Spring looks: the nature of design

Fossils, bark and pine-cones... Annie Deakin talks to designers about bringing nature home

When nature-inspired design monopolised the Spring catwalks in Milan and New York, it was just a matter of time before it rocked the interior world. Fossils, shells and bark adorned show-stopping frocks by Alexander McQueen and Christian Lacroix. They now rule the porcelain shop floors at John Lewis, Debenhams and more unique home boutiques.

Search for the perfect furniture with The Independent house and home database, powered by mydeco.

Nature-inspired design is a timeless trend. Urbanites and homemakers can’t get enough of it – especially this Spring when the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth has prompted a resurgence in all things au naturel.

Botannical prints are classic in their appeal but what is exciting is the rise of objects being shaped to imitate nature. Take, for example, Sophie Conran’s new range White Oak for Portmeiron. As the name suggests, the kitchen collection is shaped to emulate woodcarvings.

Sophie’s childhood spurred her to create the range which is now available at mydeco.com; "I grew up next to what was the Habitat design studio." The only daughter of Sir Terence told me this week, "The carpentry workshop was run by an old, eccentric character called Michael Wickham - he looked like Dumbledore from Harry Potter - who would do a lot of wood carving in the logs." She has recreated the feeling of Wickham’s hand on the wood in the curvy White Oak patterns.

It will be interesting to see if this range will be as popular as her first. It has won the approval of her father who is an avid admirer of the English countryside. Sir Terence’s abstract Midwinter plates - which used earthy browns and oranges - were bestsellers in the Fifties. "Dad is definitely inspired by nature. He used to be a keen gardener - he doesn’t anymore - but we still go on walks together. He points out the new buds growing and the interesting shapes of tree trunks to me. He likes to have natural things around him." Such traits have been passed down the generations; Sophie collects treasures from her travels. "I’ve got a little box by my bed filled with nuts, seed pods and interesting little natural things. They’re amazing, very inspiring. Nature produces very fluid, fantastic shapes."

The Conrans are not alone using trees and animals as a source of inspiration for design. Artists have been doing it for centuries. "Adulation of form in nature is nothing new," award-winning ceramicist Ulrika Jarl reminded me. Trailblazing the organic shape was the Irish manufacturer Belleek which has been popular with porcelain lovers since 1857. Now vintage collectibles, their covetable fine china shell collections and nautical snails, are beautifully delicate.

Artists and designers have a fine appreciation and understanding of the complexities of our natural world. Swedish-born Jarl looks to the spirals found in seashells, pine-cones and romanesco cauliflowers when she creates her bone china lighting. Patterns in nature are infinitely interesting. "There is something instantly accessible to everyone in forms found in nature." She explains. "There are common similarities and repetitions in design and structure between different objects in nature. These mathematical structures create visual qualities that are inherently beautiful."

To me, her lights resemble a sea urchin - something I could envisage finding on a deserted beach alongside a piece of driftwood. It’s no happy coincidence that Darwin admirer Alexander McQueen, who rocked Paris Fashion Week with his stag beetle, bark and 'winged' creations, has bought Jarl’s products.

Fellow fashion designer John Rocha used the shape of flowers in his latest collection for Debenhams. His cream-coloured stylised enamel magazine rack, created out of silhouettes of petals, is Marimekko-inspired.

Much of the past century’s iconic design takes direct inspiration from Mother Nature. Arne Jacobsen’s curvy Swan chair, originally designed in 1957, resembles a bird with outstretched wings. One of the most celebrated vases - Alvar Aalto’s Savoy vase - is said to be inspired by the lines of the Finnish landscape. Since being unveiled in 1937 at the Paris World Fair, the vase has achieved cult status. Dutch designer Tord Boontje explores nature in an abstract way.

Nature-inspired design is moving with the times. At Tokyo Design Week last year, Ross Lovegrove experimented with 3D software to analyse the composition of bones. "Nature is a very big part of my work and always has been," explains the Welsh industrial designer. "I’ve never seen it as a trend or a fashion. It absolutely cannot be because it’s fundamental to life. Nature has this magic to it. Things grow effortlessly, benignly without violence or heat."

Unlike geometric patterns, there is something intrinsically soft and comforting about design inspired by landscapes, shells, eggs, acorns and bark. Conran, Jarl and Rocha’s creations offer an escape route in our hectic lifestyles. In the words of Sophie Conran, "There’s a certain peace about design closely influenced by nature. We respond well to it because it doesn’t jar with everyday life."

Annie Deakin is Editor of mydeco.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas