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tapestry greenery William Morris

Tapestry Greenery, 1892 by William Morris.

Nineteenth century textile art designer William Morris created  organic and decorative home décor using a natural palette. How can you apply his principles?

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From 1860 to 1910, the Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic movements began to counter the shift towards industrial efficiency that seemed to be taking over the world. As more and more objects were created for our homes through the use of machinery in factories, rather than by hand, there was an artistic backlash.

Interior designers and architects began to employ more organic shapes and images in their work, and this forever changed the way that we decorated our homes. In this article, we’ll explore the influence of the English designer William Morris and his impact on modern home design, especially when it comes to area rugs and soft furnishings.

A new era in interior design

The English design leader William Morris, who lived from 1834 to 1896, was one of the instigators of the Arts and Crafts movement. It was Morris who began to place a greater emphasis on a design alignment between textiles, wallpapers, tapestries, and soft furniture in each room in a home.

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Original design for Trellis wallpaper by William Morris, 1862.

Before Morris, in the Georgian and early Victorian eras, there was more of a focus on buying individual objects that represented a refined taste. Morris’ aesthetic, on the other hand, stressed that the home was to be a refuge away from the world of work and the influence of business in one’s daily life, which meant that bringing the colors and textures of fabrics together was meant to relax the mind and body at one time.

More commercial ventures

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William Morris’ Design for “Tulip and Willow” (1873)

The work of Morris spilled over into the artistic expression of other designers, but also of more commercial ventures after the success of Morris’ own wallpapers in both Europe and North America.

These designs included some of the simple forms and repetitive floral designs that were one of the standards of the Arts and Crafts style. As well, in Morris’ work, both construction and decorative forms needed to be inspired by linear plant and animal images, but also influenced by historical Asian and North African design concepts.

A better connection between quality and design

The focus of Morris’ influence in interior design at the end of the nineteenth century meant that décor became grounded in its function and its materials, and that the physical construction design of each piece needed to be of greater importance than its decorative design.

In this era, there was also the means of creating textiles and carpets more quickly than in the past, ensuring that these household objects could be consumed on a more widespread basis than even before. At the end of the nineteenth century, carding machines were now able to create textiles for furniture and for wall hangings, which were a popular alternative to wallpaper during this age, very quickly and inexpensively.

Morris for a modern age

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William Morris’ “Snakeshead” printed textile (1876)

The influence of William Morris designs continues to the present day. We not only see his work in contemporary interpretations of floral area rugs and textiles, but also in new geometric textile patterns that build on his love of repetition and lines, deeply natural color palettes, and modern materials.

If you want to create a home that is inspired by the work of William Morris but isn’t dated or kitschy, think about bringing nature into your space. Draw on the rich reds and oranges of rhododendrons or peonies, the blues of a still lake or a sunset, and the greens and browns of a quiet forest. Create a space in which bold but nuanced colors are balanced by neutrals. Add texture through the use of different types of textiles on your floors, your walls, and using pillows and rugs as soft accents throughout your home.

Changed the way we think about textile design

The English textile and furniture designer William Morris changed the way that we thought about design during the industrial revolution, and his work continues to have an impact on how we view the interiors of our homes today.

He took the best of new forms of production, bringing quality to mind, but balanced this with a new focus on natural colors, shapes, and styles. In your home, you can explore this style of design by adding layers of textiles wherever you want to feel comfort. Relax in style, and make your home more organic and decorative through the use of textile art.

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Lisa Michelle

Lisa Michelle is an editor, lifestyle writer, and novelist. She’s also an avid traveler, lover of animals, and admitted Anglophile.