William Morris’s designs and patterns have had a recent resurgence in popularity. This is unsurprising with the current popular Cottagecore aesthetic and maximalist interior trend.
If you are wondering what a Cottagecore aesthetic is, think of the trappings associated with traditional cottage living—stuff such as flowing floral dresses, crafting, homemade sour bread dough and growing your vegetables.
This renaissance of William Morris designs and patterns is part of the usual fashion cycles. I remember his prints and wallpapers being popular in the 1980s, along with floral chintz patterns.
Many of William Morris’s patterns are over 150 years old. They are such good designs they stand the test of time. The Morris & Co company Still sell his wallpapers, textiles and homewares today.
Who was William Morris
William Morris (1834 – 1896) was a very accomplished Victorian British gentleman. He was a gifted textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist. These days, we admire him for his interior design. But he was more famous as an author and poet when he was alive.
Morris was closely associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He significantly contributed to reviving traditional British textile arts and production methods.
The Arts and Crafts movement reacted to the industrial revolution at the time. William Morris wanted people to have beautiful things in their homes to improve their quality of life. However, ironically, most of his products were unaffordable to the everyman. This was mainly due to their laborious craftsmanship. Morris liked to use traditional methods and natural dyes with his designs.
From looking at William Morris’s patterns and designs, it’s obvious that he was inspired by nature. His textile patterns and wallpapers incorporate plants, fruits, flowers, and leaves. Very much like the art nouveau prints of Maurice Verneuil.
The most famous William Morris quote is, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
William Morris was influenced by Martin Gerlach and his book “The Plant in Art & Crafts”; check out his stunning vintage plant art here.
The Designs and Patterns
William Morris produced a wide range of designs for interiors and home furnishings. These included over 600 patterns for wallpaper, textiles, embroideries and over 150 stained glass windows.
He also created three typefaces, about 650 borders, and ornamentation for his private Kelmscott Printing Press.
If you want to see the wallpapers and patterns of William Morris in situ, I recommend visiting the V&A museum in London. His designs are not only part of the museum’s collection but the décor in the dining room, too! Just like the grammar of ornament designs of Owen Jones.
To download the William Morris pattern you want, click on the title above that image. A higher-resolution image will open in a new window in your browser. Right-click the image with your mouse, and the menu option will appear to save the image to your device.
This William Morris wallpaper pattern features pretty meadow flowers of fritillary, viola & daisy overlain with the white blossoms of hedge blackthorn. This wallpaper is still available to buy today.
A block printed William Morris design from 1864, ‘Daisy’ wallpaper pattern—a repeating pattern of plants, with red and yellow flowers, with a ground suggestive of grass.
Morris designed this wallpaper for the walls of the drawing room of his family home, Kelmscott House, London, 1878. I love the vibrant blues of this particular colourway pattern.
Original William Morris design for the wallpaper pattern called wreath 1876. This print would look fabulous framed.
Another beautiful flower print from William Morris that would look lovely framed. This design is called Trent from 1888.
A delicately complex two-colour leaf and marigold floral design with its undulating vertical stripe effect is typical of Morris. It was designed initially in 1875 but is still available to buy today as wallpaper and fabric in several different colourways.
Design produced in 1890.
Pink and Rose’ wallpaper, intertwined stems of flowering carnations and roses made in 1890.
An upholstery fabric design of William Morris from 1883.
Perhaps the most recognizable of Morris’s textiles, Strawberry Thief celebrates the thrushes in his house, Kelmscott Manor’s garden.
His daughter May Morris remarked, “You can picture my Father going out in the early morning and watching the rascally thrushes at work on the fruit beds and telling the gardener who growls, ‘I’d like to wring their necks!’ that no bird in the garden must be touched.”
With Strawberry Thief, Morris perfected the indigo-discharge process, which required the whole cloth to be dyed blue before it was bleached and block printed, in this case with more colours than any of his other textiles.
When Morris designed Snakeshead in 1877, Indian silks were in style and widely imported from British India. This design stands out for its small motifs and the solid red and black colours, which were fashionable only briefly before paler hues regained favour with clients.
While its colour scheme suggests distant lands with warmer climates, the pattern showcases one of Morris’s favourite flowers: the fritillary, a wildflower that he remembered growing in the meadows near Oxford.
The design was inspired by historic textiles, especially fifteenth-century velvets that often featured a solid diagonal or meandering branch from which various flowers emanated.
The design’s title refers to the river on which the Merton Abbey textile mill was situated. The river was a crucial power source and clean water for textile processing.
Archival research revealed this design was by William Morris’s daughter, May. Initially designed in 1883, this is still a popular wallpaper design today.
A William Morris pattern of flowering tulips with other flowers and foliage.
Trellis is the first wallpaper Morris designed, but the second one he produced. He simplified the trellis into perfect squares, sketched in some lines simulating woodgrain without suggesting depth, added some climbing roses and bluebirds, and created a classic.
‘St James’s’ was designed for the Grand Staircase in St James’s Palace. The decorative scheme for the palace was begun in 1866. It was Morris & Co.’s first secular commission.
A meander pattern of chrysanthemum, carnations, rose and thistle, named ‘Cherwell’ 1887.
A Morris & Co tapestry. Designed by John Henry Dearle in 1892, imitating William Morris’s style in the trees. Dearle was a British textile and stained-glass designer trained by William Morris. I thought I’d still include it here as it is so beautiful.
This tapestry was woven at the Merton Abbey Tapestry Works. William Morris founded the workshop at Merton, in Surrey, near London, in 1881 as part of his vision to use traditional craftsmanship to revitalize the art and design of postindustrial Britain.
(This image was used for the DIY tea light lanterns craft)
A William Morris design named Pimpernel after the small pimpernel flowers within the design, rather than the large poppies that dominate it. Pimpernel can actually be seen in the Billiard Room at the beautiful Wightwick Manor.
‘Fruit’ is one of the most enduringly popular of William Morris’s designs. It was used in many artistic homes of the period. It is still available from Morris & Co.
A contemporary of William Morris was Christopher Dresser, but he preferred industrial processes over handcrafted. You may also like the Art Nouveau pochoir butterflies of Seguy or the Alphonse Mucha posters.
If you enjoyed these beautiful patterns and designs of William Morris, check out some of these design collections on Pictureboxblue, such as Traditional Chinese Patterns, chinoiserie prints and Japanese Art and Design From the SHIN-BIJUTSUKAI.
Morris was influenced by Japanese art and design; you might also want to check out the Japanese vintage collection on the site.
If you are looking for more botanical inspiration, look at the hundreds of botanical flower illustrations on the site. Especially the British wild flower illustrations of Harriet Isabel Adams as she was trained in the Arts & Crafts style. There is a beautiful William Morris style Lily of the Valley pattern here.
These William Morris patterns would be great for home decor crafts, such as these DIY tile coasters.
William Morris influence many Art Nouveau artists like E.A.Seguy and his pochoir insect prints.
Wondering what else to do with these gorgeous patterns, check out these William Morris DIY air dry clay ornaments on the site.