass is about as textural and tropical as it gets. Effortlessly uplifting, Seagrass Herringbone and Fine Herringbone weaves light into everyday life.
Seagrass Herringbone Natural
Jute is hand-harvested from the tiliaceae plant and is as soft as Goan and uplifting as golden sunshine. Go chunky with Big Herringbone Bagel for a cosy, snuggle feel. Go silky with Fine Jute Herringbone, which makes a softer bedroom choice. Jute has a more tweedy looks, which leads us onto the latest natural fibre floor.
A new member of the Alternative family is Sisal Tweed. Tweed has its roots in Scotland and this tightly woven design has four colourways that recall Scottish towns – Tealing, Tarvie, Tomatin and Tinwald.
Sisal Tweed Tarvie
Sisal Tweed Tealing and Sisal Tarvie
Sisal Tweed Tomatin and Sisal Tinwald
Tweed is stylishly rough in texture with a slightly unfinished look. Fashionistas love it for its classic and vintage appeal.
Little wonder both tweed and herringbone are now making their way into the homes of style-setters.
New Year, new trends
Carole King is an Interior Designer and author of Dear Designer’s Blog where she writes daily about current trends, shopping tips and anything else that inspires her. She is also the co-founder and joint EIC of Heart Home magazine which is a blogazine dedicated to showcasing British design.
Some trends are fleeting. Some are what we might call micro-trends (remember the pineapples cropping up on homewares everywhere?). But some trends continue season after season, gathering momentum and pace until they’re not a trend at all. They are just a lifestyle choice. A reflection of our own tastes, and a foundation on which to build a home that simply makes us happy.
With that in mind, here are six ‘trends’ that I predict will be around for a long time yet…
Scandinavian. You could say it’s been around for hundreds of years. It’s evolved like any other interior trend and now it’s typified by a simple, honest and clean approach to decorating. It’s been made even more popular by the popularity on Pinterest of white walls, blond wood furniture, an open-plan layout and an absence of clutter. Windows are left bare so as to let in as much light as possible, and furs, candles, and textures from the natural world provide the finishing touches.
Sustainability. Not so much a trend, as a lifestyle choice. Consumers often now give careful consideration to the provenance of new purchases and choose products that are good for themselves, their families and the planet. It’s the exact opposite of fashion in fact, as homewares are chosen for their longevity and enduring appeal.
Botanicals. A trend that stems from the desire to bring the outside in. It’s not enough to have a collection of healthy house-plants any more. Now you can cover your walls, upholstery, curtains, and accessories with all manner of flora from woodland specimens, to country garden prettiness, to full-blown jungle blooms. Of course, you can choose to cultivate a little or a lot, making this the perfect trend to flirt with or to have a long lasting affair with.
Industrial. Another trend that owes its existence to our desire be kind to the planet. A decision to turn our backs on the throw-away culture and to re-use and re-cycle where ever possible has led to a quiet revolution in our homes. It’s fashionable to make-do and mend and has led to lots of interiors that make a virtue of factory lighting, upcycled wood, bare brick walls and vintage ephemera.
Pastels. Will be big in 2016 especially since Pantone have declared Serenity (baby blue) and Rose Quartz (baby pink) will be the colours of the year. How you use them is a matter of choice but my prediction is that they will be combined a lot with the Scandinavian trend above. Too many pastels together will give a nursery look, but used in moderation with lots of white and pale wood they can produce a very calming and sophisticated look.
Metallics. Copper has been a big trend for a couple of years now and it doesn’t look as if it’s going away. In fact it’s being joined by brass in a big way. Yes, it’s okay to mix metals but stick to warm metals – any with a hint of gold. They make fantastic accent colours, make statement lighting stand out, and mix with any of the trends above.
This winter we need some cosy colour and pattern on the chilly, grey days to warm our homes, lift our spirits and have some fun. We love naturals but pops of colour make everything glow. Think of colour on your floors like wearing jewellery – crisp white diamonds might be the traditional Christmas sparkle but kaleidoscopic jewels bring a welcome cheer this time of year.
The January issue of House & Garden is devoted to Winter Living but there is no sight of white on the cover. Instead, we see the colourful Bloomsbury flat of Ben Pentreath.
Here are our tops tips for colour and pattern play this Christmas.
- Pattern pops
Fair Isle by Margo Selby for Alternative Flooring is like having your favourite Christmas jumper carpet your floors. This vibrant pattern makes punchy runner for hallways and stairs against snowy white boards. White or other light neutrals allow the eye to take a breather from all that pattern goodness, and can add to the depth of a space.
