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Designing The Sir John Soane Collection

September 2017  |  General

We spent months anticipating the launch of our new collection – the Sir John Soane – at Decorex 2017 this week; this is an insight into the designers’ process through the collection development.

This collection was inspired by the individual style of Sir John Soane, one of the most influential and original of all English architects. Soane was an avid collector of artefacts and works of art, many of which were obtained on his Grand Tour and displayed in his home, which he left to the country on his death in 1837. It is one of London’s most popular museums and continues to inspire new generations of designers and architects.

John Soane’s Library  Fun to design and even more exciting to see as a finished fabric, the John Soane’s Library design is all about the details, from the pine cones on the chairs to The Soane Damask lining the glass fronted cabinets, and the fabric draws you into the magic and mystery of Sir John’s library.

The Soane Damask  The Soane Damask features in its own right in the collection. Woven on one of our punch card operated 1930s Hattersley looms, it combines a silk organzine warp with a thick cotton weft, emulating the original fabric found in the museum.

John Soane’s Entrance Hall and John Soane’s Crêpe This Entrance Hall design was not originally intended to have a such a large repeat size but we soon realised that the brickwork would look far more effective if woven to scale. As the redesign is dependent on the fabric working as walling or curtaining as a single repeat, we have this design saved in 3 parts – the brickwork, the wall texture and the plaster casts – so that we can weave it ‘made to measure’ according to the wall and window heights our customers have in mind. John Soane’s Crêpe is offered in three colourways and draws on the texture of the Porphyry walling in the Entrance Hall, which we felt would offer a sophisticated marriage to any design in the collection.

John Soane’s Dome   John Soane’s Dome, the largest design in the collection, presented a huge challenge. Gainsborough’s Design Manager undertook the project and spent weeks inputting all the little details and shading that brings this immersive design to life; with over 50 individual sculpted works featured in the design, this was a labour of love!

John Soane’s Column It was really important to us that the Column design should have an impactful 3D visual illusion. In the development of this fabric we had many hours of experimentation to find the right combination of weaves to produce the desired effect.

The North Soane Drawing Room  The adage that looks can be deceiving generally applies to designs that appear simple, like this stripe in three colourways. We were fully expecting to struggle with the weave tensions of the stripe, but much to our surprise, this design wove like a dream and looks fantastic.

Soane’s Mosaic A third upholstery-grade fabric was developed from a tiny detail of a Roman pavement in a painting we spotted in John Soane’s bedroom. A small scale design perfect for upholstery purposes, John Soane’s Mosaic design marries the classical with modernity in a way that Sir John Soane himself was famous for; we’re confident he would have approved of this, one of our favourite designs.

John Soane’s Chair John Soane’s Chair was one of the first designs we worked on. The leather lacks the perfection seen elsewhere in the museum and is tangible evidence of the passage of time; we wanted to retain the authenticity of the cracked leather and hope that this design will elicit the same romanticised notions about Sir John for the end user as it did for us. The Chair design, together with John Soane’s Crêpe above, was developed specifically for upholstery use. Gainsborough fabrics have of course been employed on chairs and sofas for over 100 years, often lasting decades in regular use, but new standards (often arbitrary) emerge with time and some clients expect us to meet these rub tests.

Made by Gainsborough Fine Weavers & Dye House under Licence from Sir John Soane’s Museum. ‘Sir John Soane’s Museum’ is the registered trade mark of the Sir John Soane’s Museum. Photography by Polly Eltes Styling by Hannah Franklin Spencer Chair and Hamble Ottoman by The Odd Chair Company