#FFFind: The wondrous wallpaper in Phantom Thread

#FFFind: The wondrous wallpaper in Phantom Thread

Having spent some time studying Floor Plan Croissant’s wonderful watercolours of Phantom Thread for last week’s feature, it reminded us of the gorgeous organic-themed dining room wallpaper in The London House of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Academy Awards nominated film. Investigating this wondrous wallpaper in Phantom Thread has taken us (as per usual) down a very interesting, winding road. The wallcovering turns out to be of wider cultural significance and the reason it adorns Reynold Woodcock’s dining room is not by chance.

Set in the glamorous world of 1950s London fashion couture, the film stars Daniel Day-Lewis as renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock. Together with his sister Cyril [Lesley Manville] they sit at the center of British fashion – dressing royalty, movie stars and socialites with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. A young waitress [Vicky Krieps] becomes Reynold’s muse and lover. 

dining room william morris wallpaper in Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread, The London House dining room featuring Daniel Day-Lewis as fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock and Vicky Krieps as Alma – and some arresting wallpaper. ©2017 Focus Features

Designing the film sets of Phantom Thread

Production Designer Mark Tildesley and Set Decorator Véronique Melery SDSA designed Phantom Thread‘s exquisite film sets in collaboration with Anderson and Day-Lewis. Joan Emily Brown and Sue Clarke, volunteers from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design) also became closely involved as creative consultants after proving their wealth of knowledge in some initial decor and costume consultations. They also made their way onto the screen as Woodcock’s head seamstresses.

Filmed on location whenever possible, the design and décor team created full settings for the actors to inhabit. As Manville describes to SetDecorators.org “The London house is elegant and stripped back, a neutral palate punctuated with flowers and natural light. Owlpen is a classic English country house with oak paneling, a housekeeper, large comfortable sofas and dogs. Both echo the precision and details of the clothing Reynolds creates.”

Phantom thread dining room william morris wallpaper in Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread, The London House dining room. ©2017 Focus Features

The furniture of the dining room in the London House took its cues from the oval shape of the room and features an 18th century table which Melery describes as being “in great condition, with the perfect top, of the right dark colour, the legs allowing guests to sit comfortably… exactly to the director’s specifications… the mahogany chairs were beautifully shaped, the right profile, their back and legs slightly curved… solid but very elegant, like the House of Woodcock”.

Arts and Crafts pioneer William Morris (1834-1896) was a key artistic inspiration for the set decoration so it’s no surprise that the dining room wallpaper caught our eye. It’s a new version of a William Morris classic design called Fruit.

Textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist Morris was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production and is recognised as one of the most significant cultural figures of Victorian Britain.

Previously known as Pomegranate, Fruit is an enduring and popular design originally produced in 1866 featuring peaches, oranges, lemons and pomegranates arranged in a tile format. 

“We choose this [William Morris] design with a metallic reflection that captures the light nicely” explains Melery. “The feeling of the room was to be happy, full of light for the morning meals. No curtain, contrary to the rules of the time”.

The original design for Morris’s wallpaper, created in 1862 in gouache on paper over pencil and crayon, was acquired by The V&A in 1992 (our research has revealed it was bought in a Bonhams auction for £30,000). This version of the design includes an olive branch motif which was omitted from the final printed wallpaper.

Original samples of the printed version of Morris’s Fruit wallpaper is in both the V&A and MET collections.

Sample of original printed William Morris Fruit wallpaper from the MET collection
Sample of original printed William Morris Fruit wallpaper from the MET collection

The design is of particular importance to the V&A Museum because Fruit is directly related to the painted panels of the Green Dining Room designed for the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) in 1866 by Morris & Co. The technique of this design demonstrates Morris’s working method and the obvious differences between this design and the finished product reveal the progress of the design from conception to manufacture.

The V&A website tells us this design was used in many artistic homes of the period. By the 1880s many writers of home decorating guides were recommending Morris papers, including the affordable Art at Home series (1876-8). The frontispiece of Robert Edis’s influential book The Furniture and Decoration of Town Houses (1881) shows his own sitting room where you can see the Pomegranate wallpaper and other Aesthetic-style furnishings.

Decorate your own home with William Morris Fruit wallpaper

An official, contemporary reworking of Morris’s Fruit design with metallic ink effects is available at somewhat less than the £30,000 the V&A paid for the original design. It’s an affordable £76 per roll from Wallpaper Direct (currently on sale at £60.80 per roll) and John Lewis in “Slate / Thyme” and “Wine / Manilla” as well as other colour ways, all part of the Morris Archive Wallpaper Collection.

Morris & Co Fruit wallpaper in Slate/Thyme available from Wallpaper Direct and John Lewis.
Fruit wallpaper by William Morris in Metallic/Multi: A contemporary reworking of this beautiful classic Morris design, with metallic ink effects. Available at £76 per roll from Wallpaper Direct
Fruit wallpaper by William Morris in Wine / Manilla: A contemporary reworking of this beautiful classic Morris design, with metallic ink effects. Available at £76 per roll from Wallpaper Direct and John Lewis.

A similar design called “Bird and Pomegranate” is also available in Green / Metallic Teal  and Green/Blue together with other colour ways from Morris & Co.

Bird and Pomegranate wallpaper by William Morris: A contemporary reworking of a classic Morris design, with metallic ink effects. Available at £76 per roll from Wallpaper Direct

Happy decorating!

  • phantom-thread-dvd

    Phantom Thread (DVD/Blu-Ray/On Demand)

    Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

    Set in the glamour of 1950’s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock.

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