- Pattern Pace
Like our lives, our homes need a change of pace. Living spaces can take colourful patterns with verve but bedrooms are places for softer shades and nature-inspired designs just like Quirky B Daisy by Ashley Hicks or Geo honeycomb in duck egg. Both are beautiful to wake up to.
- Pattern partners
Spread pattern through rooms by combining different patterns in the same tone or use one pattern in two shades that complement each other. Ben Pentreath for Alternative Flooring has designed three designed with a linking geometric theme.
‘I wanted each carpet to relate to one another – meaning, perhaps, that you could move from pattern to pattern in a project, but with a common unifying theme. Some patterns we wanted to be very rich other colours wanted to be much more neutral.’ Ben Pentreath
- Practical Pattern
Alternative Flooring’s distinctive Quirky B patterned carpet is not just stylish but practical. Patterns don’t show marks while wool is both soft and strong. Little wonder the whole nation is warming to the comfort of wool carpet and the joy of pattern.
’I love pattern, and especially on the floor. It gives instant character and vitality to a space, as well as usefully hiding marks and damage (as a father, I know about that!)’ Ashley Hicks
This season’s buzzword and also the clever title of a new book – ‘Patternity a new way of seeing: the inspirational power of pattern’. Here are pattern-related images from a myriad of sources across the worlds of fashion and interiors to art, architecture and science, food and drink to technology and education – juxtaposed in an uplifting tome that will cheer up anyone’s Christmas.
‘Patterns are something we come across every day. We wear theme, we walk wear them, we walk over them, we even eat, drink and think them – we always have and we always will.’
If you like to read more about colour and pattern on floors go here….
Alternative Flooring is a member of Britain’s Coolest Club – the 2015/16 CoolBrands, where innovation, originality, authenticity and desirability are just some of the cool qualities that count.
Here are a few highlights from an interview that Lorna Haigh, the head of creative and marketing at Alternative Flooring, gave to a special CoolBrands supplement in The Observer about what it means for this great British brand to be cool right now.
With a spark of curiosity that inspires flooring to be different, Alternative Flooring is an award-winning brand that embraces a creative spirit and unconventional thinking.
What qualities do you believe your brand has that bestows the quality of ‘cool’ on the business?
We like blue-sky thinking and have always thought differently about flooring. To be frank as a niche business our brand is a true ‘outlier’ a maverick and a bit quirky. We are original and want to break the mold, shake it up a little or preferably a lot – always with a cheeky grin though.
Quirky B, Tetra, Ben Pentreath for Alternative Flooring
Have you actively cultivated those ‘cool’ attributes, or do you believe they have come about organically?
With a name like ‘Alternative Flooring’ we are expected to think outside the box and our customers assume that we will pursue and court ‘cool’. It is a difficult line to tread and trying too hard can work against you; so we work with really cool British designers, photographers and stylists to create amazing ‘now’ images.
Quirky B, Chainmail, Ashley Hicks for Alternative Flooring
Interior trends like fashion are constantly changing and we have to be at the forefront of what is new and exciting. Flooring is a big-ticket item and every image has to be inspirational and aspirational.
Quirky B, Fair Isle. Margo Selby for Alternative Flooring
Given the ever-evolving consumer landscape, how do you stay ahead of the game when it comes to cool’ status?
Innovation and ‘tone of voice’ is key. A failure to innovate and provide ‘the same old’ is death to coolness and talking to your consumer in the wrong way ‘old hat’ is a real turn off. We question what we do constantly; we look to good functionality and add a twist. We try and apply this thought process to all aspects of our business.
Make Me A Rug – design your own rug online, literally thousands of cool combinations
In the past year, what have you as a business done to achieve and maintain ‘cool’ status?
We’ve collaborated with some amazing designers, the queen of weave, Margo Selby, interior design icon Ashley Hicks and our latest collaborator the celebrated and very cool interior and architectural designer Ben Pentreath.
Ben has looked to traditional stone tile work designs going back to the 1800’s and applied these to contemporary carpet. It’s amazing how fresh and modern these look. Gorgeous impactful British design.
Quirky B, Lattice, Ben Pentreath for Alternative Flooring
Where will the next 12 months take you in terms of continuing to cultivate the cool reputation of your brand?
There is so much to be excited about! Innovation is king in terms of product, pattern and colour but also digital innovation is vital. The consumer wants to engage with brands and enjoy the experience of buying. So we are going to make it fun and tell our stories.
Can a business (still) call the shots in terms of reputation management, and ultimately cool status, in this era of social media and consumer-driven conversation.
