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DESIGN CRUSH: MARTHE ARMITAGE
Marthe Armitage hand printed wallpaper designs | Nick Balloon photography | via: chatham st. house

Design Crush: Marthe Armitage

Let’s talk linocut and Marthe Armitage shall we? This octogenarian is a print powerhouse and masterful wallpaper designer who everyone should know, if they don’t already. I am obsessed with her fairytale-like designs and she feels like the perfect designer to kick-off a new series I’m calling Design Crush. It acts as a companion piece to my Interior Crush series where I explore inspirational interior design. Design Crush will focus on the work of designers and artists who have had a huge impact on interior design, but focuses less on a singular project and more on their entire body of work.

 

THE BEGINNINGS

I first discovered Marthe Armitage on Pinterest (how I love a good Pinterest rabbit hole) and I devoured post after post about her life and work. Like so many of the women designers I love her work stems first from her love of family and home. A graduate of the Chelsea School of Art, now the University of Arts – London, Marthe put aside her artistic ambitions to raise her family and support her architect husband in the 1950s. It was during this era that they lived in India and she was first exposed to the art of block printing.

Marthe Armitage studio visit | via: chatham st. house
Marthe Armitage studio visit | via: chatham st. house
marthe armitage design sketch | via: chatham st. house
marthe armitage in her studio | via: chatham st. house
Marthe Armitage studio visit | via: chatham st. house

THE PROCESS

This experience left an indelible mark on Marthe, and that early inspiration can be seen in her work to this day. Taking block printing a step further, Marthe uses the technique of linocut to create all of her wallpaper designs. Linocut is a printmaking technique where the design is cut into a linoleum surface with a sharp knife. The raised areas create a reverse image of the design when printed by hand or with a printing press. The use of linocuts vs. block prints allows for a greater level of complexity and nuance to her designs.

 

Initially Marthe Armitage created hand-pressed wallpapers as an artistic experiment for her own family home. It wasn’t until she acquired a lithographic press, well into her adulthood, that she was able to make her designs commercially available.

 

THE INSPIRATION

Inspired by the natural world, books and art, Marthe’s designs have a mystical, fairy-like quality that transcends genre. Each design starts as a four-section sketch that masterfully evolves into a repeatable print. These sketches are then transferred to a linocut and hand-printed on the lithographic press. This handmade process creates a finished product that is incredibly durable while simultaneously keeping the delicacy and ethereal quality of Marthe’s work.

Designer Marthe Armitage at home | via: chatham st. house
Marthe Armitage's daughter Jo Broadhurst designer and architect | via: chatham st. house
 Marthe Armitage, T Magazine

THE LEGACY

Her imagination is unparalleled with (perhaps) one exception - Marthe’s daughter Jo Broadhurst has become an integral partner in Marthe’s studio and elegant designer in her own right. They work continue to work side-by-side, hand printing Marthe’s extensive body of work and developing new designs for their ever expanding client list. I can’t get enough of their use of color and the whimsical stories they tell through their wallpapers and prints. Read more about Marthe Armitage on her website here. -b. 


Image Sources: 1 | 2-3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8-9

PAINTING TIPS: 7 STEPS TO A SMOOTH FINISH
PAINTING TIPS: 7 STEPS TO A SMOOTH FINISH | via: chatham st. house

I'm *this* close to being finished with painting the ground floor. A few more tweaks in the living room and vestibule and we'll have a freshly hued look in every corner.  With all this painting going on, I've done a fair bit of research on how to best tackle painting a room, and I'd like to think I've learned a thing or 2 along the way. Because I'm so generous I thought I'd put together my favorite painting tips for a smooth finish. 

STEP 1:

Test paint colors. I recommend trying at least 3 shades BEFORE choosing your favorite hue. 

 

Pro Tip: Paint a 1' x 1' square in 1-2 locations around the room to see how the paint will look in different light. I love the testers size at Home Depot!

