Design Direction: Wonderland

Things are getting curiouser and curiouser at Focus/21, as new products celebrate the magical and highly immersive, just like Alice in Wonderland, currently being celebrated at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The perfect antidote to staring at a computer screen all day, this look has a touch of surrealism that is in many ways is perfect for now: Lewis Carroll’s Alice is a symbol is empowerment, change and adapting to new, often strange, realities – which may reflect how we all feel after the past 18 months.

In a Victorian gothic style, McKinnon and Harris’ ‘Benedict Badminton’ bench would make a fine perch for Alice herself, particularly in the blue livery pictured above. A huge amount of craftsmanship goes into making the bench, pushing the limits of manufacturing in aluminium.

This ‘Palermo Stripes’ wallcovering and border (above) by Iksel Decorative Arts transports you to another land, combining patterns of faux stone marquetry and weather-beaten marble. The pattern was taken from the Sicilian capital’s Norman Palace, with its fusion of Norman, Arab and Byzantine styles – but its motifs look not unlike chess pieces, fitting in well to the Alice inspiration.

In this contemporary Wonderland, there are fantastical animals and hidden beasts that you need to look closer at to fully enjoy. Schumacher’s ‘Royal Silk Embroidery’ (above left) is one of its most sumptuous textiles ever – a menagerie of hand-embroidered mythical sea creatures, exotic flora and fanciful birds, it was inspired by the dress that Elizabeth I wore in an iconic portrait of the queen painted in 1599 by Nicholas Hilliard. ‘Roxton’ by Jane Churchill (above centre), available from Colefax and Fowler, takes its design cues from Persian carpet designs, while Arte’s ‘Mimic Moth’ embossed wallcovering (above right) shown here in bubblegum pink, is part of the newly extended Extinct Animals collection, a collaboration with Dutch brand Moooi.

In Wonderland, things are not always what they seem: ‘Vertical Green’, a modular wall panel by Italian brand de Castelli (available from Tollgard) may look like virginia creeper at first glance, but its leaves are in fact made from multi-coloured oxidised metals. At Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam Ltd, a new ‘Bamboo’ desk has a gleaming metal frame that mimics the plant it is named after, with dark lacquered timber drawers.

Arte, Second Floor, Design Centre East
Colefax and Fowler, Ground Floor, South Dome
Iksel Decorative Arts, Second Floor, South Dome
McKinnon and Harris, Second Floor, North Dome
Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam Ltd, Ground Floor, Centre Dome
Schumacher, Ground Floor, South Dome
Tollgard, First Floor, Centre Dome