Transparency is key. No one or brand is perfect and it is always how you respond which is critical. Honesty and integrity is always respected no matter how cool you are – you have to keep your authentic voice.
Fine Lines, Wool Blocstripe
Alternative Flooring is refashioning floors and making people feel passionate about what they walk on. Its innovative and authentic voice starts conversations about natural fibre and wools that explore unusual textures, vibrant pattern and punchy colours on carpets, rugs and runners to provide feel good flooring for the cool home.
Bridgette Kelly, Interior Textiles Director, Campaign for Wool (CfW)
Bridgette Kelly is also a Campaign for Wool Consultant at The British Wool Marketing Board.
Bridgette is at the helm of projects that encourage people to embrace this special fibre. For interiors, she showcases wool as a lifestyle fibre, making it look as beautiful as it possible and as practical as any fibre in the world.
The wonderful thing about Wool Week is that every year there is always something a little ‘alternative’ about it! This October The Campaign for Wool will mark its sixth successful year with its annual ‘Wool Week’. Taking place from the 5th – 11th, Wool Week will celebrate everything woolly with a Savile Row launch and a pop up interiors exhibition, Capsu Wool, from the 5th October.
Each year we – as in the Campaign for Wool (CfW) team – endeavour to create a series of events that make people see and experience wool in an exciting and inclusive way. Our aim is always to inspire and educate – and this year is certainly going to do that!
Wool Week would never be complete without sheep and we have two flocks appearing on Savile Row – this is a return visit for the CfW to the dashing home of sartorial good taste and one which we know will draw the crowds. ‘Sheep on the Row’ is open for one day only – Monday 5th – and will see the proud Exmoor Horns and lovely Bowmont sheep breeds grazing on real grass laid especially for them. No doubt they will be curious as to why people stare at them so but they are the indisputable stars of our wool story after all!
A number of beautiful wool attired models will add a little extra interest to the day and the Savile Row Tailors themselves will host various open-door events. It will be an extraordinary experience to see the transformation from cityscape to woolly wonderland!
Not far way at 4, Clifford Street, we are hosting our ‘Wool Open House’, which houses the fantastic Capsu-Wool interiors pop-up. Small and stylish with a nod to the bespoke and a very cool colour palette – we are exploring wool in a compact space. Neatly divided in to two areas – there is a tailored masculine study neatly offset by a fresh and feminine lounge.
Our Carpet Art feature celebrates great patterns in carpet and includes the wonderful Ben Pentreath for Alternative Flooring collection – it is fantastic to see wool carpet designs that can deservedly be the statement piece in the home!
Quirky B, Lattice in Flitcroft, Ben Pentreath for Alternative Flooring
I really love that people are excited about pattern and colour again – what better way to make your home special and unique. But another top interior trend is authenticity – Barefoot by Alternative Flooring with its deep luxury pile, in 100% natural undyed wool is absolutely gorgeous.
I am thrilled to have pieces from Margo Selby on display at Capsu-Wool – handwoven artworks and the Sierra rug, because I always say that the wool business is about passion, skills and commitment – and Margo has all of that! She has evolved a beautiful collection of woven products and partnerships that rightly recognise her design talent, training and technical abilities.
Hand-woven Lampas and Sierra Rug by Margo Selby
Wallace Sewell cushions
Colour and texture unite this installation with fabulous fabrics and furnishings expertly styled by Arabella McNie (Wool House, Wool Collection) but it is wool with its impressive natural diversity that is the single defining story here.
Designers Guild Tulipani Throw in Graphite
Capsu-Wool is a Wool Week must-see and its open from 5th – 9th October, 10am – 7pm, and admission is free.
Other things – we have knitting and craft workshops from Tuesday to Friday with some great experts – Marie Wallin, R&B, Craft Revolution and Wool & the Gang and we are also running a TwinSpin promotion to encourage people to take up hand-spinning. We will pair them with a Twin to teach them spinning in their locality. Woolly Hat Day on Friday is in support of the Mission to Seafarers – who still wear a lot of wool! Wear your woolly hat with pride!
Wool was perhaps not seen as an exciting fibre when HRH The Prince of Wales launched this Campaign in 2010 but quietly it has always been the natural, sustainable superstar of the textile world. It has amazing performance capability – and will last longer and look better than any other fibre. This Wool Week – I hope you decide to choose wool!
Ben Pentreath is an interior and architectural designer, shopkeeper, author and journalist. From his two design studios in the heart of London’s Bloomsbury, Ben works on a huge variety of buildings. He is renowned for his fresh approach to classical and traditional design and injects a strong use of colour and pattern into his interiors.
