We are lucky enough to have our design studio located in the heart of South Kensington. This area boasts some of the best museums within some of London’s most beautiful buildings. The Victoria & Albert Museum is a long time Firmdale favourite with its treasure trove of ceramics, furniture, sculpture, textiles and paintings, some dating back to over 3000 years ago. It is the world’s largest creative hub of history and inspiration.
One visit is never enough with a labyrinth of corridors, corners, nooks and exhibitions to explore. On my most recent visit I found myself being drawn towards the Asia region, marvelling at the the influence these ancient forms have on design in the present day – particularly the textiles.
The below piece of decorated cloth is from the Mughal Empire (the early 16th to the mid-18th century), where floral motifs developed into a dominant decorative form. Court painters were influenced by illustrations from European books containing scientific drawings and classifications of herbs and flowers. This single stem bloom design reminded me of our beautiful ‘Tasha’s Trip’ fabric we designed for Christopher Farr. This is a perfect representation of how the past still inspires present day designs, but also how over time the East and West have simultaneously had an influence on one another.
The below Indian silk embroidered textiles jumped out at me as I walked past their shimmering threads. These were often made for the British market and had to appeal to the tastes of the customer, so they were made with vivacious colours and luxury materials. I love their ornate yet delicate form.
We love to use a mix of the old and new, letting pieces of antiquity add character and depth whilst new designs add comfort and familiarity. At Ham Yard Hotel we have framed antique Indian textiles in Perspex display boxes to create low rising room dividers between dining tables. This subtle division helps to create a cosseting feel without intruding on the overall balance and scale of the room.
The Rotunda sculpture by Chihuly was created in 2001 in Seattle and draws on the traditional Murano glasswork techniques used in Venice. I was instantly mesmerised by its form and vibrant colours glistening in the daylight.
Its wispy undulating arms have a nautical sense and reminded me of our Turnell & Gigon ‘Pop-Up’ Caribbean Suite. The coral embroidery on the headboard emulated a similar shape, movement and texture to the hanging sculpture.
This horse and camel are from the Chinese Tan dynasty. Made in earthenware and glaze, they are an impressive size for their time and would have been made using several moulded parts, most of them hollow. I love their expression and how you can see real personality in their faces. In the Orangery at Ham Yard Hotel, similar figures stand proudly throughout the room adding warmth, character and cheerfulness to the space with their gentle smiles.
Below is another furry friend I stumbled upon whilst walking through the 1760-1900 era of British history. It is a sculpture of a handsome and beloved Newfoundland dog named Bashaw who belonged to the Earl of Dudley. Bashaw was his favourite pet and so no expense was spared in the making of this sculpture, with materials such as coloured marbles, topaz, black lava and bronze all used.
At Firmdale we have an equal love of dogs and they are often found in our designs. At Crosby Street Hotel, Justine Smith’s dog sculptures are covered with old Beano comics, warmly greeting guests as they arrive – they really are man’s best friend! Read more about how we have incorporated dogs into our designs.
Below are some postcards I collected on my visit of my favourite pieces that I saw. The birds in the centre are a snippet of a cotton and silk embroidered wall hanging from Gujarat which reminded me of our close affinity to birds. In particular, I was reminded of our Rockin’ Robin collection for Porta Romana where little birds perch on branch frames and peep through beautiful glowing eggs.
We hope this blog encourages you to get out and about exploring some museums, you’re guaranteed to leave feeling inspired!