I’ll have more on our recent stay in Cornwall for you later this week, but first I want to introduce a wonderful new homeware collection with a strong Cornish link.
Developed by Helen Baker, a self-taught fabric designer who now lives near Bath, it’s called ‘You Can Take The Girl Out Of Cornwall’ in celebration of her Cornish roots. The cushions, lightshades and fabrics were all inspired by the coast, but rather than focusing on clichéd seaside motifs, Helen has taken an altogether more contemporary approach. So, instead of twee sailing boats and anchors, you’ll find clean-lined, minimalist patterns based on pebble stacks, seaweed and even surfboards.
The collection is designed to be family-friendly and gender-neutral, with a colour palette that encompasses muted greys and blues alongside sunny reds and yellows. But it will also appeal to those without children, and it works in all sorts of settings – I couldn’t resist treating myself to a cloud-motif cushion, which now takes pride of place in our guest bedroom.
I chatted to Helen to find out more about her background and the inspiration behind her work…
How did you get started in fabric design?
“My interest in it started after moving from Cornwall to Wiltshire in 2015. I was renovating our new home and became frustrated that I couldn’t find fabrics and soft furnishings that suited our whole family without compromising on style. I wanted gender-neutral colours and simple, stylish designs that work in open-plan spaces – designs which suit the way lots of families live today. I decided to create my own, so I taught myself digital illustration, took online courses in surface-pattern design, and read lots of books. Our new home was used as a testing ground to see if the designs translated from the computer screen to printed fabric, and I made them into blinds, cushions and lampshades. I was really pleased with the initial results so I went on to create my first collection.”
What was the inspiration behind the collection?
“I lived in Cornwall on and off for 25 years, so it has been a big part of my life. I grew up in St Agnes, a lively village on the north Cornish coast. There are so many beautiful beaches to be inspired by, and there’s something about being near the sea that’s good for the soul. This collection is my take on contemporary coastal designs, reflecting modern-day Cornwall with fresh, bold patterns. So many people have happy memories of being by the sea and I wanted them to be able to recreate those feelings in their home.”
Above: Helen wanted to include a seaweed design in the collection as she felt it’s an often-overlooked element of the coast. Raindrops feature to add an honest reflection of Cornish life; Helen also finds raindrops very calming.
Where do you source ideas for your designs? What kind of shapes and colours are you drawn to?
“I’m drawn to bold silhouettes and shapes found in the natural world all around us, and by combining these elements within my designs I hope to create pieces which everyone can relate to. Colour-wise, I like palettes that have a balance of bright and soft colours – for example this collection features warm saffron yellow alongside pale mizzle grey.”
How are your designs manufactured?
“I create my designs on the computer and then send the digital files to a fabric printer in London. They use eco-friendly inks and 100% cotton fabrics. I wanted to make sure the manufacturing was done in the UK, with as little impact on the environment as possible.”
Above: the ‘Surfboard Scallop’ design was inspired by Cornwall’s surfing culture. Helen took the top dimensions from a surfboard and repeated them in a scallop pattern which can be used either way up.
How would you describe your own interiors style?
“I’m drawn to simple, unfussy and practical interiors, with a splash of colour and personality. I love good design which is compatible with everyday living, and I admire how Scandinavian designers have done this brilliantly for decades.”
Above: the ‘Pebble Stack’ design echoes the pebbly beaches found all around Cornwall’s coast – Helen wanted to reflect how their shapes change with the tide and how each pebble is unique. She was inspired to create the starfish pattern after her sons found a starfish while rock-pooling at Trevaunance Cove, near her childhood home.
Do you have any personal favourites from your collection?
“My favourite design is ‘Cornish Clouds’, as I was keen to incorporate an updated version of the classic seaside stripe within the collection. I was inspired by Breton stripes (my husband is half French), and by my love of clouds and simple shapes, so it seemed the perfect combination!”
Above: ‘Cornish Clouds’ incorporates horizontal stripes, which can be seen everywhere by the coast – in the sea, in the sky, in the beaches and cliffs. Helen created an updated version with a narrow stripe and added a graphic cloud motif.
What’s next? Do you have any new designs on the horizon?
“I’m putting the finishing touches to a British garden-themed collection, again nature-inspired and gender-neutral. It’s been so great to see how people have connected with the current collection, particularly the family-friendly aspects, so I can’t wait to share my new designs.”
Head over to Helen’s website to see the full range.
Top image by Abi Dare; all other photography via Helen Baker