Decorex is the highly anticipated trade show for luxury design which kicks off London Design Week each September and attracts interior design professionals from all over the world. As a designer, I attend each year to source new suppliers for our design projects and to view the latest collections from some of the world’s finest fabric houses, furniture manufacturers and accessories designers. Anyone who has visited our London showroom will know that we have shelves of fabric sample books and a library of catalogues at our fingertips but when it comes to experiencing the latest collections first hand, nothing beats Decorex. It gives me the opportunity to see and feel the fabrics and furnishings on a much larger scale and is a huge source of inspiration. It is a date in the diary that we all look forward to and this year I was accompanied by showroom director Chrissie Marshall and our former Senior Designer, Abigail Heanley. We had a marvellous day discovering a beautiful velvet fabric which moved like liquid metal, wonderful table lamps with hand blown glass bases and, of course, catching up with old friends in the industry. For me though there was one standout piece which really stole the show this year – the moment I clapped eyes on this eglomise screen (pictured below) it was love at first sight!
Verre eglomise or ‘gilded glass’ is a process dating back to pre-roman times whereby gold or silver leaf is applied to the reverse side of glass. The gilding can then be etched away or painted on in reverse to create stunning designs which really come to life when lit properly. I love everything about this gorgeous screen from the subtle use of colours – including delicate pale blues, greens and burnt orange, to the subject matter itself! These tropical birds and monkeys would look simply perfect in one of the grand plantation houses in Barbados. The attention to detail is breath-taking – I love the way each panel is so different but includes the same elements. In each panel, a pair of animals sits within a frame – in some cases an intricate window and in others the local flora is brought into the design. Beyond, clouds and mountains create depth whilst keeping the overall feeling light and airy. This stunning screen is a one off and retails at around £60,000 – for those with the right property it would be a wonderful investment and a beautiful addition to the home!
Discovering this screen at Decorex recalled one of my earliest childhood memories: staying at my Grandmother’s house as a little girl of about 5 or 6 years old. My grandmother had the most wonderful sense of style and I’m sure it’s her which inspired my love of interiors! She had a beautiful bedroom in her house in the countryside and when I came to stay, she would set up my bed in a cosy corner, separated from the rest of the room by a folding screen. I can still remember that screen now – an antique from the 1920’s with silk panels painted with peonies and other English garden flowers in beautiful shades of pink and green. I thought it was just the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and would gaze at the intricately painted scenery before drifting off to sleep. Having my own little space, sheltered from the rest of the room but still within ear shot of my grandmother made me feel so secure and really showed me how empowering and comforting a well designed living space can be.
Much later, when I came to help my son Sebastien Blanc design his first bachelor pad, he had one room in which to work, dine and relax in front of the television. As an acting coach and theatre director his workspace is incredibly important to him so there was no question that we needed to find space to accommodate all his books and paperwork, not to mention scripts and notebooks! By using a screen we partitioned off the living room, thereby concealing the inner workings of his office in a way that was both decorative and practical.
If you’re considering introducing a screen into your living space it’s worth bearing in mind that they can be used in a number of different ways. A solid screen covered in either fabric, wallpaper or other opaque material can be used to shield weak areas of a room from view (such as a home office or kitchenette). Placed in front of a large window, an opaque screen will offer privacy whilst still allowing the light to spill over the top.
Screens featuring translucent panels of sheer fabric, glass or an intricately carved trellis like the one pictured above are well suited to open plan living as they help to shape the space and define certain areas whilst allowing light to flow freely. A mirrored screen serves both functions as it acts as a solid screen whilst bouncing light back into the room. These beautiful, rustic wooden room dividers pictured below are really unique and are a wonderful way to bring the outdoors in. Because the structure of the wooden branches is fairly loose and organic they can help shape a room without dominating and are particularly well suited to commercial properties.
Of course a screen can also be purely decorative and a wonderful way to introduce a piece of art into your home! An antique screen like the one belonging to my Grandmother would complement a traditional scheme perfectly but would also work in a contemporary setting where it would provide contrast and an extra layer of interest. Modern screens like the one pictured below (made by furniture designer Julian Chichester) look fantastic as part of a minimalist setting, where the beauty of the materials is really able to shine.
These hand painted, sheer silk panels by luxury French design house de Gournay (pictured below) were another fantastic find at this year’s Decorex. A curtain of sheer fabric like this is a wonderful alternative to the traditional folding screen and is especially suited to life in the tropics where Island breezes would really show off the fluidity of this beautiful material. Weighting the curtain at the bottom edge would provide just the right amount of stability whilst still allowing for movement.
The beautiful blossom branches and overblown pink peonies (pictured above) would look gorgeous as part of a feminine scheme. I love the way that the white paint used on the very tips of the petals is ever so slightly more opaque, giving the flowers a real sense of depth. The two sheer curtain pictured below are also by de Gournay and show how changing the colourway can produce very different effects. On the left, a sheer curtain in canary yellow and blue softens what is otherwise a very stark space. On the right hand side a panel of sheer black silk leads the eye into a sophisticated study. Shades of red in the flowers and lamp shades complete the curtains colour palette perfectly.
Screens come in so many shapes and sizes there really is one to fit every occasion. For more inspirational screens and room dividers head over to my Pinterest board and let me know which is your favourite!