The vogue for gorgeous wallpaper, pattern and print in boutique hotels – and homes – throughout the world owes a lot to the posthumous revival of Australian talent Florence Broadhurst’s dreamy designs. New Zealand-born, Sydney-based husband-and-wife team David and Helen Lennie (left) of Signature Prints can take credit for putting Florence firmly back on the map, reproducing and updating her work, and even sharing her Spring Floral print to pretty-up the inside covers of our recently reissued Australia/New Zealand guidebook. We’re curious to know more…
So, what’s the story behind Signature Prints?
Helen: Signature Prints is a hand-printed wallpaper and designer fabric studio in Sydney. We’re famous for bringing the Florence Broadhurst (1899–1977) archive back to life, with a portfolio spanning rugs, limited-edition art and homewares. The fabulous Florence (right) never stopped creating and her archive is still setting trends today. It boasts a whopping 530 hand-drawn designs and is one of the strongest modern libraries of decorative art.
Florence Broadhurst was an avid traveller. Which countries inspired her designs?
Helen: Florence left Australia when she was 20 and travelled extensively throughout Asia, including stints performing as a singer in India and Shanghai, where she founded an arts academy. By 1933, she had set up shop as a fashion designer in London’s very chic Bond Street, reinventing herself as Madame Pellier! However, she is best remembered for the amazing wallpapers she created, many featuring Asian-inspired motifs from cranes to bamboo and Japanese fans.
Florence’s designs are seen in stylish shops, bars, clubs and hotels across the globe. Share your favourites…
Helen: One of my top picks would be Laucala Island, a luxury resort off the coast of Fiji, which is full of Florence. In London, you can check out her work at Madame JoJo’s in Soho, an iconic nightclub decorated with her Exotic Birds, French Fountain and Butterflies designs. We even wallpapered the outside of the club! There’s a different theme every night, including kitsch cabaret, so be prepared for a late one. My all-time favourite, though, is our print studio in Rosebery, Sydney. For lovers of Florence’s designs, it’s like being in a candy shop.
Tell us about your latest collection?
David: In about four weeks we’re releasing the first range of Florence Broadhurst fabrics specifically for hotels and commercial projects, printed using the latest digital technology. We’re super excited.
Any predictions for 2012?
David: Next year is all about Pop, so we’re looking at bright colours a lot right now. I was even asked for glow-in-the-dark wallpaper recently!
Your showroom is in Sydney. Any local travel tips?
Helen: When we hosted NY fashion label Kate Spade’s creative team recently, we took them for walks along Bondi Beach and a Harbour Bridge climb mixed with cocktails at Café Sydney, on the roof of the Customs House, and dinner at Rockpool Bar & Grill. They all liked Ivy Pool Club for drinks (sister bar to Smith stay Establishment Hotel, above) and sailing on Sydney Harbour was pretty hard to beat.
Describe your ideal weekend away.
Helen: At the beach in summer; inland in winter. Not too far away from Sydney if it’s just a weekend joined by lots of friends – we prefer somewhere cosy and relaxed to sip plenty of good red wine. Great service and local produce never go amiss.
Which is your favourite hotel?
Helen: I love The Upper House boutique hotel in Hong Kong (right) – fairly new and simply awesome, with jaw-dropping island and harbour views.
David: The Chelsea Hotel in New York is one of my favourites. It’s total chaos with a mix of guests and residents tripping over cats, dogs, bikes and prams in the corridors. Room quality leaves a bit to be desired, but with this kind or iconic pedigree, who cares? Past guests include William Burroughs, Sid Vicious and Jimi Hendrix. We’ve also had hits with spontaneous visits to B&Bs in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney. If somewhere looks interesting, we’ll go in.
Any hotel hates – or loves?
David: Personally, I dislike try-hard hotels that pretend to be ‘sophisticated and European’ when, say, they’re slap-bang in the middle of the Pacific. I can’t resist anywhere when welcomed with a huge smile though.
Share some secrets from your international travel address book…
Helen: In London, check out the V&A in South Kensington (aka the Victoria and Albert Museum), which has a fantastic collection, including decorative arts, design and fashion. In Paris, drop in for a drink at Le Petit Fer à Cheval in the trad Marais quarter, a classic old-school bar. I love vintage clothes shopping in New York too, especially around Chelsea, and the East Village for dive bars and fun nightlife.
David: In Los Angeles, we like to stroll along Santa Monica, Venice and Muscle beaches. Start wondering mid-morning any summer weekend and your eyes and legs will be totalled by the end of the day.
In a perfect world, who would be your ideal travel companion?
Helen: Well, Florence Broadhurst would have made an interesting companion. I often think it would have been so dramatic travelling with her.
HELEN & DAVID’S TRAVEL ADDRESS BOOK
Café Sydney 5th Floor, Customs House, 31 Alfred Street Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia (+61 (0)2 9251 8683)
Ivy Pool Club Level 4, 320 George Street, Sydney, Australia (+61 (0)2 9240 3000)
Le Petit Fer à Cheval 30 rue Vielle du Temple, 4th, Paris, France (+ (0)1 42 72 47 47)
Madame JoJo’s 8-10 Brewer Street, Soho, London W1, England (+44 (0)20 7734 3040)
Rockpool Bar & Grill 66 Hunter Street, Sydney, Australia (+61 (0)2 8078 1900)
Signature Prints studio 1–5 Hayes Road, Rosebery, Sydney, Australia (+61 (0)2 8338 8400)
V&A Museum Cromwell Road, London SW7, England (+44 (0)20 7942 2000)