We went with the bolder coral color - Behr's Marquee Paint in Cockleshell

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STEP 2:

Fill holes + CRACKS. CAULK ANY SEAMS ALONG WOODWORK, putty HOLES and DIVETS IN WALLs.

 

Pro Tip: If you're going to rehang something (like curtains) in the same place you don't need to fill in the holes.

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STEP 4:

Prep the space to paint. Tape ALONG floor, cover any non-moveable features, and lay DROP CLOTHS.

 

Pro Tip: Don't worry about taping windows, use your paint scraper to remove any painting mishaps instead!

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STEP 6:

Cut in along woodwork. Using an angled brush paint around all windows, doors, and baseboards before starting on the walls.

 

Shh - I cheated a little...

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STEP 3:

Smooth surface. Scrape bumps and sand filled holes.

 

You can buy drywall sanding blocks for the wall, and I'm addicted to my Warner Steel Paint Scraper from Lowes.

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STEP 5:

Ceilings + Woodwork first! For the cleanest finish always start with painting the details before starting on the walls.

 

Pro Tip: Don't be stingy around woodwork, allow about 1-2" of overlap on the walls so your paint job will be seamless

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STEP 7:

ALLOW PAINT TO FULLY DRY BETWEN COATS. SECOND COATS ARE RECOMMENDED. 

 

Even "one coat guaranteed" brand paints may require a second coat depending on how porous your wall surface is, or how generous you are with your paint-filled roller. I say better safe than sorry.

Do you have any painting tips you'd like to share? Head over to Instagram and share them on the partner gram to this post. - b.

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INTERIOR CRUSH: THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP
Inside Charleston House | Anna Huix photography | via: chatham st. house

INTERIOR CRUSH: THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP

Once upon a time there was a beautiful English cottage called Charleston. Inside its peeling walls and sagging roof lived a family of artists and they were called Bloomsbury...ok, so that isn't accurate but it does have the makings of a magical Disney movie I'd definitely watch. The true story is much more interesting and unconventional and I've done my best to distill it into a digestible post with loads of information. I've decided to focus on the matriarch of this pseudo-family, Vanessa Bell, her Sussex cottage and her influence within the Bloomsbury Group.

 

VANESSA BELL

Vanessa Bell (née Stephen) was the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen and Julia Prinsep Duckworth, and the elder sister of famous modernist author Virginia Woolf. From an early age Vanessa’s calm, sweet disposition was overshadowed by the tempestuous Virginia, and even as I write this I’m aware it's impossible to reference Vanessa without first mentioning her connection to Woolf. An amazing talent in her own right, Vanessa has gained notoriety as an artist and interior decorator whose influence can still be felt in the world of decorative arts. Additionally, Vanessa served as an important source of comfort and inspiration to many of her more illustrious peers.

Incredibly close to her younger siblings (Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian) Vanessa sold the family home in Westminster, London shortly after their father's death, and moved the family to Gordon Square in Bloomsbury. It is here that they met and began socializing with artists, writers, and intellectuals. The individuals who would form the Bloomsbury Group.

Charleston House guest room by the Bloomsbury Group | via: chatham st. house
Painted door by Duncan Grant in the study of Clive Bell in the Charleston House by the Bloombury Group | via: chatham st. house
mantel in Charleston House by the Bloombury Group | via: chatham st. house

THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP

Many of the founding members of the Bloomsbury Group met as students at Cambridge University, but it was in Vanessa’s Bloomsbury living room that many of their ideas and relationships began to take shape. Founding members included Vanessa’s siblings, Lytton Strachey, Desmond MacCarthy, Maynard Keynes, Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, Roger Fry and Vanessa’s husband Clive Bell. 

Clive and Vanessa had an open marriage which allowed both of them to live out one of the most important Bloomsbury tenants – Rejecting the bourgeois habits of their Victorian upbringings. This included the belief in monogamous relationships. Remarkably Vanessa’s lovers, including Duncan Grant (father to her daughter Angelica) and Roger Fry, would remain lifelong friends and companions. She and Clive also remained close, though their sexual relationship cooled after the birth of their 2 sons Julian and Quentin.

