Award-winning designer, Abigail Edwards, talks to Story of Home
Story of Home recently had the pleasure of spending time with the multi award-winning wallpaper designer Abigail Edwards, whose aesthetic and ethos feel very close to our own steadfast belief that creating a new home is a deeply personal experience.
With her hand-drawn pattern designs, informed by nature and fairy-tales, adorning the walls of homes and commercial spaces all around the world, and her critically acclaimed 2018 book “Quiet Pattern” inspiring people to re-think interiors, Abigail talked to us about how London and the countryside both play an essential part in her working life.
Parker Knoll chair upholstered with Seascape Dusk linen, Owl rug. Photo by Carmel King
Wall to Wall Wellbeing
Soothing pattern design that contributes to people’s wellbeing is a central component of Abigail Edwards’ thinking and has become a significant part of the appeal of her products.
Her work has gained a strong following with city dwellers across the world who find the designs offer them a connection to memories of holidays, weekends in the countryside, or childhood homes.
The idea grew for her partly out of being something of a hermit herself and from the years of her career as a stylist during which she lived in a built-up area, traveled continually and suffered from insomnia. She recognised how important it is for some people for home to be a calm, safe, nurturing place, and saw the potential for her ideas to help.
She is, she says, drawn to decorative elements that bring a sense of a haven. “My designs are intended to be like a drawing that has evolved, a sketch on the wall, which is why a lot of them are in monochrome or watercolour, because I want people to feel as though they’re putting a drawing on the wall rather than a wallpaper design.”
Photo by Carmel King
The Pattern of Urban Life
Pattern designs should, Edwards says, work everywhere – in an urban environment, bringing elements of the natural world in, and in the countryside, to echo what’s going on around you.
In her London home, Abigail combined the calm, natural imagery of her early designs with layers of beautiful flowing houseplants to create the feeling of a walled garden. An idea was born and a decade later this connection to nature has resonated with urbanites in a wide variety of architectural spaces.
“Because the designs seem quite simple, they are used in period homes and in modern spaces,” says Edwards, “and they’ll work with country sofas or modern furniture. A small room can take a lot of pattern and if you do the ceiling as well as the walls, the corners disappear to make the room feel like a cosy pod. Then again, in a huge room, wallpapering compliments the proportions. In period homes with panelling, wallpapering within the panels is a good way of having regular pattern around the room but without it being overwhelming.”
Lichen in Seaweed wallpaper. Photo by Alun Callender
Abigail was born and raised in the Cotswolds, a landscape she loves and was hugely influenced by. She studied fine art at Wimbledon School of Art in London and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Having made her home for many years off Upper Street in Islington and then in Newington Green, Abigail now lives in the Cotswolds again.
“My most recent design is inspired by my walks in Abney Park Cemetery. I love the tangled, overgrown-ness and the mystery of the place. It’s essentially like being in woodland in the heart of Stoke Newington. That was a particularly inspiring place for me, along with Hampstead Heath, because it had that dark, fairy tale feeling that I love and is hard to find in the city.”
Brambleweb Nude wallpaper, Claude sitting on sofa upholstered with Bird watercolour linen, Photo by Alun Callender
Abigail’s sketchbook is always with her when she’s in London to work or visit friends. In rare moments to herself, she loves to sit in cafes and sketch or let ideas come to her. Tranga and Belle Epoque on Newington Green, the inspirational Luminary Bakery in Stoke Newington and T&SHOP on Green Lanes have been favourite haunts for many years, along with the cafes in Soho that Abigail got to know so well when working as a stylist on magazine shoots.
“In that job, you spend days out and about carrying huge bags of stuff and so a Soho café and lunch stop was always essential, often Nordic Bakery, because I like that clean, calm, Scandinavian aesthetic.”
As a teenager, encountering the Pre-Raphaelites at the Tate Britain was a creative epiphany for her. “The experience kind of stayed with me, and so did the place. I love Tate Britain, and the recent Aubrey Beardsley exhibition there was very special.”
“I loved going to the William Morris Gallery in Lloyd Park, Walthamstow. I had friends who lived near to it so I went a lot. I loved the Georgian building, the interior space and seeing a glimpse into his working process. The little garden there is a great place to wander around. Another garden that has always inspired me and I recommend to any Londoner is the conservatory at the Barbican. Stepping off the city streets into a tropical oasis resonates with my design aesthetic.”
Abigail’s book, Quiet Pattern (Clearview Books) is an exploration of how design can create a sanctuary in which to retreat and recharge. The book has been critically acclaimed for encompassing not only Abigail’s own work and inspiration but also those of other leading, contemporary designers around the world, who reveal their working methods.
Seascape in Summer wallpaper. Photo by Alun Callender
Within the pages of Quiet Pattern, Abigail shares the stories that lie behind specific designs. “Seascape was one of my first designs and I worked on it for a year and a half, drawing and redrawing versions of the waves countless times to make them work as a subtle pattern that flowed seamlessly across the wall. The sea in North Cornwall inspired the design. I used to visit Hawkers Cove near Padstow over many years. We would stay in a little fisherman’s cottage, and later in an old, converted lifeboat station that is built into the rocks of a cliff; when the tide comes up the lifeboat station is surrounded by sea. The atmosphere can be incredibly dramatic when the weather is stormy but very peaceful when the sea is calm, and the sky is clear.”
All Abigail Edwards’ products are made in the UK where possible and are environmentally responsible. The wallpapers and non-woven substrates are sourced from sustainably managed forests and are printed at one of the few remaining, traditional, wallpaper printers in England, using non-toxic water-based inks.
Photo by Carmel King
Abigail’s book ‘Quiet Pattern – Gentle Design for Interiors’ is available at all good booksellers.
Her shop and a raft of other inspiring ideas can be found on her website: