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How Legato was influenced by the Arts & Crafts Movement and Charleston

A few months after our first design was drawn, our founder Matilda visited Charleston, the former home of the late artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. The artists were also members of the iconic Bloomsbury Group, and filled Charleston with their art, designs, prints and ceramics throughout the early twentieth century. To this day, the house stands as a monument to them, their friends and their children, who also created within the four walls of Charleston.

The Bloomsbury Group were a collection of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists, which included hugely influential names, such as Virginia Woolf, Clive Bell and Roger Fry. The Bloomsbury Group sought to reimagine conventions, be it artistic or social and found rebellious freedom in developing their own ideas and lifestyles. Perhaps this idea is why Charleston inspires so many to this very day? Seemingly just an old farmhouse tucked away in the South Downs, surrounded by rolling hills, demure from the exterior, with its ivy covered walls and lily-pad filled pond. But inside is a trove of unconventional living. Where the very fabric of the house has been playfully and artistically designed.

Charleston Farmhouse is a celebration of honest craftsmanship, in the same way the Arts & Crafts movement was. Disruptors in their own right, The Bloomsbury Group and the Arts & Crafts movement share many similarities. Born in the UK in the late 19th Century out of an increasing understanding that society needed to change its priorities in relation to how things were made, The Arts & Crafts movement saw manufacturing move away from the damaging effects of industrialisation and towards craftsmanship, embracing the decorative arts and forgoing the mass produced.

One of the most well known and influential contributors to the movement was William Morris, who created his first pattern, ‘Trellis’ in 1862. Gaining popularity some twenty years later as the movement was taking shape, many of his designs are still available today. William Morris once said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. For Legato, Matilda wanted to create something that celebrated both, and also encompassed great craftsmanship and considered design. So we created our first lamps.

Many years after The Bloomsbury Group and the Arts & Crafts Movement respectively influenced the generations of their time, their influence is still as powerful today as it has always been. Consider Ben Pentreath’s designing of an Arts & Crafts house in Hampstead from 2013, or Beata Heuman's designing a Bloomsbury home and including a hand-painted panel, which took inspiration from Vanessa Bell and Charleston itself.

Legato has been inspired by artists and designers from the past and this inspiration can be broken down into a few simple words: ‘craftsmanship’, 'practicality' and 'originality'.

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