The Bloomsbury Group was highly influenced by their left-liberal political stances and a collective appreciation of post-Impressionist art which was introduced by group member and art critic Roger Fry. They also worked to blur the lines between fine and decorative arts as you can see in the interiors of Charleston. All of these things lead them to become the premier bohemian set of their time and interconnects their work in an inexorable way. 

 

CHARLESTON FARMHOUSE

In 1916 Vanessa Bell purchased Charleston, a 16th Century farmhouse in East Sussex, at the urging of her sister Virginia Woolf. Along with her 2 young sons, Bell moved in with longtime companion Duncan Grant and his friend and lover David Garnett. The plan was partially to protect Duncan and David from conscription during World War I. Their anti-war stance required they find “work of national importance” or they would have to serve. The farm allowed them to toil on the land while maintaining their artistic lifestyles.

Charleston quickly became the country getaway of the artists, intellectuals, and writers within the Bloomsbury Group. There they could freely discuss their political views, live unconventional love lives, and squirrel away to complete their most important works. Over the years visitors included the likes of T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Vita Sackville-West, Hugh Walpole, and of course Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

Almost immediately Vanessa and Duncan started the important work of transforming the cottage from shabby farmhouse to a masterful display of color, expression, and art. By this time they had started the Omega Workshops with critic Roger Fry where they pushed the boundaries between decorative and fine arts. Their explorations in furniture design, textiles, and other household accessories can be seen in every facet of the Charleston home. 

Vanessa Bell's Charleston House studio of the Bloomsbury Group | via: chatham st. house
Charleston House studio in Sussex | the Bloomsbury Group | via: chatham st. house
Vanessa Bell's Charleston House in Sussex England | the Bloomsbury Group | via: chatham st. house

A LIVING WORK OF ART

Each room in Charleston tells a unique story. Over the years the home was added to, rooms changed uses, and bedrooms were fluid as inhabitants flowed in and out of the house. The one constant? Vanessa and Duncan’s unique hand can be felt and seen in every nook and cranny of the space.

Duncan’s work effortlessly mixes figurative motifs with expressive print and color. You can see his work adorning mantels, doors, and on textiles draped over chairs. Vanessa’s work was inspired more by the natural world and grandeur of Roman frescoes. You can see her flowers dotting the windowsills and faux paneling painted in a dazzling mix of colors. She had the amazing ability to mix colors and patterns in a way that feels put together in its chaos.

My favorite part of the home is its layers. You can see years of memories lined up across the studio’s mantel, paint thickly laid on every flat surface from years of painting, perfecting, and reimagining. There is a feeling that things stay where they landed not to be moved or forgotten. Visitors get to absorb just a little bit of their magic. To this day Charleston feels like it is living and breathing, like it’s not quite done yet. It will never be done.

Charleston House living room | Vanessa Bell of the Bloomsbury Group | via: chatham st. house
Charleston House by the BLoombury Group | Vanessa Bell window sill painting | via: chatham st. house
Vanessa Bell's CharlestonHouse living room | the Bloomsbury Group | via: chatham st. house

CHARLESTON + THE BLOOMSBURY LEGACY

It could be argued that there would be no Bloomsbury legacy if it weren't for Charleston. Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were the heart and soul of the group and they kept the work of their friends and lovers alive through excessive generosity, and the continual transformation of the farmhouse through their art. Over the course of 64 years they poured themselves into Charleston and now it is preserved for future generations to enjoy and be inspired by thanks to their family. I'm incredibly inspired by this place and hope to treat my own house as a canvas for expression. I never want to be afraid to experiment and include my friends in the adventures. -b. 

Learn more about the Charleston and the amazing life of Vanessa Bell here


Image Sources: 1 | 2- unknown | 3-4 | 5 | 6-7 | 8 | 9 | 10

References: The Charleston TrustWikipedia | Artsy