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Interior Design | The Bespokesperson

Changing the face of upholstery

Gorgeous, tactile designs sculpted into all manner of materials

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Changing the face of upholstery

Image: Marcos Bevilacqua

May 12 2011
Nicole Swengley

Helen Amy Murray has a clever way of bringing flat – even dull – surfaces to life. By combining traditional cutwork and quilting with contemporary techniques such as digital printing, she literally sculpts her designs into leather, suede, wool felt, silks and high-tech woven materials. The results are eye-catching, intriguing and unique.

Murray’s passion for surface treatments sprang from a research trip to India where she was inspired to transfer the skills involved in carving wood and marble to couture textiles. “I’m excited by transforming flat materials into a carved, layered aesthetic and making it come to life,” she says.

Her clients are clearly excited too. Commissions have ranged from a nature-inspired wall covering for a Kensington-apartment bedroom to reupholstered Fritz Hansen Egg chairs. As well as upholstering contemporary and vintage chairs (pictured is an art-deco tub chair), she has transformed headboards, ottomans, cupboards, doors and lightboxes. One-off artworks and rugs (handmade by The Rug Company) also feature in her portfolio, and she recently collaborated with Van Cleef & Arpels to create imaginative window displays and wall coverings for the jeweller’s stores worldwide.

Everything is handmade to order in Murray’s Shoreditch studio, where clients can discuss designs such as a single, stunning motif for a chair back, an all-over headboard pattern or a wall panel with a completely pictorial approach. Various surface finishes – patent, pearlised, skin-like – add to the effects while further colours and textures are introduced through special appliqué techniques and gold- or silver-leafing.

Prices, naturally, vary, with dining-chair backs starting from about £1,500, headboards from £4,000 and wall coverings from around £8,000. The latter are currently very popular with clients who are choosing to cover entire walls with sculpted fabric or leather-wrapped panels. Never a dull surface, then.