Flower power

Bring the first signs of spring indoors. Traditional floral prints are being modernised for a new generation of homeowners, says Nicole Swengley
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The Independent Online

Chucking out our chintz was all the rage a few years ago. But the British passion for gardening - even if the "garden" is a balcony - remains undiminished, which is why floral designs are being re-worked and updated for a new generation of homeowners.

Chucking out our chintz was all the rage a few years ago. But the British passion for gardening - even if the "garden" is a balcony - remains undiminished, which is why floral designs are being re-worked and updated for a new generation of homeowners.

"Forget swirly ribbon-tied flowers," says Joanna Wood of the eponymous interior design company. "Chintz has definitely not returned, and floral designs need to be clean and simple for modern tastes. Five years ago we would have rejected flower prints for Lewis & Wood fabrics. But the new look of these designs is now much crisper and cleaner."

"Modern homeowners dislike over-decorated rooms," agrees Mark Butcher of the fabric manufacturer Hodsoll McKenzie. "So we're re-introducing the simpler uncluttered look of very early prints." The latest collection is based on early 18th-century hand-blocked English designs now screen-printed on heavy linen. The re-worked designs, available from the interior design shop, Soane, include Camellia and Acorns (£76 pm) and Campanula (£78 pm).

Zoffany has always worked from heritage material using archival documents as a starting-point. "We re-interpret old designs rather than replicating them," explains Graham Marsden, Zoffany's head of design. "Changing the scale and colour, drawing with a freer hand and introducing a textural quality are all techniques that make them more contemporary."

Zoffany's new collection uses archival illustrations under licence from the Royal Horticultural Society. Macao, a chrysanthemum print, is among the heritage designs receiving a modern makeover. With its contemporary palette - white flower, pink tips, soft brown background - it now works equally well in modern or traditional settings. The design is available in silk, £85 pm, or linen, £65 pm, and a wallpaper (£39 per roll). Further luscious florals in this range include Tulipa (linen, £65 pm; cotton, £55 pm) and Lecons de Flore (£32 pm).

Other companies are also sowing the seeds for a fine floral display. Mulberry Home's Sunflowers, a 1950s print on linen (£69 pm) has proved a bestseller since its autumn launch and is available this spring in bold new colourways - red/white/blue or bright yellow. Pompadour, an early Renaissance lily print, has made the leap from hand-painting to digital printing equally successfully (£69 pm).

Tricia Guild, the creative director of Designers Guild, has designed Morskaya, a floral leaf in cut velvet (£80 pm), and her shop also sells Jasper Conran's vibrant Rose print on a cotton/linen mix (£29 pm). Its classic English rose is reversed out in white on an eye-zapping red background. Sprig is another Jasper Conran print that gives a zingy modern look to a conventional image by streamlining the design and using two boldly contrasting colours.

Flower prints from the 1920s and 1930s have been re-worked for GP & J Baker's new Gatsby collection. "We changed the scale to fit modern interiors and simplified the design," says studio manager, Helen Sydney. "With Gatsby we've retained some of the original soft, dusty colours but added some modern jewel-like ones - fresh blues, fuchsia pink and bright yellow." Other florals in the range include Clarice and Atsuko, both £39 pm.

Design inspiration comes from other historical fabrics too. "My Bird Tree design probably wouldn't have happened if I had not been interested in 16th and 17th century Japanese kimono," says Neisha Crosland. The design is one of Crosland's first furnishing fabrics retailing at her new shop in Chelsea Green, London. It's available as a taffeta or linen in gorgeous colours - pink, turquoise and red on cream or silver-blue with royal and white.

"Colour is fundamental in updating a print but the background is also important in making a traditional design look more modern," says Joanna Wood. "After 10 years of taupe we're seeing a big swing back to strong, clear colours - grass green, Schiaperelli pink, purple, aubergine, claret and strong mulberry."

With floral prints this bold you can almost smell their fragrance.

Designers Guild: 020-7351 5775

GP & J Baker: 020-7351 7760

Hodsoll McKenizie: 020-7254 9940

Joanna Wood: 020-7730 0693

Lewis & Wood: 01453 860080

Mulberry Home: 020-7823 3455

Neisha Crosland: 020-7584 7988

Soane: 020-7730 6400

Zoffany: 020-7349 0043

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