Interview: Emily Burningham

by on November 01, 2010
Clematis (in burgundy), price on request, Emily Burningham

We interview British textile designer Emily Burningham

British textile designer, Emily Burningham, has a beautiful collection of versatile fabrics inspired by the patterns and colours in nature. We caught up with Emily to find out what inspires her and what new projects she has on the horizon...

If you had 3 words to describe your style what would they be?

Balanced, stylized, English.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Japan, with its fascinating culture and history has a strong influence on my designs. The boldness, simplicity and use of colour in Japanese textiles have inspired a great deal of my work. Design of the 1920’s and 1930’s is perhaps the other greatest resource for my patterns. English and French textiles from the turn of the century, ceramics, furniture and design of the Arts and Crafts movement have inspired designs such as Poppies and Trees in Pots amongst others. Also, the traditional flowers of an English Garden in summer with an abundance of Hollyhocks, Roses, Delphiniums, Lupins and Foxgloves and an array of visiting insects is a happy, comforting place for me to be.

How have your travels inspired your designs?

Visiting other countries where colour in design is used boldly particularly in traditional regional clothing when enhanced by the light and hot climate is a huge inspiration in contrast to the often subtle, muted tones of England. Saris from India spring to mind.

How important are colour and pattern to your designs?

Colour and pattern are the core of my work and often the most difficult aspect to work with. It’s so easy to get it wrong! One also has to remember that people have to live with the designs and never tire of the pattern.

Fritillary I (in green), price on request, Emily Burningham

How do you think pattern and print will continue to keep interior design fresh and exciting?

Pattern, colour and trends are always changing, with many different influences such as a countries political, social and economic circumstance. These changes reflect in all areas of design which has been apparent through the ages. As a result interiors, product design and fashion, all absorb these changes and push boundaries which keeps design fresh and exciting. Not sure what’s going on at the moment though!

What’s your favourite material to work with and why?

I love working with many different materials such as paint, paper, clay, cloth. I have just printed on some 100% linens which I am really pleased with, and also some cotton lawn for dress fabric. I think natural fabrics which feel irresistible and hold colour well are my favourite. I look forward to working with some silks.

What’s your ‘hero’ product and why?

The Fritillary pattern has been hugely popular. It was inspired by the delicate flower which my grandmother was very fond of and we planted together in her garden. We used to marvel at how nature managed to make such detailed accurate patterns on its petals. A lot of people also seem to have the same appreciation hence the popularity of the design.

What is the most recent design product that you have bought for your home?

I recently bought an old 1930’s sofa which was completely falling apart which I had reupholstered in one of our designs. It’s wonderful to refurbish something to its former glory and then add a modern twist with a new fabric.

Berries (in blue), price on request, Emily Burningham

Where do you like to shop for quirky furniture pieces for your own home?

I strongly believe in salvage. I use ebay for purchasing vases, tiles, pieces of fabric and furniture can be addictive! Antique shops are also a happy place for me to be – however, sadly there seem to be less and less around. My father has taught me to never pass a skip without taking a look inside – one never knows!

How important do you think it is for interior design to become more eco-friendly and why?

As designers and consumers we have a great responsibility to make a difference by choosing careful and considerately manufactured products. As a manufacturer I am up against cheap imported items, where one does not know the true process of manufacture. For us as a business working with UK suppliers we are confident in knowing that our products have been created with respect to the environment and to those who carry out the work – which our customers appreciate.

What advice would you give to aspiring interior designers?

Work with design you believe in, don’t be afraid of using something new or unknown – if its good design and you can see it working go for it! So many people are timid and stick to the same old formula.

What new projects can we look forward to seeing?

I am always working on new designs and ideas for future product ranges. Having just launched our second collection of textiles at Decorex, I will now begin the new range, hopefully including some wallpapers. We are soon to introduce a selection of quilted wash bags in some vibrant small scale patterns...

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About Emma Foale

Emma Foale Emma is a Features Writer and intern at She enjoys writing and getting inspiration from quirky, modern designs, and all things that create visual impact.