When the British textile designer, poet, and activist William Morris wrote, "The past is not dead, it is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make," he likely never imagined the design world would be celebrating nature's beauty through his iconic Arts and Crafts motifs more than 160 years later. This spring, Morris & Co., a revival of the company he originally founded, launched its Outdoor Performance collection, consisting of durable UV- and water-resistant fabric in wipeable finishes with anti-microbial and colorfast properties, all in the brand's signature patterns.
Bringing nature's beauty indoors was William Morris's guiding inspiration, says Morris & Co. lead designer Jessica Clayworth, and accordingly "it has been a real thrill to complete the circle and return his designs to the outside for this outdoor collection." Inside the company's historic factory in the heart of Lancashire, U.K., a team of craftspeople ensures the durability of the fabric, making the new collection ideal for any environment from sunrooms to garden terraces.
"We've broken new ground in the way we craft our fabrics, preparing them to keep up with plenty of robust use in family homes," Clayworth says. "I'm so pleased we've been able to retain the original archive feel of these 19th-century designs, whilst creating a fabric collection primed and ready for life's adventures."
To put the versatility and style of the 25-fabric collection to the test, Morris & Co. tapped Houston-based interior designer Courtnay Elias of Creative Tonic Interior Design to reimagine her outdoor space using the new line. "My goal was to be very traditional in an original way, with pleated welts on the cushions and soft ruffles on the pillows," Elias explains of her sunny, summery concept, which evokes the Amalfi Coast with its blues, greens, and lemon yellows.
For an outdoor design scheme, the designer advises starting with furniture layout and then selecting fabrics based on the specifics of the space. "When you are inside looking out, it is so important to treat the outdoors as you would the indoors," she says. "I've never had drapery on my terrace before, but the Texas sun gets intense, and adding it has truly been a welcome relief!"
Whatever the space, Elias considers layering different patterns and prints her forte. "I consider the scale and types of patterns," she says. "Florals mixed with a geometric, like a plaid, usually work. Mixing an all-over floral with a more linear vine pattern and a small-scale floral can be a beautiful combination, too."
The final result not only reflects the sophisticated, curated style of her home's interiors, it also proves that with the right materials, there's no need to compromise. Elias was thrilled to be able to outfit her furniture in fabric that is adaptive and able to handle different weather conditions with ease. And her new Morris & Co. chairs, drapes, and cushions, featuring complementary trim by Samuel & Sons, are all designed and created to last, so she can enjoy her terrace for years to come.
In fact, she has already witnessed how the fabric handles challenges. "A dear friend was desolate when she spilled red wine on one of the sofas, but the liquid just beaded up. We wiped it off so easily!" the designer recalls. "And my college-age son regularly has his friends over to hang out and watch sports—it has all held up beautifully."
The collection has also unlocked new opportunities for outdoor living for Elias. The furniture and fabrics on the terrace have encouraged her family to move formerly indoor-only activities alfresco, so they spend more time lounging, entertaining, and enjoying nature. Elias's realized vision demonstrates how outdoor spaces can become enchanting extensions of the home, offering an oasis of style, comfort, and natural splendor. What better tribute to William Morris could there be?