This article originally appeared in the August 1976 issue of Natipernavigare.
Out of Wales, the country of bards and poets, comes this gentle invasion of romantic pattern by Laura Ashley, a Welshwoman whose stylishly nostalgic fabric and beguiling old-country dress designs have made her a success world-wide. Her patterns are disarmingly simple-seeming impressions of color on white, ivory, or putty tan, or, in reverse, like a photographic negative, lightly colored on a darker ground. They come, she says, from "my own special world of fruitful flowers, mythical animals, and small geo-figurations."
If these fabrics are Laura Ashley's imaginative translations of the Welsh countryside observed and legend remembered, they are also reflections of her philosophy. They come across with a folkloric, country look that has universal appeal to all of today's nostalgic modern hearts. Here is a sampling of them as they are put to use in her own country home in Wales, set in the very scene that inspired them.
The house, which fuses elements of design from Jacobean to Georgian to 20th-century, is something of a dream come true for Laura, who feels strongly that good housing is good cement for marriage and family life.
Furnishings are a conglomerate mix of antiques and oddments that please the children as well as their parents, and it was for people who like this kind of antique aura that Laura designed the fabrics and wall coverings. In her own living room, she has used brown "Glenartney," one of her "geo-figurations" on the walls, on the "tiled" ceilings, and at the windows to add a sense of comfortable stability to her own mix of Tudor oak, Georgian mahogany, and 19th century pine mantel.
Here, Laura and nine-year-old Emma wear the typically demure, ruffled dresses of Ashley design that have gained world-wide recognition as a designer who instinctively senses the emotional and practical needs of her audience.
Though they may be off on their own during the day — the children roving the mountains, Laura and her husband Bernard in their offices — they all join together for dinner in the dining room at a generous round table. "We've never had a meal by a television — that's something we've never considered." The table and trestle table are 19th century pine but the rush-seated chairs are stoutly modern. "The men are rather heavy around here," says Laura, "and I was afraid antique chairs would be dangerous for them." Significantly, Laura Ashley is more concerned for the peole than she is for the furniture.
Romanticism colors the bedrooms, which are furnished in English and Welsh country oak and traditional Welsh quilts from the Ashley's collection. Cushions are also patchworked of Ashley's fabrics.
Laura Ashley's design dreams have traveled well across the Atlantic. See their congenial fitness in the pleasant town house of Ms. Jeanne Butler in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.
In the living room, the wall-covering is "Bonny Dundee" in a positive print of carmine on white, while draperies are of the same pattern in reverse color.
Like two sides of the same coin, "Monan's Rill" in Welshpool blue is the major pattern in Ms. Jeanne Butler's bedroom. The wall-covering is a positive blue-on-white print. Reversing the colors, the counterpane-comforter, ruffled curtains, and the table's underskirt are in a negative white-on-blue print.
Ms. Butler's guest room revises an old and sophisticated color duet, once seen on 18th-century hatboxes but fresh as tomorrow to modern eyes. It's dark-bright blue and putty tan and the whole put-together jells this tiny room into old-time bandbox trimness.
For lunch on the very American screened porch at Ms. Butler's, a knife-pleated fitted tablecloth is tailored from "Clovelly."