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Design: Islamic Art & Design at the V&A

The V&A holds over 19,000 items from the Middle East and North Africa, ranging from the early Islamic period (the 7th century) to the early 20th century. The collections include holdings of metalwork, ceramics, architectural woodwork and textiles, in particular from Iran, and also from Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and the countries of North Africa.  Click here for full details.

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Islamic decorations tends to avoid using figurative images and makes frequent use of geometric patterns which have developed over centuries.  The geometric designs in Islamic art are often built on combinations of repeated squares and circles which may be overlapped and interlaced.  Geometric patterns occur in a variety of forms in Islamic art and architecture including kilim carpets, Moroccan tilework, ceramics, woodwork and metalwork to name a few.

In the United Kingdom, from the 1860s geometric and encaustic tiled floors started to appear in public buildings, churches and the more expensive Victorian villas. Their rise to fashion was assured by their use in such prestigious buildings as the Victoria and Albert Museum, and by the 1890s they had become an essential feature in the most ordinary Victorian terraced houses from Dover to Aberdeen. As well as adding prestige and colour to a Victorian hall, they were also remarkably practical. Although it’s improbable that the average Victorian builder gave much thought to the lifespan of such a feature, it is a fact that most domestic interior tiled floors have survived 100 years of family wear and tear. With a little care, they will probably be good for another 100 years. There can be few other floor finishes that offer such durability, while looking so good.

Although these floors fell out of fashion during the 1960s and ’70s, when many of them were covered over, they are now being rediscovered by their present owners and restored to former glory.

More recently, Cole & Son wallpaper has released a collection of wallpapers called Albemarle, a sumptuous collection of damask prints named after an infamous bohemian London private members club opened in 1874, the collection evokes the glamorous and poetic era of the 18th & 19th centuries. Each of the nine designs references a cultural icon or gem of the time.  Within this collection is Piccadilly – a humorous take on the ‘blue and white’ geometric tile, the Piccadilly wallpaper design creates a striking pattern of intricately decorated tiles in traditional colourings of blues, turquoises, yellows and black.

 

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