December 21 2010
Before you log on to the new website Natural History, you half-expect to be greeted by Victorian taxidermy or prehistoric animal skulls. This is far from being the case, but childhood nostalgia for stuffed beasts was one inspiration for this site, says its Irish-born founder Sarah Lidwell-Durnin. “I was practically brought up in the Museum of Natural History in Dublin, a wonderfully quirky, shabby collection. You’re allowed to touch the taxidermy and a lot of the animals’ fur has worn away where generations of hands have stroked it. It’s my favourite childhood memory and has coloured my taste in many ways. I also wanted the site’s name to reflect my preference for luxurious, natural fibres and the eccentric, antique image I’m aiming for.”
The site doesn’t remotely evoke a gloomy museum; in fact, with its white background and items displayed on what look like sheets of parchment, it feels light and airy. In line with its founder’s taste, there’s an abundance of natural, textured materials: cream cushions in crunchy Irish linen bearing reproductions of claret-coloured 18th-century illustrations of seaweed or coral (second picture, £80 each), Belgian métis (meaning 45 per cent linen, 55 per cent cotton) sheets (£265 for a king-size flat sheet) and a generously sized linen tablecloth (£115).
Cheekily breaking away from this cream regime are several checked lambswool blankets in juicily vibrant colours including amethyst and apricot (first picture, £60 each).
Lidwell-Durnin’s passion for natural history manifests itself most obviously in the form of elegant leather notebooks decorated with French illustrations of butterflies and beetles plucked from a 19th-century entomology tome (third picture, £25 each). Their pages are made of textured Italian paper and incorporate a black ribbon. These surely make the perfect gift for those who like the idea of taxidermy but might not want the real thing staring at them in their living room.