I keep getting asked, “why is Florence Broadhurst wallpaper so expensive?”. Its one of those things. Like any worthy piece of art, it is not only the design and quality but the story behind it that makes it so successful. Australian artist, Florence Broadhurst is one of the most successful designers of wallpapers of our times. And yet outside of design circles, the ‘Average Jo’ probably has never heard of her. For anybody else that works, breathes or lives interior design, she is a godess.
I like her. What’s not to like? An artist who spent a long time in Asia (she sounds like me but I can’t sing), who single handly revolutionised the wallpaper industry in Australia. Actually I love some of her designs, but I am not really a design snob. Some of my favourite wallpapers are ones that are designed by unknowns and cost less than quarter of the price. But there are factors that are so tightly interwoven in the Florence story that the wallpaper always holds a little bit of mystery for me. And every time I see one I can’t help thinking about the woman behind the wallpaper and wondering what happened to her?
Singer, larger-than-life socialite, Mother, wartime volunteer, painter, teacher, she married and separated twice and was eventually murdered in her Sydney studio in 1977. The crime was never solved, but there was some rumour that she was a victim of serial killer John Wayne Glover. This has always been speculation as the presence of two cups of tea near her body, suggest a meeting or appointment, and the killer’s apparent knowledge of her factory’s layout.
After her death, her son took over the business, but sold it soon afterwards. It was subsequently resold to somebody else and the Broadhurst collection fell into obscurity for more than 20 years. It wasn’t until 1999, that fellow New Zealander, David Lennie obtained control of Signature Prints and the rest is history.
So the intrigue into her life story and untimely demise add weight to the history of her designs. The other factor of course that perhaps the average person is unaware of is that each roll is hand printed. Just like Florence Braadhurst herself used to do. This makes each piece unique in a sense and extremely time consuming. The more colours involved the longer the process, the bigger the cost. And the bigger the cost the more influential they become. The infamous Martha’s Vineyard retreat features ‘Japanese Floral’, Fashion designer Marc Jacobs has ‘Solar’ in his home, Stella McCartney was given a length of Horses Stampede fabric for her wedding and Madonna’s choreographer opted for Egrets.
My supplier sent me this photograph of a craftsmen faithful reproducing the ‘Stampede’ wallpaper by hand. I thought it would be cool to share it so next time somebody asks me about the price, they can see the for themselves!