The Story Behind 1838’s Collaboration with the V&A

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London (V&A) is the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity, spanning 5000 years of human creativity. It was established in 1852 to make works of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, its purpose is to champion creative industry, inspire the next generation, and spark everyone’s imagination.

V&A Decorative Wallpapers in the Grand Entrance at the V&A South Kensington, London. Featured designs: left panel Floribunda Blush, right panel Kilburn’s Coral Midnight and on floor Paeonia Indigo 

The V&A Family of Museums are such inspiring places and the South Kensington site is a must for all visitors to London. It was an honour for 1838 to be given access to their treasure trove archive. A truly superb partnership, the collaboration brings V&A archive artworks to life through 1838’s wallpaper printing skills, both traditional skills passed down through the generations and innovative, contemporary techniques. The designs speak to us from a period when craftsmanship was so central to the design process and today this level of detail and artistry continues to be appreciated. The result is a timeless collection of luxury wallpapers with patterns that feel both joyful and restorative, each with their own fascinating story to tell.

Kilburn’s Coral – Midnight The oldest design in the collection and perhaps the most contemporary looking is Kilburn’s Coral. Here the artist’s original black colourway from the late 1700’s has been recreated in all its splendour.

James Watson, 1838 Wallcoverings’ Managing Director says of the collaboration:

‘With innovation, craft and quality as the key values at the very core of our family business for over four generations, it is an incredible privilege working with the V&A, an establishment globally recognised as an embodiment of these principles, ensuring that good design is recognised, celebrated and accessible to all. With such an extensive archive, of course the most difficult part of the process is to edit a final selection. We not only want to discover designs that immediately speak to us on an aesthetic level, but that we also feel have a synergy that resonates with our own heritage, and as such many of the items we chose were originally manufactured in the UK, which made this collection feel very personal.’

1838 Wallcoverings worked closely with the museum’s licensing team to select items from the V&A’s vast archive that would inform and inspire the collection. From watercolour illustrations, decorative furnishings fabrics and wallpapers, to an embroidered kimono, the collection draws on a multitude of artistic influences collected by the V&A since its foundation in 1852 to show designers and craftsmen from across the world inspirational colour, pattern and texture. Each textile and design was chosen, not only because of its aesthetic qualities and distinguished history, but because of its enduring appeal, through changing tastes and fashions, and continued relevance for home interiors today. 

Speaking of the collaboration, Amelia Calver, V&A Brand Licensing Research and Development Manager said, 

‘The V&A’s brand licensing team champions print and pattern and to see some of the V&A’s most interesting and imaginative designs redrawn with such great attention to detail and with a focus on joyful and uplifting colour has made this collaboration truly authentic. Just as exciting about this new project is the return of maximalist design to decorating. Taking inspiration from the past combined with 1838 Wallcovering’s incredible passion for quality, design and craftsmanship has formed a fascinating introduction to the variety and beauty of pattern at the V&A and created a wonderful collection of statement and accent pieces which I can’t wait for bold and tentative decorators alike to try in their homes.’     

Browse the full V&A Decorative Papers Collection and let these beautiful, timeless wallpapers inspire your home décor project.