In our exciting new series ‘Conversations in Craftmanship’, we will be showcasing the work of our favourite artisans and reveal the high level of skill and craftmanship that goes into

creating their designs.

In our first edition, we speak to Carley Bean, the Design Director of prestigious wallpaper and fabric company Cole & Son. Carley leads a team of four highly skilled artists to create inspiring and innovative wallcoverings. She shares with us the unique ways she has seen wallpaper installed in the home, Cole & Son’s approach to sustainability and what the future is for luxury wallcoverings.

Carley Bean Design Director of Cole & Son. Image via Cole & Son.

"Spending so much time within the same space has pushed people to be more confident in some of their design choices."

The past year has seen many of us re-evaluate areas of our lives and homes. How has the pandemic impacted the tastes and requirements of your customers, if at all?

Our homes have become so much more important during the last year; they’re now a place to work, exercise, relax, and in a lot of cases, teach! It’s made so many of us appreciate how important interior design is. Spending so much time within the same space has also pushed people to be more confident in some of their design choices – the muted tones that once welcomed them home at the end of a long day are being swapped out in favour of vibrant shades and bold design.

So much about colour and pattern can be stimulating and we are seeing customers select wallpapers that transform the look, feel and function of a space and recreate the right mood for these individual zones. For example, an increase in narrative wallpaper designs within home office spaces, creating an environment that reflects your taste and personality and is aesthetically pleasing when shown as a background on video calls.

Cole & Son Historic Royal Palaces Great Masters Tijou Gate. Image via Cole & Son.

We would love to know more about the inspiration and craftsmanship behind your beautiful new collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces and any other exciting collaborations you have coming up?

Our Great Masters collection which was created in collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces is really our artistic ode so some of the greatest artisans, craftsmen and artists who helped to shape each of the residences now in the care of Historic Royal Palaces. Seeing these highly ornate wooden carvings, tapestries, embroidery and gardens gave our Design House artists so much source material to work from and really created a beautiful homage to these masters in the distinctive Cole & Son hand.

Cole & Son Historic Royal Palace Great Masters Verdure Tapestry. Image via Cole & Son.

One of the key trends we have seen for 2021 is bringing the outside in. Which Cole & Son designs would you recommend for those looking to bring an element of nature into their homes?

The Cole & Son design portfolio has a beautiful, extensive range of botanical wallpapers in various styles and colour options; we’re always so inspired by the natural world. Some of my personal favourites are Tijou Gate which creates an enchanted, peaceful garden within your own home for mindfulness and a positive sense of wellbeing.

Fern is a modern, macrame-inspired print that would be perfect for the more urban customer; beautifully surface printed to add a natural texture to the leaves, it captures the feeling of house plant greenery and the trend to of home crafting. Orange Blossom is another stunning print which brings a more exotic and organic botanical feel to your home environment, whilst Forest’s rich viridian palette adds so much depth to a space creating a calm, slightly moody area, ideal for a home spa or snug.

Cole & Son Polo Stripe Wallpaper. Image via Cole & Son.

What are the most unusual or unique ways you have seen wallpaper used within the home?

We’re now seeing so many customers utilise the fifth wall: the ceiling. It’s a joy to see how an interior is transformed by adding print to a ceiling, creating a captivating canopy that is inviting and fun. So many of designs look wonderful on a ceiling, from airy clouds such as Nuvolette and Fresco Sky, to foliage motifs like Woodland, and uniform geometrics including Hicks’ Hexagon which give a tile-like order to the interior.

Cole & Son Archive Bourlie Wallpaper Painted By Hand. Image via Cole & Son

What is the future for luxury wallpapers at the top end of the market? Is there any new technology that is shaping the way it is designed or produced?

We are now beginning to print on new substrates such as pure silk and grass cloth which gives our original hand-drawn, hand-painted designs a completely different feeling to our traditional non-woven wallpapers. There are also some very exciting developments with 3D printing which can emulate traditional print methods. These new substrates mean every roll is unique as they contain natural slubs and beautiful imperfections within the base; no two rolls are exactly the same and this means that our customers really are purchasing their very own bespoke piece of art.

Cole & Son Historic Royal Palaces Great Masters Verrio Sky with Fresco Sky. Image via Cole & Son.

"The unique nature of a luxury wallcovering or fabric adds instant personality."

What part do you think luxury fabric and wallcoverings play in the overall aesthetic of someone’s house?

Luxury wallcoverings and fabrics are perfect to play centre stage in an interior and offer a variety of extraordinary statements. They can be the ideal starting point when designing a space as they can influence your whole colour palette and provide the anchor that the room needs in order to feel like a cohesive space. The unique nature of a luxury wallcovering or fabric adds instant personality – whether that’s because of the bold pattern, the unusual combination of colours and hues, or the material the product is made of – luxury items sit in a league of their own. All of these aspects also help to define spaces, especially when so many homes are now open plan.

Cole & Son Historic Royal Palaces Great Masters Fresco Sky. Image via Cole & Son.

What makes Cole & Son’s wallcovering and fabric collections unique in a highly competitive market?

Every Cole & Son wallpaper and fabric design has a unique origin, with the Design House artists hand-rendering every detail. Each element is considered, from concept through to overseeing final production. We refer to our products as being exceptional in both their colour and pattern; colour is such an essential part of what makes our designs unique and we have spent a lot of time refining the palettes which we use throughout our portfolio, as well as unusual combinations which lead interior trends.

Our extensive archive also has some of the most iconic and timeless designs within the wallcovering industry, for example Woods, which despite being over 60 years old carries a simplicity that means it still looks modern in any room. The many colour palettes that Cole & Son have created this design in are a testament to its versatility and will keep it as a firm favourite for many more decades to come.

Cole and Son Fornasetti Frutto Proibito Wallpaper. Image via Cole & Son.

What is your approach to sustainability?

Sustainability is hugely important to Cole & Son and is a subject that we are constantly looking to improve upon. Some of the ways in which we are implementing positive change are by working with our suppliers to ensure that they share our vision of sustainable production, as well as re-evaluating our packaging to move away from any plastics and into fully recyclable options that are only essential to our product’s safe transit and not unnecessary waste for our customers to have to dispose of. We are also making positive changes to our offices and warehouse to ensure employees are able to recycle and reuse as many of their daily materials as possible, as well as looking into how we can use more sustainable energy.

Cole & Son Acquario from the Fornasetti II collection. Image via Cole & Son.

"Florals will always be a winner for interiors as they can be adapted to suit any space."

Lastly, are there any key trends within wallpaper design we are likely to see this year?

Botanical maximalism! Social media has definitely played a huge part in the popularity of bold pattern and colour; visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest give these wonderfully designed spaces a new audience and inspire people to try new ideas in their own home. This, paired with customers becoming more confident with using wallcoverings, makes the large decorative, botanical panels we have created for Historic Royal Palaces – Great Masters: Tijou Gate and Verdure Tapestry, definite ones to watch in terms of trends.

The scale and detail of both are real art pieces, abundant in flora and coloured in exquisite, true-to-life shades. They’re a real showstopper. Florals will always be a winner for interiors as they can be adapted to suit any space, whether it’s a traditional, vintage style, or modern and contemporary.