Home Accessories

Dreaming in colour

Arty prints, riotous patterns and hot-house shades: the new bed linens are all about mood enhancement and major impact.

November 04 2011
Nicole Swengley

Bed linens – for years just a pale or pastel backdrop for our dreams – are breaking out into bold, artistic patterns and gorgeously bright colours. Taking inspiration from the eye-zapping colour blocking displayed on fashion catwalks, this refreshing move comes at a time when furniture is becoming more austere. It’s a timely role reversal, since the bed linen now hitting the shops demands, like a brilliant hothouse flower, to be the centre of attention.

Take Diane von Furstenberg’s collection, which launched this year exclusively at Selfridges. The new autumn range features extraordinarily bold designs, including the Jackson Pollock-like Giant Brush Marks and Indian Temple’s jewel-like colours and lotus leaves (from £119 a pillowcase). Giant Grass is reminiscent of the broad, black strokes of Japanese calligraphy, Silver Knots is nautically inspired and 50 Stripe resembles the grainy effect of natural timber. Each design is an artwork in its own right.

“It’s no longer about using safe colours and prints, it’s about creating maximum impact,” says Caitlin McCann, Selfridges’ bed, bath and furniture buyer. “Never before has the link between fashion and interiors been stronger, with both industries channelling the same trends. People want to show their personal style not only in the way they dress but in how they accessorise the home. And right now it’s about big, bold, bright prints.”

Selfridges’ colour-fest continues with Missoni’s latest bed linens, including Milly, a bold floral (double duvet cover, £319), Mark, a chic check (double, £355) and John, a chevron design in painterly colours (double, £455). Over at Harrods, Escada Home recently launched its exclusive, fashion-inspired bed-linen collection complete with decorative cushions and throws. Among the début designs are the opulent Prints, in bright shades on satin (doubles from £219), and Degradé (doubles from £259).

Designers Guild has, of course, espoused hot colours for years. Its latest riffs include Taru, a Mondrian-style check in pink, black and white (double, £110), and Lotus Flower, which features jewel-bright flowers on a white background (double, £90). Similarly, textile designers Collier Campbell have created painterly prints such as Cleo and Megan (doubles, £60) for House of Fraser’s Linea collection. “Colour is very emotive. People are spending time discovering how different colours make them feel, then using this to great effect in their homes,” says Tricia Guild, creative director of Designers Guild. “The idea that one should choose neutrals as opposed to colour and pattern for fear of growing tired of a scheme is, thankfully, a thing of the past.”

Interior designer Stephen Ryan, who admits that, until recently, he only used white linens, says: “People are ready to experiment with more pattern and integrate bed linen into their decorative schemes. Colourful stripes work particularly well. Sonia Rykiel does this beautifully – I have her linens at home in London and in our Italian villa.” Sonia Rykiel Maison’s new autumn/winter collection features a riot of black and pink blooms in Black Rose (doubles from £275) and a woodland-inspired design reversing to dramatic emerald/black stripes in Just For You (doubles from £250).

So how do you weave such bold designs into a bedroom scheme? “As with clothing, the concern is about proportion and the mix of colours,” says Nathalie Rykiel, artistic director and president of Sonia Rykiel. “What matters is harmony. If I have bed linen with strong colours I will temper it with dark or pale throws, cushions and accessories elsewhere in the room.” Indeed, bed linen is increasingly used as a starting point. “My clients are choosing what suits the room and are much more open to adventurous colours than in the past,” says interior designer Suzy Hoodless. “It’s no longer the knee-jerk reaction of only using white. The trend may be fashion-led but it’s not flash-in-the-pan. Colour is here to stay.”

Designer Allegra Hicks takes a similar view. “Bold bed linen becomes part of a room’s decoration and looks great with minimal furniture,” she says, pointing out that “life is easier because you don’t need a bedcover”. Anyone with a yen for hot colours should head to US-based designer Jonathan Adler’s newly opened store in Chelsea, London. Here they might fall for Flame, a chevron in bright pink and green (£106), or Syrie, a lozenge design that, in blue and white, looks as crisp as Delft pottery (£106). Or there’s Nixon, a chain-link pattern in rich brown or yellow (£119). “I’ve never understood the idea that pale bed linens are somehow calming,” says Adler. “Colour and pattern not only add visual interest to the biggest piece of furniture in the bedroom, they are also mood-enhancing.”

Adding decorative pillows, meanwhile, creates further layers of colour, like building up pigments in a painting. Adler’s Bargello collection, which has a 1950s/1960s graphic influence, embraces the multicoloured parquet design Windmill (£106), the maze-like Puzzle (£106) and the emphatic Zig-Zag (£88). And there are also his Red Letter pillows, which feature a white initial on a red background (£60) and which are often bought in multiples to spell out names or words.

Another US creative with a penchant for Palm Beach colours is fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer, whose latest bed linens for Garnet Hill include Don’t Be Koi, a painterly design of fish among flowers in cool blue and white (double comforter cover, $198) and Sister Florals with scarlet or yellow begonias (double comforter cover, $158). Just as artistic are the bed linens created by Dutch designer duo Scholten and Baijings for the Danish manufacturer Hay. Colour Block, a stripe design with full-colour reverse comes in a choice of red, pink, yellow or green (double, £129) while Minimal has a graduated wash of colour down the duvet cover’s length (double, £129). For those who prefer arty colours in a more subdued wash, there’s Designers Guild’s Biella in a choice of cobalt, camellia, alabaster, duck egg or slate (double, £155).

More dramatic, though, is Bedeck’s Suzani, inspired by traditional Turkish Iznik tiles. This intrepid geometric pattern comes in rich shades of blue, turquoise and white (double, £85) with matching cushions (£50) and embroidered and printed pillowcases (£17). Equally striking is Harlem, whose horizontal deck stripes come in tropical colours (double duvet set, £50) and Palermo, a botanical print inspired by ethnic block-printing, in pink, lime or black (double duvet set, £55), both of which are made in Manchester by Kingsley Home. Just remember to draw the black-out blinds.

See also

Bed linen