A friend, who is expecting her first child, rang me recently. She was troubled. “I’m decorating the nursery but I can’t find any fabrics or wallpapers I really like,” sighed B, a savvy businesswoman admired for her equally canny fashion sense. “I hate pink. And I don’t do rabbits.” Relax, I soothed, in response to her first-world problem. Nowadays, there’s no reason to settle for overweight teddies or sugar-almond gingham when you can have a wall-full of retro pineapples or skittering Elizabethan deer. All you need to do is look beyond the high street for individual designer- makers, whose contemporary prints and patterns enchant.
Some of those designer names include rising star Charlotte Gaisford, whose latest nursery collection was inspired by a scrap of lining paper she found in an old chest of drawers. There’s a Beatrix Potter feel to her beautifully drawn, crinolined and basket-toting bunnies but with none of the soppiness that blights less-assured designs. Equally authentic is Gloucestershire-based Rapture & Wright, whose business has burgeoned ‘from a bleak barn’ to create award-winning fabrics.
If it is longevity you are after, interior designer Nicole Salvesen of Salvesen Graham counsels: “We tend to stick to a more mature palette for children’s rooms so that it will last into their teenage years. We love block prints for this reason; Molly Mahon does some really good transitional patterns, which are nicely unisex and a good scale for smaller houses.” In a similar vein, Vanessa Arbuthnott, a mother and now daughters’ business has a one-stop, mix and match range of linens and cottons: think wild flowers, stripes or seashells inspired by Vanessa’s childhood beachcombing holidays. In the same, nostalgic spirit, the fabrics at St Jude’s – a collective of talented artist-designers including Angie Lewin and Jonathan Gibbs – run the gamut of modern Englishness; think leaping hares, Festival of Britain lions and Optical Art abstraction in monochromes or brights. And for more amped-up colour, try award-winning duo Barneby Gates, where vintage type, bugs and butterflies have a bold, graphic feel attuned to both contemporary or traditional schemes.
There is nothing like a wall-full of animals to entrance little minds. At Art of the Loom, a family business stretching back to the 19th century, the latest Serengeti collection of fabrics is adorned with a parade of African wildlife. For mythical beasties, Lindsay Alker’s bestselling Battle Great Wood was inspired by an Elizabethan woodcut. For Celtic wildlife, Scottish newbie Clement Design’s blinds and wallpapers bristle with shaggy Highland cows, deer or bracken in a pleasingly scribbly style, while fellow Scots maker Voyage’s painterly children’s line stretches from safari to arctic Innuits. There are more creatures at wallpaper specialist Jaunty Cocoon, whose strapline ‘Where craft and humour meet’ is embodied in chatty parrots or toucans. At Paperboy Wallpaper, dinosaurs and dragons roam alongside space rockets and fantastical flying machines and are complemented by a new range of cushions and lampshades. Or head to Rosa & Clara, whose flamingos or kitschy pineapple fabrics are printed in Lancashire on deliciously thick cotton and start at an appealing £40 a metre.
If, like my friend B, you really want to stamp your style on your nursery then take a tip from Jane Bonsor of textile company Korla Home. “We love it when clients mix things up. Don’t try to match everything; if everything is the same shade of blue and all the prints are the same it looks too hotel like. Keep the colour palette tight but play wildly with it; it will then look chic but relaxed!”
Korla’s trademark geometric prints look good offset by the retro- car fabric sold by Porcupine Rocks, a well-worth-the-detour London atelier, specialising in hard-to-find, contemporary South African designers like Fabric Nation. Londoner Ella Doran does retro print too, where wallpapers are adorned with bugs or iridescent butterflies inspired by the collections of those botany-mad Victorians.
If all the choice leaves you bewildered, then opt for that perennial: a scattering of stars or moons. Consider Hibou Home’s metallic galaxies or Cole & Son’s ‘Whimsical’ wallpaper. Or embrace Gallic style at Parisian design studio Bartsch, whose ‘Moon Crescent’, glimmering with silvery lunar phases and printed using 19th-century techniques, will captivate for years to come.
Click here to check out the prints!