In advance of the launch of Harlequin’s The Book of Little Treasures collection on 23 July, Emily chatted to Becky Brown, the collection’s designer.
Becky has been designing Harlequin wallpaper and fabric for 14 years and has designed lots of children’s collections in this time. The Book of Little Treasures is especially close to her heart as it is the first children’s collection she has designed since becoming a mum herself. (She has two daughters, Pippa who has just turned 5 and Evelyn, 2.) The new collection is made up of stunning new designs as well as incorporating some of Harlequin’s best-selling children’s designs from previous collections.
What is the inspiration behind the new collection?
As a working mum life is extremely busy. The time I get with the kids is precious; at the end of the day we love relaxing together, reading stories or playing and having heart to heart conversations. A child’s bedroom or playroom is their own sanctuary; it is so important to have a special place that they love, a place that allows their imaginations to run wild, where you can create stories together and they can go on imaginative adventures. This is the inspiration for the new Harlequin kids’ collection. The magic of imagination that celebrates both the real and the imaginary world around us.
How did you create the collection’s feature panels?
We have two striking wallpaper mural panels within Harlequin’s Book of Little Treasures:Life’s a Circus and Above and Below. Both panels are hand drawn to scale and are incredibly detailed. Every time you look at the designs you find something that you haven’t seen before. I worked closely with an illustrator to create some of the characters and brought them to life by using hand painted collage as well as fine detailed painting with gouache.
Above and Below is inspired by the need for us to look after our planet and in particular our seas and oceans. It is full of the beautiful hidden treasures that we need to protect and preserve for generations to come. The design also has sentimental value to me, I was 8 months pregnant with my second child while I was creating it!
Above and Below takes you away on a big adventure. I can spend hours looking at this wallpaper with my children. We love playing a game of I-Spy, finding fishing nets, a majestic whale, little fish gathering around in a swirl, jellyfish dancing slowly towards the surface. There are deep sea divers, sea turtles, a discarded old boot and watch out for the snip of that crab!
The inspiration for Life’s a Circus came from a special day at a funfair with my eldest child. Our imaginations were captivated by the magic of the circus. I just couldn’t wait to put it all down on paper so we could relive the day and let our imaginations run wild. This design is light hearted and full of joyful characters and illustrations bringing the red stripes and bright lights of the Big Top to life. It’s definitely a hit with children of all ages in our house!!
How has having your own children changed your approach to design?
When speaking to other mums and when decorating my own children’s bedrooms, I found there were very few quality products on the market. The designs were either too naive and poor quality/mass produced or too grown up and serious for a children’s room. There was nothing that both my child and I could fall in love with. I have tried to design a collection of decorative fabrics and complementary feature wallpapers that will make both children and adults smile with delight. I wanted to inspire my children and others to live a life full of adventure and fun, to explore their imaginations and to be inspired by the magical stories and characters within the designs.
What I didn’t realise before becoming a mum was how much my own children would inspire me and my imagination, especially when creating these designs. I am one of two designers within the Harlequin studio and we both have two children under five, me and my two girls and Claire with two boys. It’s fair to say that they have had a lot of input in the creation of the collection!
Claire’s youngest is a motor-keen boy, just like his dad. When I was creating the design for Just Keep Trucking which is full of diggers, dumper trucks, tractors and sports cars, Claire showed him the design and his response was, “But where is the motorbike?” So, last minute, I added it in and he’s delighted with it; it now hangs beautifully in his bedroom.
My daughter loves dressing up and getting out her mum’s shoes and trying them on. This inspired the design of World at your Feet. She thinks my shoes are magical – they take her into this imaginary world and she really does have magical moments galore while playing dress up. We even added some glitter to the fabric of World at your Feet which she absolutely loves!
Do you or the children have any particular favourites in the collection?
My children love spending time outdoors and in our garden with their bug catcher. They can spend hours poring over ladybirds, butterflies and insects. So when I was designing the Garden Friends wallpaper, it was very much a joint endeavour. We named all the characters together: Lola the Ladybird, Gary the Grasshopper, Bertie the Beetle, Wanda the Worm etc. My daughter is still doing it. When she finds a new insect she will come up with a wonderful new name!
During Lockdown we have loved going for walks in our local area and counting all the rainbows in the windows; they bring such a smile to the girls’ faces. My youngest is particularly captivated by rainbows now and so she loves the Rainbow Brights wallpaper. It has gained an added poignancy because of the pandemic. It’s so cheerful, she loves singing the song and naming all the colours in the rainbow.
Personally, I particularly love the Away We Go design. I grew up near Southampton so it takes me back to memories of my childhood and visiting the hot air balloon festivals, gazing at all the brightly coloured balloons drifting away among the fluffy white clouds in the big, beautiful blue sky.
How has Lockdown been in your house? Have you done any creative design DIY?
Lockdown in our house has been a good time to stop and re-evaluate but it hasn’t been a relaxing time; we have been juggling home schooling and running around after a toddler!
With the children, more than ever Lockdown has taught me to be resourceful. We have made Jack and the Beanstalks out of old fabric tubes and a life size giant. The following week we turned the Beanstalk into the Hungry Caterpillar by adding some painted paper plates for the body.
One of Pippa’s home school projects was to make an under the sea themed picture. Being inspired by the Above and Below wallpaper, we created a large under the sea mobile from an old hoola hoop which is now hanging in her bedroom.
Do you think the pandemic has changed your design outlook in any way?
Yes definitely. I feel lucky to be a part of a business that creates products that have such a strong emotional effect on people’s lives. Research shows that the home is Number 2 on the list of what affects our happiness, Number 1 being family. The home is our refuge, a place we go to when are upset and to recharge. The amount of time people are spending in their homes due to the pandemic means this is true more so now than ever before.
As a designer and consumer, I can see the importance for people to reflect their own personality in their home and feel connected to the products and brands they buy from. The Little Treasures collection demands an emotional response, it has fun loving designs to evoke old memories and make new ones so it connects with both adults and children.
I think people are also craving the need for outdoor space and greenery, bringing the outdoors into their homes. Hide and Seek is one of our new fabric and wallpaper designs. It takes us away from the town and embraces our new desire to explore the countryside and meadows. Is the best place to be for our wellbeing. This design is full of life everywhere you look, you can play a game of hide and seek spot a furry fox, fluttering butterfly or a blue tit ruffling its feathers at the crack of dawn. There are abundance of wild shrubs and flowers growing with busy bunnies’ hopping and skipping. It definitely brings a smile to my face.
What are you looking forward to this summer?
I’m looking forward to finishing our own new bedroom refurb. We have been busily painting in the evenings while the kids are in bed. We have just had our bathroom done which has been a total transformation. It feels like we are staying in a boutique hotel in our own house!
We are also decorating my youngest bedroom as she will be getting her big girl’s bed this summer. I’m sure there will be arguments over which wallpaper or fabrics they would both like in their bedrooms. They always want the same.
We are also lucky to be going away as a family to a little farm in Wales for a week this summer. I can’t wait for some quality time together, hopefully we can get out in the sunshine and explore a bit of the coast and go for some re- energising walks in the countryside.
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