How to design a delightful family home with Molly Mahon
I first came across Molly’s designs via a photo of her fabrics draped across a room, the bright coloured stamps of yellows, pinks and blues repeated in her famous block printing style. It was a blast of joy! I loved the wonderful hand made nature of them and her confidence to fill a room with so much colour. The patterns are full of energy and the artistic hand that it takes to repeat a single block print across an entire fabric length. And I wanted to know more!
Her pathway to building up Molly Mahon into an established name is a really wonderful story of a business growing from a passion. She started out by taking a course on block printing in her 20’s as a creative outlet to a busy working life.
If you didn’t know - Block printing is the process of printing patterns by means of engraved wooden blocks. It’s is one of the earliest, simplest methods of textile printing, first used in China in 220AD.
Over the years since she’s managed to make the Molly Mahon printing business become her new working life, making block printed fabrics, cushions, curtains and so much more in her maximalist repeated patterns which draw from nature. I love hearing founder stories like hers, a business full of passion and talent, and, of course, a brilliant founder.
I wish I could have her sense of style, mixing strong colours courageously and the confidence to bring so many rich tones and patterns together. She makes the the most beautiful fabrics and manages to make every space feel lively and lovely, and so wonderfully warm.
There is something really special about the designs which can include the visible signs of handiwork, the slight imperfections that come out in the printing process. At a time when digital techniques mean everything can be uniform and we all can own the same thing, Molly’s block printed fabrics are each unique. I love that!
I got to speak to Molly the other day to hear more about her design style, what inspires her and how she found and designed such a fun and joyful family home (it’s a good story).
How would you describe your style?
Fun, colourful and happy. I want to create joyful prints for joyful people!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I have always been inspired by nature and the great outdoors. Living near Charleston Farmhouse (part of The Bloomsbury Group) has definitely had a massive impact on my use of colour and daring-ness, as has India. I travelled there 5 years ago and have been back every year since. I am completely addicted and find their use of colour and decorative embellishments everywhere utterly enthralling.
Can you tell us about hand block printing and working with artisans in India?
I love the instant gratification of lifting the block. I love seeing a repeat pattern growing along the print table and I love the versatility of where the designs can be used-through cushions, curtains, lampshades, into fashion and bedding etc! I am very passionate about the hand printed look and the freedom that is created by using this method. There is no doubt that a hand block printed piece of fabric carries the passion and story of each printer. The beauty lies in the simplicity of the process that in India has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
We read that you don’t make or sell anything that you wouldn’t use yourself. What’s your favourite thing that you own? And what’s your favourite thing to make?
Oh gosh that’s a tricky one to answer! It does vary slightly depending on what I’m working on. We have just finished a shoot for our next hand block printed fabric collection launching next February and I am totally obsessed with the new patterns and colours. My favourite thing to make is anything block printed! My switch off is to escape to my studio in the garden and get printing, be it paper, a tablecloth, a napkin. I find the methodical repetition of block printing very calming and therapeutic, I could do it for hours and hours.
No way am I buying this house I thought!
How would you describe your family home?
My home is a wonderful mix of old and new- I call it ‘perfectly imperfect’ and I wouldn’t have it any other way! The Kitchen is definitely the heart of our home. I love my open shelves so that I can see all my colourful bowls, spices and kitchen equipment. I painted the tiles that sit behind the Everhot and there is often a child (or dog) sitting in the kitchen armchair while I cook.
We love that your passion is to infuse homes with pattern, colour and joy! What’s your advice on doing this?
I think that every home should reflect its inhabitants and that your home is your home, even if you’re only in it for a short time. Be brave and have confidence in yourself! Creativity is so positive and important in our lives so just go for it and enjoy it.
You moved from the city to the countryside. Did you do a big home renovation, I’d love to know how your style influenced the design.
In 2010 we left London ‘looking for our own little space’ and a few years later we happened upon this Age stone cottage. No way am I buying this house I thought! It was really dark, the rooms were all falling down, my husband Rollo couldn’t stand up because the ceilings were so low. It just wasn’t what I had in mind of a pretty little cottage. But the setting (on the edge of the Ashdown Forest) and surrounded by peace and quiet, won us over.
The space was completely reconfigured over an 8 month process, and we lived in a tent in the garden throughout with our three young children. Life was so crazy, that it actually really simplified how we lived. We all slept in one tent, we existed in a very trial way.
Over the past 10 years our home has evolved into a cosy, creative space. Inspired by the Bloomsbury group’s ‘domestic creativity’ I haven’t been afraid to paint my kitchen cupboards or round my fireplace! Each of the bedrooms are adorned in my wallpaper and fabric creating a joyful mix of colour and pattern.
How did you go about decorating your child’s bedroom?
I have 3 children and each of their rooms are wallpapered, with a contrasting linen or cotton for curtains. I love mixing colour and pattern and by doing this in their bedrooms the spaces have become rather timeless and will grow with them.
Any tips for a gender-neutral nursery? Are any colours off limits?!
My favourite colour combination that I come back to time and time again is blue and pink! In my sons bedroom he has ‘spot and star’ wallpaper in pink, with a blue ‘tuk tuk’ cotton headboard and matching curtains. I have painted his chest of drawer’s bright red and it’s created a playful, cosy space that would work for a boy or a girl.
Creativity is so positive and important in our lives so just go for it and enjoy it.
What item that you bought for your children have you loved the most?
I think it has to be their hand block printed quilts. They are one of the first homeware pieces I made and I consider them a real keepsake. They each have a different one that just softens with age and I hope will go with them on life’s journey and always provide a comfort.
How do you make a beautifully designed home work in reality with mucky babies and children?
Letting being precious go and having a few house rules that you all stick to!
We would love to hear about your ideal home. Any items, artists, styles that would feature?
Definitely Charleston Farmhouse! Nestled in the foot of the South Downs, close to the sea, a beautiful garden full of English flowers, it’s the total dream. And of course to be surrounded by the work of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, I couldn’t wish for more!
When COVID passes what are your top recommendations for places to visit for home and style inspiration?
We are surrounded by wonderful museums and galleries where we live in East Sussex. The reopening of places such as Charleston is hugely exciting, as well as art galleries and studios. I will be visiting London much more too and top of my list is the V & A museum.