Pentreath & Hall, which Ben co-founded with Artist and Maker Bridie Hall, is one of the liveliest and most written about small shops in London.
Ben has written three books of which the best known is ‘English Decoration’, published to acclaim by Ryland Peters & Small in 2012. His new book, ‘English Houses’, will follow in 2016.
Alternative Flooring is delighted to announce Ben Pentreath as its new carpet collaborator.
Quirky B, Cube in Webb, Ben Pentreath for Alternative Flooring
Quirky B, Lattice in Flitcroft, Ben Pentreath for Alternative Flooring
Quirky B, Tetra in Archer, Ben Pentreath for Alternative Flooring
“Pattern is back” declare a million and one design magazines this summer – and, certainly, visiting the September Maison&Objet fair in Paris this week, geometrical and three-dimensional pattern-making is, as they say, ‘bang on trend’. The lovely people at Alternative Flooring and I can, I suppose, breathe a sigh of relief when our new range of carpet patterns are launched at Decorex this month. I think we’ve got it just about right for the moment…
But isn’t it a funny process how we design things? None of that was intentional. Over at Pentreath & Hall, the interiors shop that I run with my collaborator, decorative artist and maker Bridie Hall, we began to think about designs for a new range of wrapping paper a few years back now. And for inspiration, Bridie and I had both (separately) turned to one of the books that I use a lot in our architectural practice – Batty Langley’s Treasury of Designs, published in 1740.
We’d both been drawn to a similar series of engraved patterns for stone floors that Langley had designed, using three or four different colours of marble or stone to create a rich effect of three-dimensional tromp-l’oeil. If, like me, your idea of holiday fun is trekking around Venetian or Roman buildings, you’ll find these geometrical floors all over 16th and 17th century classical and Baroque churches and Palazzi. They made an easy import into the heady, vibrant world of early Georgian England – where colour, pattern and texture abounded in eyewatering shades and intensity – today’s world is very dull by comparison. Batty Langley – the eccentrically named architect who was ultimately more famous for his influential books than for his buildings – did more than anyone else to propulgate and popularise this energetic classical language. His books spread like wildfire through the ranks of humble craftsmen, joiners, stonemakers and carpenters – and no town in England is without details and doorcases pulled directly from Batty’s manual.
Bridie and I selected four of Batty’s patterns and went through a long process of manipulating and colouring the designs. Then started production – finding great English printers, selecting weights of paper, running colour tests, and finally agreeing to print enough sheets of wrapping paper to fill up both of our houses for several years to come. The whole process took months – in fact, well over a year from our first chat to finally having twelve paper patterns on the rack.
A year ago, I was asked by Alternative to collaborate on a range of carpets for their already well-established ‘QuirkyB’ line. It didn’t take long to realise what I wanted to do. Batty’s patterns had come off the floor, and I wanted to put them straight back. The process was not unlike the patterned papers – although with the reassuring presence of Alternative Flooring to hold my hand along the way. First, we needed to consider the scale of the pattern – large enough to have impact, and for the three-dimensional trompe-l’oeil to work… small enough not to completely do your head in.
That established, we embarked on the colouring process, which itself was quite complex – needing to respond to the very specific wools that Alternative have set up on their looms at the factory in Wilton (not far from where I live, down in South-West England, which always makes me happy when I drive past). We took forward three of the Langley patterns and coloured each in four different colourways. I wanted each carpet to relate to one another – meaning, perhaps, that you could move from pattern to pattern in a project, but with a common unifying theme – and several of these had to be worked on a few times until I was happy that the balance of colours was just right. Some patterns we wanted to be very rich (and I rejoiced in the fact that Alternative had some toffee and brown colours that are really 70s in feel…); other colours wanted to be much more neutral.
Finally, the terrifying moment when you see the first large-scale piece of carpet in a room set – ready for my portrait to be taken. I stared, and blinked. The pattern was intense, in a way that set my heart racing. It looked absolutely beautiful, and we’re getting our office boardroom carpeted with some of that first carpet to run off the mills right now.
And in terms of the zeitgeist – I thought… yes, this is good. But I take even more comfort in knowing that there’s something a little bit Georgian, and a little bit 1970s in my carpet patterns. Because most importantly of all, I think this means that they might just stand the test of time – and that’s the only test I’m really interested in.
Ben Pentreath for Alternative Flooring launches on Alternative Flooring Stand C21 at Decorex, 20 – 23 September, 2015. www.decorex.com/exhibitors/alternative-flooring