When Temple Newsam, one of Britain’s great country houses, was sold in 1922 by its owner Edward Wood, the future Earl of Halifax, the historic property was stripped of its paintings, furniture and fixtures. Yet for decades a secret treasure trove remained hidden from view. For languishing forgotten in cupboards, drawers and on walls were fragments of the house’s original wallcoverings, some of which dated back to the 17th century.
These invaluable remnants of Temple Newsam’s past glories remained undiscovered until the early 1980s, when a team of designers under the design direction of Humphrey Boyle set about rescuing the decaying scraps of paper and fabric. They spent three years on site, archiving any designs they found and establishing a small hand screen printing workshop nearby with the aim of recreating the historical wallcoverings, some of which had to be carefully extracted from beneath countless layers of paint and paper.
Some of these reconstructed patterns would eventually form the basis of Zoffany’s first range of wallpapers, released in 1984. The “Temple Newsam Collection” was an instant success, breathing new life into these iconic reminders of our rich design heritage and establishing Zoffany as a world leader in the art of reproducing “lost” fabrics and wallcoverings.
The Zoffany story begins four years earlier in 1980, when the company’s founders Humphrey Boyle and Nicholas Brown recognised a demand for a brand that could provide architects and interior designers with high quality “off the shelf” wallpapers based on heritage designs. Their idea was to analyse historical production methods and acquire documentary samples as a source from which to copy and sympathetically reproduce for a contemporary market.
The concept was clear enough, but establishing a name for the company proved a further challenge. In the end they decided to name their fledgling brand after the building in which it started, Zoffany House, which happened to be named after an eighteenth century portrait artist. Given that many of the designs and wallpapers sourced for the early collections were 18th century in origin, this seemed to provide a serendipitous link between name and product.
Zoffany’s first collection of wallpaper, launched in 1984, was based on 12 wallpaper patterns sourced from the historical estate of Temple Newsam in Yorkshire. Known as ‘the Hampton Court of the North’, the house is early Tudor in origin, built around 1500 for Thomas Lord Darcy.
From 1622 the estate came into the possession of the Ingram family, and over the next 300 years, it underwent substantial remodelling and redecoration, reflecting the decorating styles of each era. Thus the designs selected for reproduction by Zoffany served not only to document the house’s various incarnations over the years, they also provided a condensed history of wallpaper design in general.
The project took three years to complete, and involved countless trials of colour printing – with the hand screen printing process designed to mimic the raised effect of hand block printed wallpaper. But the hard work paid off; the collection proved an enormous success, and many of the reprints of original ‘Temple Newsam’ wallpaper were eventually re-hung in their original rooms.
The popularity of the ‘Temple Newsam’ collection confirmed the interior design world’s desire for high quality wallpapers based on historical references. Over the next two years, under the design direction of Boyle, Zoffany continued to launch successful heritage-based collections, ‘Red Book’ and ‘French Prints’. These were machine manufactured as opposed to hand screen printed in order to achieve a more commercial price point.
In 1987, having steadily built a name as a manufacturer of exquisite wallpapers, Zoffany launched its first collection of printed furnishing fabrics, ‘The Red Book II’, at Decorex, to huge acclaim.
The launch of vinyl wallpapers followed in 1990. This was in response to a direct request from the contract and small hotel market, which was crying out for durable wallpapers inspired by historical designs. Vinyl wallpaper continues to be a successful part of the mix for Zoffany.
A year later Zoffany launched its first weave collection, ‘Zoffany Weaves’, meticulously woven at specialist mills to ensure the luxuriousness and quality of the cloth was not compromised. This new addition to the company’s portfolio sealed Zoffany’s global reputation and in the years to follow Zoffany became renowned for its exquisite woven furnishing fabrics.
Following the retirement of Boyle, Graham Marsden was appointed as Design Director in 1994. Marsden had been involved in Zoffany design from the beginnings at Temple Newsam, so was well placed to take on the helm. It was in 1994 that the ‘Showroom Weaves’ collection launched. One of the most popular of these designs, ‘Oiseaux de Paradis’, is still available today. Inspired by classic 18th century arborescent fabrics depicting patterned tree of life designs, it continues to be a notable success for the company.
