Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cole & Son

Researching the collections at MoDA often results in the discovery of interesting information about designers and artists, some famous some not, that have a connection with the collections. In this case the link is not with an individual but with a company that manufactures wallpapers, Cole & Son. Based in Tottenham in North London, Cole & Son have been making wallpapers for over 130 years. If you are interested in how Cole's makes wallpapers using the original method then check out this amazing film clip.

MoDA has over 60 objects that have a connection with Coles, including the wallpaper below that features a fabulous large scale gothic pattern of hexagons, designed by John Aldridge and printed by Cole & Son in 1946. Currently this particular paper along with a number of other wallpapers, have been selected by sound artist Felicity Ford for the Sonic Wallpapers project. Felicity has been given permission by Coles to undertake some sound recordings in the factory in the next stage of the project.

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SW2074)

So in recognition of our historical and contemporary links with Coles, I have selected a number of other papers that have' caught my eye' and reveal the links with the collections.

The first paper that I have chosen is from a collection of Coles wallpaper samples dating from 1926. It feels quite light and fanciful and conjures up images of the archetypal english country cottage.

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SW150)

This next wallpaper sample features a design of masonry blocks, some of which are decorated with low relief ivy sprays, in off-white and seal grey, on a stone ground. Not something that I would want on my walls but I like the way that designer has added the ivy sprays to 'soften' the bricks. This paper is one of the 'Bardfield' range of papers designed by Edward Bawden and John Aldridge and was produced by Cole & Son in 1938 from blocks cut by the artists.

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SW2070)

This wallpaper design with an abstract design in white, on a yellow ground was designed by Graham Sutherland and appeared on the cover of Architectural Review(July 1945). I like this paper because it looks hand drawn and unfinished and it feels so different to the design above with its bricks and straight lines. It was bought by Coles and printed at Perrys.

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (BADDA 2037)

Entitled 'Stella' this paper was designed by Lucienne Day and is so typical of the 'Contemporary' style of the 1950s which I like. This paper was colour screen printed by Coles in 1951 at their new screen print studios at 18 Mortimer Street, in the heart of London's West End. Opened in 1949 the studio was the first of its kind in Europe.

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SW2226)

Today Coles still prints wallpapers by hand, and has provided wallpapers for many historical houses including Buckingham Palace and the White House. The company has worked on  collections with top international designers such as, Tom Dixon, Pierro Fornasetti and Vivienne Westwood.

You will be able to see these wallpapers and other objects from the MoDA collections with the launch of the museum's website early next month.


  1. It's amazing to see how some of the other wallpapers in the MoDA collection link with the Coles & Sons factory, and I can't wait to go and record all the production sounds...

    1. After noticing the link between Coles and some of the 50s wallpapers that you had selected for the Sonic Wallpapers project I was intrigued to discover if there were any earlier links with the collections. I found the 1926 wallpaper which showed a link with Coles. However the plot thickens as a comment attached to the catalogue record for this paper suggests that Arthur Silver did business with Coles. This would mean that the links go back into the nineteenth century. However we need to undertake further research into the Silver Studio Day Books to confirm whether there were any actual links between the studio and Coles.

  2. How interesting to learn of more links between Cole & Sons and the MoDA collection of wallpapers! You can now hear some of the fruits of my labours, recorded at the factory, here: