Peter Hall’s reissued ‘Verdure’ fabric. Photograph courtesy of Winter’s Moon
By Hilary Light
Mid-century pattern: a testament to its allure
The endurance of mid-century colour and pattern is testament to its allure. From atomic design to the organic flora and fauna of 1960s flower power, there are many inspirations to take from the mid-century period, and plenty of offerings today from celebrated brands such as Liberty and Marimekko.
There is a strong market nowadays not only for original design, but for ‘mid-century modern’ interpretations. Click onto the Fired Earth website, for example, and you’ll discover paints named ‘South Bank’ and ‘Festival Orange’ referencing this era of creative expression. Brands are looking to their archives and collections for period inspiration. British brand Wild and Wolf recently did just that with the V&A, applying Sylvia Chalmers’ ‘Palamos’ and David Parsons’ ‘Kite Strings’ 1950s designs to homewares with great success.
Meanwhile, individuals are actively seeking out and re-issuing designs in new mid-century-inspired colourways, such as vintage brand Winter’s Moon, who recently reissued Peter Hall’s ‘Verdure’ fabric, originally designed for Heal’s in 1965, or the Sheila Bownas Archive, who since 2008 have set about re-printing a selection of the 200 original patterns by the little-known 1950s designer (as featured in MidCentury 05).
‘Dandelion Clocks’ by Sanderson
Mid-century pattern: the spirit of Modernism
The reality is that many interiors in the 1940s and ’50s, especially in Britain, were dull and uninspiring. But the designs that did encompass this spirit of Modernism continue to capture our imagination. So why are we still so interested in these patterns today? There are many factors at play: the intrinsic quality of some mid-century design is certainly one, but also involved are nostalgia, the collectability of these designs, as well as the quantity of designs from the 1950s and ’60s available as baby boomers of this era downsize and new designers come to light.
Perhaps also a factor is the all-encompassing way in which pattern was applied. It wasn’t just confined to interiors, graphic design or fashion but extended to architecture. Designs made bold use of contrasting, sometimes clashing, colours and popular themes such as cutlery, fruit and animals. The apparent simplicity and pleasing repetition, together with the impact and scalability of these motifs ensure that these patterns still flourish.
Orla Kiely’s mid-century-inspired stem print, created in 2000, has been released every season since in varying palettes due to demand – a future classic in the making! Likewise, in 2008, quintessentially English brand Sanderson launched their mid-century-influenced design ‘Dandelion Clocks’, which immediately became a best-seller.
The total commitment to pattern in this era is both breathtaking and refreshing. Do we find it easier to relate to pattern and colour than to other aspects of mid-century design? Is it that we can all inject these elements into our homes for little cost? In this respect, mid-century pattern design can be applied to so many everyday items, as it was first conceived to be. At their best, those simple, bright pops of colour and pattern bring unexpected positivity and stimulation to our lives – and who doesn’t fancy a piece of that?
This article was first published in MidCentury issue 08
There’s more from Hilary Light on her blog ecomodernstudios