Trendy tea parties with Ella Doran

How Ella Doran’s 93-year-old Granny inspired Habitat’s new collection, says Annie Deakin

‘Without a doubt, there is a tea party trend at the moment,’ asserts award-winning homewares designer Ella Doran. ‘It’s been rumbling for some time and has now hit a prevalent moment what with the lead-up to 2012 and the Royal Wedding. Everything that is going on in England and London seems ripe for a tea party.’

Doran was so confident that tea parties were on the cusp of becoming big that she designed two new collections for Habitat. ‘Tea is definitely a trend right now but ‘the trick’ was to re-interpret the idea in a fresh, modern way for Spring/ Summer 2011,’ say Doran. To achieve this, she looked to her own vintage plates and her children’s colourful storybooks.

‘Inspired by my burgeoning collection of tea plates both from family heirlooms and charity shops, I wanted to create a collection that is playful and creative, and one that I hope inspires lots of tea parties and home baking,’ says Doran. Drawn to the interesting patterns and shapes, she has been collecting old plates for twenty years. The result is the Joanie collection for Habitat, named after her paternal grandmother and decorated with images of her vintage plates.

‘My grandmother, who is still very active at 93, inspires me with her stoic carry on attitude. To her, the simple rituals – one of them being tea and cake – are so special.’ Doran hopes to recreate this nostalgic sense of continuity through the Joanie range comprising mugs, aprons, cotton napkins and cushions. ‘Tea and cake with my granny is a kind of life-affirming event.’ Philippa Prinsloo, Senior Design Manager at Habitat said: ‘We were excited to see the Joanie design as it worked really well with the summer feeling we were hoping to evoke through out our collection. Ella's search for beautiful plates has been a passion for years and it’s a wonderful way to enjoy them.’?

Her second tea party collection Indian Tale is brighter and puerile, perhaps more Habitat in nature. It sold out much faster than anticipated. ‘Colourful books and stories from my childhood inspired this collection – the background tapestry also reminds me of my bedspread when I was young.’ She says of the tiger and bird themed melamine ware, ‘I wanted to create images that are bold and simple and imply a narrative for the child to interpret however they wish.’ The name Indian Tale is a pun on the story telling potential and the animal’s tails. ‘I’d like to think the designs encourage the child to think creatively and interpret a story.’

Collaborations such as this one with Habitat enable Doran – who has her own shop on Cheshire Street - to become a regular feature on the UK high street. Now a sought after designer, Doran has garnered numerous prestigious awards. A previous partnership with John Lewis resulted in her winning The Laurent Perrier Eureka 2006 award and being shortlisted for the Walpole Awards for Creative Talent in 2007. Last year, she won twice at the Grand Designs Award 2010, scooping Best Wallpaper/ Fabric and the Evening Standard Product of the Year award.

Time will tell whether her new tea party ranges bring in such success. ‘The tea trend has meant people like Emma Bridgewater are doing really well,’ observes Doran optimistically. ‘I ponder whether in a bigger way, we are getting more community based. Tea, coffee and the sense of bringing people together socially, rather than just for business, is growing. There is a real sense for nostalgia, things that hold memories or take us to a different place or time.’

What would Doran’s perfect tea party consist of? ‘Lemon polenta cake (using a recipe from Rose's Bakery book Breakfast, Lunch, Tea) and a no wheat chocolate cake.' And to drink? ‘A selection of teas; When I'm having cake, I rather like a Lapsang Suchong. Most importantly, all the tea must be served in proper teapots with strainers. No tea bags, thank you.'

Annie Deakin is interiors writer for sofa and interior design website mydeco.com.

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