Ben launched his architectural and design practice in 2004, having previously studied History of Art at the University of Edinburgh and worked in New York. He is an author of a number of books including An English Vision which will be published this year by Rizzoli New York.


Q: Describe your style in 4 words.

A: Timeless, classic, eclectic and lighthearted.


Q: Tell us about your favourite project to date.

A: I’m sorry – that’s like having a favourite child – impossible! But I love working on projects with old buildings, and nice clients; and I think of all the work we do in the office, the urbanism feels the most important as it has so many implications for the long term.


Q: When and how did you discover Morris?

A: I’ve known Morris & Co for as long as I can remember. My godmother’s house had a lot of Morris – and, let’s face it, if you grew up like me in the 1970s it was pretty ubiquitous.


Q: What is your favourite Morris & Co. print and why?

A: Probably Willow Bough – as I’ve said before, Morris is a master of understanding scale and repeat in his patterns, but it’s the sense of timelessness, and relationship to nature, and freshness of his designs that feels so extraordinary and keeps them relevant today. And of all the prints, Willow Bough – perhaps his most archetypal design, is the one that I love to live with.


Q: How do Morris & co. prints make you feel?

A: Happy.


Q: What's your view on William Morris and the artistic movement he stood for?

A: There is a beautiful relevance to everything Morris stood for, and as a fellow brother of the Art Workers Guild today, I love the sense of the union of arts, architecture and craft. He laid out his philosophy on the dawn of mass industrial production. Today, we are beginning to realise that despite the huge advantages that this brought human life, there are consequences – and a more crafted, careful world may be a better one.


Q: What's the most creative way you've used Morris in a client's home.

A: Until I was able to design my own colour ways for Morris & Co (which is probably my most creative use of Morris imaginable) we used to spend quite a lot of time over-dying some of our favourite fabrics to give them bright turquoise or orange tones.


Q: What's the secret to working with lots of pattern?

A: Be fearless and realise that if it’s a good pattern it will combine with anything else. You don’t have to be a slave to history or colour matching.


Q: Is there anywhere you wouldn't use Morris & Co. papers or fabrics?

A: Nowhere.


Q: What do you like to combine a Morris print with?

A: With other Morris prints; with Svenskt Tenn; with plains (but not with stripes or textures by and large) – and the most perfect pairing of all is Willow Bough with GP & J Baker’s Magnolia. That is a pairing I use rather often.


Q: Do you stick to the rules of design- or are you a rebel, and if so, how?

A: As I think there really are no rules in decoration, unlike architecture – which is quite a rule-bound game, I don’t think it’s rebellious to do what you want.


Q: Where do you go for inspiration?

A: I might find inspiration on a walk in the country, walking through a town or city, looking at old books or magazines, listening to a piece of music, and just thinking about things in the middle of the night. These days it’s hard to find inspiration on Instagram as you are so bombarded with imagery that it’s a mental overload. I do find old decoration books from the 60s and 70s are a good lesson in what remains classic and never goes out of style.


Q: What's your dream project?

A: Designing 18 new colour ways for Morris & Co. was quite high on the list!

posted on 01 Jun 2021 by Ben Pentreath in Interviews

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