Following demand from interior designers of the time, in 1995, Zoffany launched their first collection of designs for the nursery and children’s rooms. The ‘Story Book’ collection of printed fabrics and wallpapers was based on archive documents from around the world spanning four centuries. A year later Zoffany’s first trimmings collection launched. Made in the UK using traditional looms and long established hand work methods, these proved very popular. Zoffany’s trimmings are still made by the same mill.
Over the next decade, Zoffany’s heritage-based designs continued to inspire the interior design market, but in 2000 the company took a new direction, branching away from the traditional format that Zoffany was known for and launching the ‘Naturals’ collection aimed at a younger market. The designs had a more contemporary style reflecting the move away from strong pattern and colour of the time. However, not wishing to leave behind its heritage identity that it had built up so successfully over the preceeding 18 years, it was in 2000 that Zoffany joined forces with the National Trust, and was granted access to a number of significant house collections. In the best Zoffany tradition, the design team sourced artistic elements from prominent estates the length and breadth of the country and meticulously reproduced these designs in its own inimitable style launching the first collection in 2002 followed by a second with newly appointed Design Director Liz Cann in 2005.
The ‘Naturals’ collection of 2000 had opened up a new avenue for the brand, which continued to source designs from the 18th and 19th century but also began releasing original designs – using technically advanced and complicated weave structures and pile cutting to produce classic but contemporary products. This was epitomised in the ‘Archi Textures Weave’ collection of 2004 by Tristan Butterfield, who was Design Director from 2004-2005. ‘Archi Textures’ took traditional 18th century silk samples and recreated them using modern weave techniques, providing a truly modern take on classic design. In time, Zoffany would also seek inspiration from 20th century sources, such as the Art Deco era and the work of Josef Frank.
From the beginning, Zoffany has always cast its net wide, seeking new business opportunities in the USA and Europe, designing wallpaper and fabrics for leading hotels as well as private and public properties. And after 30 years of amassing original fabric and wallpaper documents, Zoffany have built an invaluable archive. Painstakingly assembled from around the globe, with donations from Zoffany customers and purchases bought at auction this resource continues to be a huge inspiration today.
Over the years, through its archival investigations, Zoffany has also built up a substantial historical colour palette, so it was a natural progression for the brand to launch a paint range in 1993, firmly based on heritage colours. Today under the design direction of Liz Cann paint is a highly successful part of the Zoffany product mix.
In 2001, inspired by the belief that every room deserves beautifully finished and expertly upholstered pieces, Zoffany added an original collection of furniture to its product range. To capture their unique and timeless style Zoffany created a variety of individual pieces that are built in the UK, using traditional techniques, material and finishes. Over the next decade the range developed and changed to reflect the evolution of the brand’s collections.
Zoffany now offers a comprehensive portfolio of wallpapers, fabrics, trimmings, paint and furniture. The firm’s showroom, which was originally based in an impressive building on the corner of South Audley Street, London, moved in 1998 to Chelsea Harbour, where it is still based today.
As Zoffany prepares to enter its fourth decade it remains focused on pushing the brand forward while remaining faithful to its original standards and principles. Zoffany actively seeks out projects that enable the company to draw on Britain’s unique design heritage. One such venture launched in 2012 is a partnership with Melissa White, which has resulted in the Arden range in the most comprehensive collection to date of designs inspired by the Elizabethan style of the late 16th century.
In 2010 the company also rereleased three of the designs uncovered when Zoffany began the Temple Newsam project: ‘Oak Garland’, ‘Pomegranate’ and ‘Long Gallery’. Originally hand screen printed, they are now machine printed which means these classic designs are available at a more affordable price point.
Under the stewardship of Liz Cann, recent years have seen the huge success of Zoffany’s contemporary Trevira fabric and vinyl wallpaper collections. These collections were originally aimed at the luxury hotel and hospitality market but have also become best-sellers in the domestic market.
Further initiatives focusing on British design and manufacture are also being explored, allowing the brand to continue its evolution. Technical innovations allowing wallpapers to be printed onto foil and translucent beads to be applied to the surface of wallpaper are inspiring architects and interior designers who wish to create stunning contemporary schemes. In contrast 18th century designs woven in beautiful qualities and traditionally printed wallpapers continue to offer the meticulously researched period interior authentic products and outstanding quality.