From the places we live, to the places we socialise, almost every room we enter will feature pattern as part of its interior design. Whether that be from a beautiful designer rug or something less obvious like the carved edge of a mahogany table. However, rarely do we give thought to where these designs originate from; the place, the time, and how their meaning has evolved over the years. Here is a small insight into of some of the most popular patterns in interior design and the fascinating stories behind them.
Cushions from Morris & Co
Perhaps most famously, the thistle is known as the Scottish national emblem and stands alongside the motto ‘no one harms me without punishment’. Although not often regarded as the most attractive of flowers, the popularity of the thistle as an artistic subject was hugely boosted by its use in the work of William Morris. As one of the leading designers in the Arts and Crafts movement of the industrial revolution, Morris had a huge impact on the direction interior design would take in the following decades. Even today, his work not only continues to inspire, but his famous wallpaper and fabric prints are still available for sale through the family business.
Fleur de Lis
The Fluer de Lis has strong connotations with the French Monarchy, but in fact the roots of this design run far deeper. As the name suggests, the shape of the Fleur de Lis evolved from a stylized lilly or iris. Its earliest discovery was in an image of a God from the ancient city of Nineveh in roughly 1000BC, forming a ‘square horned cap’. The motif traversed the continents, becoming popular in Europe in the Middle ages as a symbol of the Virgin Mary. In current times, the Fluer is not only found in Frances royal coat of arms, but is used in furnishings across the globe to channel the spirit of elegance and majesty.
The endlessly turning line of the Greek Key motif is known to many as a symbol of eternity, unity and love. It has no beginning and no end. The design dates back to ancient Greek civilisation, and was hugely important to the Greek culture, often being used on marriage gifts and symbolic items. Today, it’s popularity is arguably more appearance based, with its simple geometry giving an aesthetic that is both modern and timeless. This motif can be found on one of the beautiful designer rugs by Bazaar Velvet, as shown above.
As one of the most regal birds of the animal kingdom, the peacock has been held in high esteem for thousands of years. They are as proud as they are beautiful, and for some cultures their feathers are a symbol of the Guru and immortality. Their gorgeously decorative details and symmetry, alongside mesmerising jewel colours, made them irresistible to the romantic leanings of those involved in the Art Nouveau movement, and soon peacock feathers featured everywhere from stained glass lampshades to embroidered textiles.
Living Room by Turner Pocock Design
Hounds-tooth was originally known as type of weave rather than a pattern, with the threads creating a subtle small-scale design. The name is a reflection of its jagged shapes said to resemble the locked jaws of a hunting dog. Its first wearers were likely to be shepherds in the Scottish Highlands. This was due not only to its warmth, but it’s effectiveness in camouflaging any grubbiness. However, rather ironically, due its favour with Edward Duke of Windsor, it became popular among the high classes. Now it is not only a widespread suiting material, but is often used as upholstery. Furthermore, many designers have injected a sense of fun into the traditional Hounds-tooth by using its pattern as a large-scale print applied to a number of textiles.
The Quatrefoil holds cultural significance for many reasons. This mainly surrounds the connotations of the number four; the four elements, the four cardinal points, the four seasons. It is often found in religious buildings perhaps due to its appearance as a rounded cross. Furthermore, the Quatrefoil features heavily in gothic architecture- its balance and symmetry lending itself to becoming the basis of columns and windows, as well as smaller decorative features. These characteristics also create tantalising advantages in numerous forms of design including textiles, perhaps to create repetitive patterns or a create a frame for other motifs.
This iconic Indian design has a more complicated past than many would imagine. Found in their hand knotted rugs and textiles, it isn’t clear exactly what organic form this shape was based on. Some say a petal, an onion… but either way there is no questioning its vast appeal. The name ‘Paisley’ is in fact an English word. This came to pass due to the enormous popularity of the Indian Cashmere shawl in late 18th to early 19th Century Britain. So high was demand for this attractive but expensive item, they began to be produced in Scotland, in a town named Paisley. Interestingly the word became not only a reference of the design but also of the garment itself.
- Textiles Designs, Susan Meller and Joost Elffers, Paperback Edition Published by