“More is more!”: How the Royal Pavilion inspired wallpaper designs in the 1980s

A colourful range of 20th century exotic wallpapers, designed and produced in New York in the 1970s and ‘80s and based on Royal Pavilion interiors

I am currently assessing the vast Royal Pavilion Archives relating to the history and development of the Pavilion Estate. While many objects have been carefully recorded and accessioned, others have only recently come to light or are only now considered for inclusion in the Royal Pavilion Archives. One of my recent discoveries was this large bound volume of wallpaper samples of the wallpaper and textile manufacturer Brunschwig & Fils, published in 1985. Brunschwig & Fils produced a range of wallpapers and textiles based on Royal Pavilion designs, many of which are included in this sample book. The New York based firm was founded in around 1900 in France and still operates today, but as far as I could see these designs are no longer available.

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We found the sample book in the wallpaper archives of the Royal Pavilion and decided it should be recorded as part of the building’s history.  It comprises approximately 200 screen-printed wallpaper samples, half of which were inspired by the Royal Pavilion and are an interesting 1980s’ take on Chinoiserie designs of the early 19th century.20160321_110455_resized

The short introduction paints a vivid picture of 1980s’ tastes in interior decoration, shunning minimalism and instead embracing opulence and high ornamentation:

The Royal Pavilion at Brighton
One of the most successful groups of fabrics and wallpapers we ever presented were based on the designs from the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. This orientalist dream palace is even more important today because of the increased awareness of ornament, embellishment and fantasy in today’s decoration.  The cold pure geometric boxes of the past are gone; the current urge is to decorate and no one is ashamed of it! In this spirit, we have continued to draw upon the Royal Pavilion for inspiration and now introduce three extravagant new papers which seem so right for 1985. We have also included the best-selling designs from our earlier collection since they are all mutually complementary. As the Prince Regent must have thought, (even if he never said it): “More is more.”

In the 1980s the Maid’s Room in Queen Victoria’s Apartments on the chamber floor of the Royal Pavilion was decorated with a reproduction of the original wallpaper supplied courtesy of Brunschwig & Fils.

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It is thought that Brunschwig & Fils gave this sample book to the Royal Pavilion in 1985. Many of the designs will look vaguely familiar to anyone who knows the Royal Pavilion, but some of the well-known designs, such as the so-called ‘Dragon wallpaper’, first designed by Robert Jones in c.1820, is included here in new colours and shades. Several designs have been recreated in shimmering metallic variations, perhaps alluding to the extensive use of silvered and gilt surfaces in the Pavilion, or simply as an expression of the popular ‘bling’ style associated with the 1980s.20160321_110254_resized

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Incidentally, a copy is recorded at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, which holds many original design drawings for the Pavilion by the Crace Firm and Robert Jones. The second part of the book comprises samples inspired by the collections of the Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum of the Decorative Arts in America. These are equally fantastical.

Alexandra Loske, Curator Royal Pavilion Archives

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