The Idealist

Elegant colour scheme: Bloomsbury Set

In the early years of the 20th century an influential group of artists were making waves in the fields of literature, painting, textile, garden and interior design. Members of the so-called Bloomsbury Set included painter Vanessa Bell, art critic Roger Fry, painter Duncan Grant, and by extension, other period luminaries such as the writer Virginia Woolf (Bell’s sister) and economist John Meynard Keynes, both of whom commissioned works from Bell, Fry and Grant’s Omega Studio.

Founded in 1913, the Omega workshop set about designing furniture, carpets, textiles, ceramics, mirrors and light-fittings, applying principles and protocols of fine art to hand-make objects for everyday use. Their products and interiors are known for genteel rusticity amidst a riot of muted Mediterranean colours and textures. We’ve sourced some great pieces for a Bloomsbury inspired office, study or library.

The colour scheme for this look is a mix of dark classic greens (from emerald to dusky greens) to neutral greens such as celadon/sea green and artichoke and complementary midtones in damask rose, olive, fenouil, burnt orange)
Start with patterned wallpaper, on a single wall if you’re timid, but really, in a small room it will help to unify disparate elements.The Bloomsburys loved fronds, paisleys, florals, feather and chinoiserie patterns, either painted directly on woodwork, or stencilled and printed on wallpaper. This version from John Lewis with its light touches of our chosen Bloomsbury colour palette and organic swirls is a great modern approximation. £105


You’ll need a comfy upholstered armchair for reading, pulled up to a fireplace, or even to a book-laden desk. No Aerons on wheels here. This plush and piped number from Feather & Black is a perfect neutral base for layering with colourful throws and pillows, and is available in 42 additional colours or custom fabrics. £649


Pile that chair high with textiles that speak to the era – this is the place to go wild with layering, pattern on pattern, making sure each has at least a hint of the Bloomsbury palette of dusky Mediterranean and earthy garden tones. This wool and silk blend throw has just the right amount of cosy softness and aggressive pattern mixing. Habitat stocks throw pillows in the same hand-woven fabric. £80

This writing bureau could have pride of place in a Bloomsbury inspired study or sitting room. Made from solid ash and oak, the Edwardian style dropleaf bureau has multiple shelves and drawers for storage. When your working day is done, the desk top can fold back up to keep your creative clutter out of sight. £1,100

Bloomsbury style handmade and painted ceramic pieces are still in demand a century on. They mix rough-hewn construction and organic shapes with a refined artistic sensibility. A glazed earthenware vase such as this one from Habitat, filled with tulips, adds the requisite wonky edges and crafted feel. £35

No Bloomsbury-inspired room would be complete without a painting by the most formally talented artist of the group, Vanessa Bell. The Schoolroom, with its fitting colour palette and suggestive brushwork, is a limited edition giclee print from Art Republic. £225

The Bloomsbury look is all about humble and honest, yet energetic, materials assembled in unexpected groupings designed to be used daily. Mixing patterns with abandon is the antithesis of contemporary cool, but the resulting warmth and visual interest will create rooms that are timelessly inviting.

  • Joan is an interior design project planner and freelance writer from Boston Massachusetts who lives with her husband and two bulldog terriers outside Wellfleet on Cape Cod.

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