Join me here in explorations of the places and people who inspire my passion for interiors. I’m always on the hunt for outstanding design, ancient, modern, natural and crafted.





October 30th, 2016


The Fabric of Time: Antico Setificio Fiorentino, Florence’s oldest fabric mill

Tucked in the middle of a Florentine back-street, away from the hustle and bustle of tourists and around a 15 minute stroll from the Ponte Vecchio, lies Antico Setificio Fiorentino, the last mill where silk weaves are still produced in the same way as they were during the Silk Road.

Antico Setificio Fiorentino in the ancient San Frediano neighbourhood

Antico Setificio Fiorentino in the ancient San Frediano neighbourhood

To my delight I discovered a workshop straight out of the 18th Century, with 12 pre-industrial looms, 6 hand looms dating from 1786 and 6 semi-mechanical looms dating from the nineteenth century. In the middle of the eighteenth century, several Florentine noble families made the decision to link their fine fabric designs, detailed patterns, weaving looms, warping machines, and energies into a single silk fabric workshop, today’s Antico Setificio Fiorentino.

12 pre-industrial looms, 6 from 1786 and 6 semi-mechanical from the 19th Century

12 pre-industrial looms, 6 from 1786 and 6 semi-mechanical from the 19th Century

The silk yarn, naturally hand-dyed outside Florence (often to customer-specific requirements) is still sorted and then loaded onto bobbins for the warp and weft of the loom on the premises.

Pre-sorting of the silk for the weft and warp of the looms

Pre-sorting of the silk for the warp and weft of the looms

The machine which then prepares the “warp” (the threads on a loom over and under which other threads (the weft) are passed to make cloth) ready to be transferred onto the looms was in fact designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

Designed by Leonardo Da Vinci himself!

Designed by Leonardo Da Vinci himself!

Intricate designs are made possible using punchcard technology which was later copied to programme computers; IBM used it for its first arithmetic machines. Each noble family had their own pattern, assigned at birth and made possible by the encoding on the punchcards. Supporting all this is an onsite “loom technician”, the equivalent of the modern day “VIP IT support” in the office!

The punch cards control the movement of the heddles and hence the manufacture of the design

The punch cards control the movement of the heddles and hence the manufacture of the design

One of the smallest looms is devoted to the creation of intricate fringes and braids.

Loom producing trimmings

Loom producing trimmings

The result is some of the most densely woven and beautiful fabrics I have seen.. the Broccatelli (with its 3 dimensional feel), the Lampasso, the Turkish satin, the pure silk grosgrain…

Whilst staying true to the traditional designs and methods, the addition of vibrant colours brings a contemporary feel to some of the weaves as tastes evolve.

Vibrant colours bring a more contemporary feel to traditional designs.

Vibrant colours bring a more contemporary feel to traditional designs.

The factory was recently purchased by Stefano Ricci and is working on the launch of an online digital catalogue for designers, hopefully we’ll still have an excuse to visit personally. Thank you to Antico Setificio Fiorentino for their hospitality and taking the time to show me around this amazing mill.

September 22nd, 2013


Highlights from Decorex International 2013

Today I spent a very worthwhile afternoon at Decorex, one of the main trade shows of the year for seeking out new products, trends and general inspiration. This year was definitely one of the best, made extra enjoyable by the great new location at Kensington Palace and also the “Silk Route  theme – the latter gave rise to some great stands and visual displays (see below).

The new location for Decorex at Kensington Palace

The new location for Decorex at Kensington Palace

It’s almost impossible to pick favourites this year, the effort suppliers had put into their displays was enormous, but these three really caught my eye….

1) The “Silk-Route” themed entrance by Kit Kemp – so true to style experimenting with colour, pattern and scale.

"Silk Route" themed entrance to Decorex by designer Kit Kemp

“Silk Route” themed entrance to Decorex by designer Kit Kemp

Kit Kemp entrance to Decorex1

I loved the detail on this otherwise simple armchair in the “Silk Route” themed entrance to Decorex by designer Kit Kemp

2) Artist Jessica Zoob’s interpretation of the “Silk Route” theme in the form of these amazing sculptures – I had followed Jessica’s progress in making them on Twitter over the last month and they far outweighed any expectations in real life (my photo doesn’t do the detail justice)!

"Silk Route" themed sculptures by artist Jessica Zoob

“Silk Route” themed sculptures by artist Jessica Zoob

3) This great display by “And so to Bed” which speaks for itself.

Striking "Silk Route" themed display by "And so to Bed"

Striking “Silk Route” themed display by “And so to Bed”

Moving onto the products, I was determined to be focussed as it can be overwhelming (and exhausting!) trying to take in the contents of over 100 stands. Here are some of this year’s favourites, as well as key themes emerging.

Technology continues to transform bathroom design

One strong theme was the impressive shapes that continue to be developed in all aspects of bathroom design, which need never be mundane again … this basin by Original Bathrooms is made from crystal plant which allows it to be moulded into this strongly contemporary shape.

 

Contemporary basin by Original Bathrooms

Contemporary basin by Original Bathrooms

And this innovative display by copper bath specialists William Holland shows the huge range of finishes on offer.

Huge range of bath finishes available from copper bath specialists William Holland

Huge range of bath finishes available from copper bath specialists William Holland

Monochrome remains dominant, in new fabric ranges, tableware and this collection of ironmongery

Many of the new fabric ranges and also tableware featured a monochrome black/white theme. I particularly liked this range of porcelain, bone and horn turning handles by specialist Chloe Alberry.

Monochrome porcelain handles by Chloe Alberry

Monochrome porcelain handles by Chloe Alberry

And finally grey continues to dominate…

The current preoccupation with “grey” continues to dominate many of the fabric/upholstery ranges. In addition, paint company specialists Little Greene have just released 28 new shades in their new range, quite simply called “Grey” (note the very effective use of camel/mustard as an accent colour in the image below).

The new "GREY" range from Little Greene

The new “GREY” range from Little Greene

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