· By Studio
Colour Notes 13
Out of the trees wild people stepped forth, gods and goddesses of the wood; with them came Fauns and Satyrs and Dwarfs. Out of the river rose the river god with his Naiad daughters. And all these and all the beasts and birds in their different voices, low or high or thick or clear, replied, 'Hail, Aslan. We hear and obey. We are awake. We love. We think. We speak. We know.'
- C.S. Lewis, 'The Magician's Nephew'
When the original domino paper that was to become Curious Creatures ~ Daylight came to us by way of an auction of rare books, it was as if some sort of alchemy had taken place. Immediately the animals seemed to come to life on the page, introducing themselves as both earthly beasts and mythical creatures. This uncanny cohort - lions and elephants beside donkeys, dogs and even a unicorn - spoke to a long tradition of mythology and magic in art. The design possessed that unquantifiable quality we are always looking for and know will make for a brilliant wallpaper.
To this day, we do not know who created these creatures, though we suspect it might be Atelier Remondini, a well-known family of printers based in Bassano del Grappa, Italy, who operated between 1634 and 1861. The Remondini family were famed for their decorative papers, which were used for book-binding, games, and for embellishing furniture. Of course, we cannot be sure that Curious Creatures originated here - but somehow this makes the paper all the more special. The sense of romance and mystique in the design is reflected in its very origins.
For centuries - indeed, right back to the first cave paintings - art has been concerned with the natural world, and has been used as a way to express wonderment and praise for all its gifts. Spotting the unicorn in Curious Creatures brings to mind the Unicorn Tapestries: seven hangings from the late Middle Ages which live on to this day in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 'Luxuriously woven in fine wool and silk with silver and gilded threads, the tapestries vividly depict scenes associated with a hunt for the elusive, magical unicorn.'
This tapestry is intricate in its detail - if you look closely, you can spot juice from a pomegranate in the tree above has fallen and stained the unicorn's white breast. It's likely the whole series would have been created as a wedding gift to a lucky bride and groom, with the unicorn in this image representing elusive love that has been tamed by marriage. The colours are rich and vivid, which is remarkable considering the piece's age.
We wanted to take a moment to consider a selection of natural-feeling paint colours to match with our Curious Creatures ~ Daylight wallpaper. Whether it's the right shade to suit the pinky ground, or highlighting the accents in the animals' coats, read on to see our suggestions for the ideal paintwork to help bring these fantastic beasts to life.
What makes the colour brown so versatile and appealing is that, aside from green, it is the colour most commonly found in nature. It is associated with dark wood and rich soil, with mud under fingernails, bare feet on terracotta tiles and boots crunching autumn leaves. Brown is, in fact, a composite colour, made by combining orange with black or green; it is not visible on the artist's colour wheel, and can be produced in thousands of different shades.
Brown has always had something of a slightly bad reputation. In Ancient Rome, (unlike the gleaming white togas) the colour brown was associated with the lower classes, who were known as 'pullati', which translates to 'those dressed in brown'. Similarly, in the Middle Ages, brown robes were worn by monks as a symbol of their humility and rejection of everyday temptations. Nowadays, we might associate brown with paper bags, or the food we all know we should have but don't really want: brown bread.
In painting, there was a shift in the early 16th century from using a white ground to a brown, as this allowed the painters to work more freely, with parts of the brown ground being able to be left exposed and visible without it looking obvious or strange. Rembrandt, Titian and Rubens used browns to create chiaroscuro effects, where the subject seems to emerge, realistically, out of the darkness. In the 1880s, the artistic style tonalism emerged in the US as painters began to render misty, mysterious landscapes with dark, neutral hues. Whistler's works are a brilliant example of the use of brown to create moody scenes.
When it came to selecting browns to match with Curious Creatures, we went for two easy-on-the-eye tones. First up, we chose Paw Print by Earthborn Paints: a mushroom shade which borders on a grey/purple. This is a warm tone with a natural-feeling matte finish. We also adore the name - it couldn't be more perfect for our pad-footed furry friends.
Edward Bulmer's Jonquil borrows its name from an 18th century colour made with Dutch Pink (which was in fact a yellow pigment). Jonquil is another name for the rush daffodil - a sunshine yellow flower native to Spain and Portugal. In essence, this paint colour appears like a plaster pink but has distinctive yellow/beige undertones which makes it very easy to work with and a solid companion to Curious Creatures.
What ties these paints together (and the others to follow) is that they hark back to nature. There is a sense of respect for the organic offerings the earth provides, and a resistance against the manmade and the artificial. Be it an animal's markings or a simple flower, these colours prove all we need for beautiful interiors is to look to the natural world for inspiration.
For something a little sweeter, we've selected Yucca by Francesca's Paints, which is from her collection inspired by her travels to Cuba. This paint is named after the yucca plant (cassava root) which is a commonly used ingredient in Cuban cookery, with a similar colour and texture to potatoes and a mild, nutty taste. This paint draws on the slightly pink tone of the wallpaper, and would be lovely in a child's bedroom.
We've chosen another of Earthborn's aptly named colours: Humpty Dumpty, which they promise is 'unlike its namesake, safe on any wall!' Derived from ochre, a clay earth pigment, this paint maintains a wholly natural feel, with the shade undeniably reminiscent of runny egg yolk. It sits nicely alongside the yellow accents of the lion's mane and dog's collar in Curious Creatures.
THE BLUES & GREYS
The Hackney Draper's Jade is described simply as a 'deep sea blue'. Of course, jade is a popular semi-precious gemstone used throughout history in jewellery and for ornaments. In Ancient China, jade was cherished as a symbol of nobility and beauty. Today, many people make use of jade as a bringer of good energy to a space, and even use jade rollers for anti-ageing properties. So this one's bound to be a winner alongside Curious Creatures on your walls.
Finally, we selected Francesca's Paints French Grey - a cool shade with a grey undertone, part of her collection of off-whites, which she says are 'elegant, sophisticated, classical'. We couldn't agree more. We particularly like how this colour echoes the elephant's hide and deer's antlers in the wallpaper - whilst still maintaining a bright and breezy feel.
Order your samples of Curious Creatures ~ Daylight here.
We hope this has given you some decoration inspiration. We love seeing how you use our designs in your homes. Email your pictures to us at email@example.com, or tag us on Instagram using #mycommonroom.