The World at our Door
Part One

As spring slips seamlessly into summer, our thoughts glide towards that annual escape to distant shores. Twenty twenty, however, is going to be exceptional and not only historically significant for, amongst other things, worldwide lockdown, but also the year that the majority of us will stay resolutely put in our own countries if not our own homes.

Mary Katrantzou, that maestra of surface pattern, has approached the launch of her new resort collection, Mary-Mare with that firmly in mind, creating stylish campaign illustrations in the form of vintage holiday stamps championing the Mediterranean. In an inspired alternative to on-location fashion shoots, the campaign evokes nostalgia with a ‘WishWeWereThere’ hashtag. It’s also a significant statement within the fashion industry for sustainability, not only by sourcing reusable materials, but also by consciously challenging the need for the cycle of “seasons”. Rather the collection will be added to in the future and not replaced.

This manner of thinking is much more aligned with the way many of us decorate and enhance our own environments. We assume a certain longevity when we create a space in which to cocoon and retreat.

Therefore, if we can’t traverse the world right now what can we do to bring a sense of it into our homes? In part 1 of this article we’ve curated a selection of printed textiles and wall coverings that celebrate some of our closest European neighbours.

FRANCE

Historically and culturally France is amongst the most important nations in the Western world, greatly influencing the development of art and science worldwide. The monumental capital, Paris, is known as the ville lumière, or “city of light,” and is one of Europe’s largest conurbations, yet its historic heart can still be easily crossed in a romantic evening’s stroll.

  1. MANUEL CANOVAS LA PARISIENNE 04911/01 NOIR ET BLANC

Paris has always embraced pioneering architects who have laid bold and experimental structures all over the city. This has ultimately fashioned the French capital into a city which has an extraordinary yet harmonious diversity encompassing all the city’s Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Neo-Classical, Art Nouveau and Contemporary architectural styles. In honour of such diversity, a campaign in 2015 was mounted to award the Parisienne rooftops World Heritage Status, however, for the present time only the banks of the River Seine in the city have been bestowed this accolade.

  1. MANUEL CANOVAS LES TOITS DE PARIS 03082/02 ARDOISE & PIERRE FREY TOITS DE PARIS F2811001 NOIR ET BLANC
  1. EIJFFINGER BISOU DE MME PITOU COLLECTION 365110

More broadly, France has looked after its past with 40 other UNESCO World Heritage sights both cultural and natural. This, combined with a collage of terrains, climate and coastline, represents “the whole of Europe in one country”, says Anthony Peregrine (the Telegraph’s travel columnist who has lived there for over 20 years).

As beautiful and charismatic as so many of the French Departments are, the ones on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea act like magnets for travellers. Sheltered to the north by the Maritime Alps and Ligurian Apennines, the Côte d’Azur – or French Riviera – has mild winters and brilliant hot summers allowing plants such as pomegranate, agave, mimosa and some types of palm to flourish.

Further South the Massif de L’Esterel, is a dramatic natural area of mountains boasting one of the most scenic roads in France. In many places the cliffs of the massif reach the sea, forming small coves surrounded by red rocks. The magical views reveal magnificent colours ranging from the turquoise blue of the sea to the red of the cliff glimpses of which can be viewed through the green of the maquis (dense Mediterranean shrub land) and the pines.

  1. PIERRE FREY L’ESTEREL FP522001

In stark contrast to the coast, the mountains of France lure climbers, walkers & are, of course,  home to world class ski resorts like Val d’Isere and Courcheval.

‘Skiing began as a mode of survival’, writes Roland Huntford in Two Planks and a Passion: A Dramatic History of Skiing. Cave drawings suggest that man used skis during the last Ice Age in the Palaeolithic period or Old Stone Age. This was primitive man’s method of moving through the snow for hunting. However, it was Norway who sped ahead in the sporting and leisure stakes, where Oslo held the first cross-country ski race in 1867 and also established the first ski school in 1881. The sport really took off during the first ever Winter Olympics, held in Chamonix in 1924. The event glamorised skiing, with the result that more visitors came to the Alps for winter holidays and the little villages of Chamonix and Val d’Isère began to grow into desirable holiday destinations.

  1. PIERRE FREY LES 3 VALLEES F2610001

ITALY

This country is home to world renowned cities, architecture, works of art, and gastronomy. Epicentre of the Roman Empire and birthplace of the Renaissance, Italy is an overflowing treasure chest of cultural sites.

Founded in the mid-8th century BCE as an Iron Age hut village on the banks of the River Tiber, ancient Rome grew into an empire that at its peak encompassed most of continental Europe, Britain, much of western Asia, northern Africa and the Mediterranean islands. The most iconic buildings, like the Colosseum, were erected as displays of mighty strength and power. Great innovators, the Romans quickly evolved construction techniques in combination with new materials and creative design to produce original architectural structures like the basilica, triumphal arch, monumental aqueduct, amphitheatre, granary building, and residential housing block. Many of these innovations were a response to the changing practical needs of Roman society, and these architectural projects were backed by the state, which funded, organised, and spread them around the Roman world, guaranteeing their permanence so that many of these great edifices survive to the present day.

  1. ZUBER LES VUES D’ITALIE ORIGINAL
  1. FORNASETTI RIFLESSO 114/20040

Of course, one of the most romantic of all Italian cities is Venice. Populated by itinerant fishermen, salt workers and mainlanders driven to the 118 small islands by the Lombards (a Germanic tribe) in the 5th century after the fall of the Roman Empire, Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece, with the historic heart a unique artistic achievement, in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists.

  1. RUBELLI GRANCANAL WALL 23014

On the opposite coast, sitting on the edge of the Ligurian Sea, within the protected Porto Venere Regional Natural Park is the colourful town of Portovenere. Steep, uneven terrains and dramatic cliffs characterise the coastline, down which colourful towns like Portovenere cascade.

Historically, almost every single town built at the edge of water, regardless of location, was at one point a fishing town. Portovenere, along with the Cinque Terre, Positano and Burano, are vibrantly painted with distinctive colour schemes. The paint on these buildings helped the cities and villages stick out visually on the shorelines, enabling sailors to navigate towards land and even locate their own homes. Also, fishing boats were painted vibrantly, and much of that excess paint could be diverted toward buildings. Functionally, many of these towns and villages are in warmer climates and a brightly painted wall is useful in reflecting the sun’s heat, an aid to keeping the interiors cool.

  1. OSBORNE & LITTLE PORTOVENERE F7170-03

Italy’s ability to excite the senses extend beyond its cities, towns, galleries and dining rooms. The country is one of nature’s masterpieces, with extraordinary natural diversity matched by few. One region that perfectly fits the brief is Tuscany for in addition to great architecture and art the landscape is abundant with gently rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards, mountain ranges, forests and a long verdant coastline. It encapsulates the essence of all Italy has to offer.

  1. PIERRE FREY VOYAGE EN TOSCANE LA MER’ FP611001
    PIERRE FREY VOYAGE EN TOSCANE LA CAMPAGNE’ FP612002
    PIERRE FREY VOYAGE EN TOSCANE LA MONTAGNE’ FP613003

Like what you have seen and feel we could collaborate to produce something amazing?