A leading figure of the British Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris (1834-1896) produced more than 50 wallpaper patterns. While the designs have never gone out of production, they are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. It’s not surprising, given our current proclivity for more-is-more maximalism, cottagecore, and maker-made items. (Morris denounced industrialism’s role in suppressing craft.) Plus, his stylized designs are rooted in nature. (He was a conservationist, too.)
“As an architect, William Morris focused on bringing nature into interiors,” says Oren Sherman, a designer at Elkus Manfredi Architects, “so conceptually his designs are right on trend and feeling fresh again.”
What Makes Morris Wallpaper Work?
“His designs have a kaleidoscopic effect — like a large-scale mosaic from afar, but the intricacies of the designs draw you in for closer examination,” Jen Dulac says.
“Once I tell a client that these patterns and colorways were produced in the same era as their house was built, they seem to find a sense of freedom, no longer restrained by the boring preconception that old homes call for neutral palettes,” Mattye Dewhirst says.
“The patterns are easy to understand because they’re both architectural and organic; they follow a grid and they flow,” says Oren Sherman. “They are repeat patterns, but so beautifully engineered it’s hard to spot. That’s the artistry.”
“The historical background associated with William Morris designs leaves people feeling comfortable that they have staying power without having to sacrifice a bit of whimsy,” says designer Sara Deane, who used Bellflowers in her dining room.
In this Arts and Crafts period Dorchester home, designer Dane Austin used the Honeysuckle & Tulip design. “The importance of preservation and a longing for a greater connection to nature is at the forefront of our collective minds,” Austin says about renewed interest in the brand.
Becky Carbone mixed airy prints with the Strawberry Thief wallpaper. The pattern, originally designed as a fabric, was inspired by the birds in Morris’s kitchen garden in Oxfordshire.
Kristine Paige of Jackson Paige Interiors used the Arbutus design at Stonover Farm inn, which is in a 130-year-old building in Lenox.
“I feel like I’m in a garden, even in the dead of winter,” says Monica Rogan, owner of Goodnow Farms Chocolate, about her Sudbury home office designed by Linda Weisberg. The wallpaper is Blackthorn, designed in 1892.