Wednesday, October 3, 2012

British Butterflies

Great Britain has received a lot of attention lately… from last year’s royal wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and, of course, the 2012 Summer Olympics.  And hopefully all this worldwide media will also draw attention to the plight of British butterflies.
Watercolor of Daphne mezereum with Butterfly by 18th-century artist Georg D. Ehret
from the Victoria and Albert Museum permanent collection
The populations of almost all British butterflies started to decline significantly after World War II, mainly due to habitat loss and the greater use of pesticides.  And despite decades of successful conservation efforts, even small changes in the environment, like this year’s heavy spring rains, can affect the health of Lepidoptera communities in Britain.  Out of the 70 species that live on this island of butterflies, 25 remain in serious danger.
The Fairy Queen Takes an Airy Drive in a Light Carriage,
1870 etching by Richard Doyle, also from the Victoria and Albert Museum
Nina Campbell was born at the very end of World War II.  She began her career in interior decorating and retail, training with legend John Fowler, while still a teenager.  By 22, she had established her own business.  Today, she epitomizes both the history and future of British design.  Her interiors are traditional and infinitely livable.  And she happens to love butterflies… for their prettiness as decorative motifs and the freedom they represent.
Her Farfalla wallpaper is so exquisitely elegant.  Plus it reminds me of all the lovely names for butterfly: farfalla, mariposa, psyche and papillon.  Wouldn’t it be perfect in your dining room?

Replace the hardware on your sideboard with Michael Aram’s Butterfly Knob in gold.
And continue the magic with hand-painted, Filet A Papillons porcelain by Alberto Pinto. 
Dinner Plate

Buffet Plate
Even rice pudding would look divine served with candy butterflies from Sugar Robot.
About 20 years ago, as a young mother and homemaker, Vanessa Arbuthnott could not find or afford what she wanted in fabric.  So she started printing her own.  And today, her home business has grown into a full line of textiles, rugs and furniture.  Her company is still firmly rooted in the local community and includes an art gallery that supports regional artists.  She is influenced by nature, Asian and Scandinavian traditions and the fabulously fun fabrics that came out of Britain in the mid-20th century.

Butterfly Dance in pigeon and charcoal
Her hand-printed Butterfly Dance really harkens back to these vintage designs and would wear well in a family room as draperies or accent upholstery.  Add lamps from the 1950s or 60s.
Vintage lamps from Yew Tree House Antiques
Detail of lamp
This quirky pair with cattails and gold butterflies is available at Yew Tree House Antiques.
And Sori Yanagi's Butterfly Stool looks as fresh today as when it first manufactured in 1954.  Design Within Reach offers reproductions in curved rosewood.
Consider Butterfly Dance in brick for your kitchen, maybe as café curtains or to line cabinet doors.  I think the slightly imperfect, block-printed pattern would look great with Arthur Court’s Butterfly accessories.
Nut Bowl
Arthur Court studied art design when he returned from World War II.  He settled in San Francisco and opened his first boutique in 1966, initially focusing on interior decoration, importing unusual trinkets and creating his own jewelry.  By the late-1970s, he was making easy-care, sand-cast aluminum dinnerware to suit the trend for more casual entertaining.  Butterfly, inspired by the California-native Mission Blue, is one of Court’s most popular patterns and comes in examples of
Winged Pitcher
aluminum and wood;
Chip and Dip
and aluminum and glass.
Salad Bowl
The company is now run by Arthur’s daughter and remains a local family business, committed to the San Francisco community, protecting endangered Western environments and producing pretty and practical serving pieces.  You can purchase Arthur Court online at The Silver Gallery, which just happens to be based here in Virginia.

And instead of those ubiquitous glass pendant lights, try Mixko’s Delight lampshades, made from organic wool felt.  Mixko was a collaboration by artists Nahoko Koyama and Alex Garnett.  Although the partnership has ended, you can still purchase their lighting through NOA Design or Etsy.
Delight Lacie

Delight Belle

And finally, round out this cheerful mix of reds, silvers and browns with a stack of Engraved Butterfly dishtowels from Anthropologie.
Flora and Fauna in duck egg and denim
Vanessa’s Flora and Fauna is sweet and sophisticated.  The summery combination of duck egg and denim feels like a perpetual weekend.  Possibly at a Gustavian country house?  Pair it with Canopy Designs’ delicate Butterfly and Blossom Chandelier and Julian Chichester’s two-seater Butterfly Settee.
Butterfly and Blossom Chandelier
Butterfly Settee
I’m a fool for Flora and Fauna in rabbit and damson.  First – because I adore earthy, creamy taupes with red, especially a plumy-pink-red.  And second – rabbit and damson are just the perfect names.  I immediately imagine these warm, luscious colors that make everyone and everything glow.  This is a beautiful fabric for a master bedroom.
Play up the brown with Butterfly Seas 1 and 2 from Natural Curiosities...
Butterfly Seas 1
Butterfly Seas 2
and a duo of Caracole’s Social Butterfly Chairs.
Social Butterfly Chair in silver leaf
Detail of chair in champagne
Both Butterfly Dance and Flora and Fauna are printed on a blend of organically-raised cotton and flax linen.  Flora and Fauna is also available as wallpaper.
Rapture and Wright designs another wonderful fabric with hints of tan and red.
Birds and Butterflies in grenadine
Rebecca Aird and Peter Thwaites, partners in life and business, established Rapture and Wright in 2002.  And their goal has been the same from the start: to create home furnishings and textiles that are 100% British.  Designs are conceived and hand-printed in their studio... on cloth that is woven in the U.K.... from suppliers, including growers and furniture makers, sourced from around the U.K.  Cocoa Sofa is a very recent introduction and example of what can be accomplished with a relatively-small carbon footprint.
Of course, it’s interesting that they chose butterflies as part of the decoration.

Birds and Butterflies, in green, is crisp and contemporary as well as naturally simple.  In some ways, it looks back to centuries of gorgeous British craft but also thinks to the future and what we want our lives to be.

Birds and Butterflies in green

Aesthetic Movement, woodblock-printed wallpaper,
designed by Bruce J. Talbert, printed by Jeffrey and Co. in 1875,
from the Victoria and Albert Museum
Plus it’s just fantastically graphic.  Use it in a place you enjoy every day.  What about a long bench cushion in the foyer?  Or floor-to-ceiling draperies in your home office?  It looks stunning with this antique, Art Nouveau, Rorstrand vase that’s been converted into a lamp;
The original, wonderfully glazed vase was designed by Swedish artist Alf Wallander and produced by Rorstrand.
It is available at H.M. Luther in New York City.
Detail of lamp
the Fly Away tufted wool rug by Company C;
Fly Away in driftwood
and Diane Paparo’s Sculpted Stool with that big butterfly joint in ebony.
Vanessa and Rebecca and Peter share a lot in common.  Both companies have most of their fabrics woven in Scotland.  They both collaborate with Lucy Rose Design to distribute their lines in America.  And perhaps, most important of all, they live and work in the mainly rural county of Gloucestershire, in southwest England, near Wales.  Gloucestershire is perhaps best known for its charming Cotswolds villages and important gardens like Hidcote, and, as you may have guessed, the area hosts over 40 species of butterflies.

Butterflies have long symbolized hope and happiness and rejuvenation.  So they seem appropriate emblems for Britain’s recent renaissance.  You can learn more about British butterflies at Butterfly Conservation.

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