In focus: The history & heritage of Cole & Son
When welcoming a new element into your home, we find there’s something uniquely joyful about knowing the origins of the design, and of its creator brand. Throughout this article we’ll explore the journey of the inimitable Cole & Son, from its humble beginnings in the printing district of Islington, North London, to where it is today – a sourcebook of inspiring ideas and rich concepts, with an archive of thousands of iconic prints. Remaining scrupulously true to its roots, it continues to pour its passion, heritage and expertise into every collection it releases, with an emphasis on innovation, fine craftsmanship and painstaking detail.
Cole & Son’s reputation as an innovative brand was established soon after it was formed by merchant’s son John Perry in 1875. Perry’s unique combination of good taste and innovative spirit led to the conception of techniques still widely used throughout the wallpaper industry today. Methods such as pan coating to create tactile stripes, flocking to achieve cut velvet and Perry’s ground-breaking method for achieving silk-effect finishes, helped to add a third dimension to wallpaper design at the time.
For sixty years, Perry led his growing business through a period of great change for the industry, acquiring printing woodblocks from neighbouring firms as they closed and curating one of the largest collections of woodblocks in Europe. The firm went from strength to strength, earning commissions for some of the most prestigious decorating schemes of the time. Cole & Son papers were used in Chatsworth House, Blickling Hall and Audley End, not to mention Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Houses of Parliament; each of these is still faithfully maintained today.
Following Perry’s death in 1940, the company was acquired by frequent customer A.P. Cole, who was able to showcase the designs in a new way, exhibiting them at the company’s Mortimer Street showroom. Never abandoning the innovative heritage of the business, Cole & Son created one of the first screen print studios in Europe, developing wallpapers in the 1950s and 60s that we now revere as icons of the era. Enduring designs that have been refreshed over time include its timelessly elegant Hummingbirds wallpaper and Cow Parsley wallpaper designs with its iconic silhouette stem design and etched background.
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Fast-forward to today and the Cole & Son brand is stronger than ever, with a compact but incredibly talented design team, who travel the world looking for new ideas. Its extensive archives are an occasional source of new designs, but Cole & Son is not content to rest on its laurels; each new collection brings something fresh and exciting thanks to the company’s unique creative process. It’s rare to find a brand so steeped in heritage, yet so forward-looking.
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