Walthamstow photographer Katherine Green has captured homes inspired by William Morris

Feeling at home with William Morris

At Home with Morris Sofa with Strawberry Thief cushions, 2013 "An example of a more contemporary use of Morris in home decoration, using his prints as a highlight and compliment to other furnishings," says Katherine.

At Home with Morris Blue Room, 2013 “This is a paper by JH Dearle who was trained by Morris. The colour is quite different from the more earthy tones of Morris’s own wallpapers.”

At Home with Morris Sink, 2007 “The exuberant mix of patterns has been discouraged in decorating trends over the last ten years, but there’s something so full of personality and self expression in these homes that is full of life.”

At Home with Morris Toothbrushes, 2008 “A favourite of mine. The balance of pattern and colour of a Morris wallpaper alongside the clutter of everyday life and objects, which seems at odds with Morris’s theories on design."

At Home with Morris Pimpernel Feature Wall, 2013 “An image typical of the newer trends in decorating for having just one feature wall."

First published in Highlights
Last updated
East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Features Writer

In a time where flat-packed furniture and magnolia tones reign supreme, where house doctors and home makeover experts wax lyrical about the need to neutralise decor, a collective is raging against the beige.

Behind closed doors, loud patterns are juxtaposed haphazardly, and there isn’t a slither of tedious taupe in sight.

These fawn-free zones are the subject of a new exhibition at the Penny Fielding Gallery in Walthamstow.

Social documentary photographer Katherine Green has visited 11 homes to see how inhabitants have used patterns, inspired by one of Walthamstow’s most famous residents: William Morris, in their decor.

“I’ve been on the friends committee of the William Morris Gallery for some time. We met in each other’s homes that had William Morris print in them, and it made me think of portraits of people without actually having people in them,“ explains Katherine.

“The home is a reflection of your personality, but these days the fashion seems to be to paint your house an anonymous shade of beige.

“I loved how these people have moved away from this, they’ve gone completely crazy with pattern and colour.“

Over the past six years, Katherine has painstakingly photographed scenes depicting William Morris patterns – whether it be wallpaper or fabric, in each of the homes. There are no people in her pictures, a surprise perhaps to fans of her previous works, which include the National Portrait Gallery-exhibited Road to 2012.

Instead, alongside the vibrant decoration, are personal and everyday objects – there’s even an image of the kitchen sink.

“What surprised me the most about this project,“ says Katherine, “is how each of these people shared similar interests – whether that be politics or environmental issues – as well as design tastes.

“I also found it interesting how the use of pattern was reflective of someone’s personality, it gave a sense of identity, it reminded me of how teenagers have idols on their bedroom walls.

“I found that younger people used Morris in their home, but in a different way to older generations – they’d have a feature wall rather than doing the whole house in patterned wallpaper.“

According to Katherine, who lives in Walthamstow, she will continue with this project for the foreseeable future, exhibiting new photos as and when the occasion arises.

“I’ve found this whole process really quite fascinating,“ says Katherine, excitedly.

“Morris was so particular about how he placed his furniture, objects and art. There’s his famous phrase: ‘Have nothing in your house which isn’t useful or beautiful.’

“I think it’s impossible to live your life like that, and these photos reflect the impracticalities of a ‘designed’ way of living.

“But if I want people to take something away from this exhibition it’s this: be bolder with your decoration, put more personality into your home.“

At Home with Morris is at the Penny Fielding Gallery, Orford Road, Walthamstow, from Thursday, April 4 June 2. Details: 020 8509 0039, www.pennyfielding.com

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