Settled in their beautiful and historic new Whiteladies Road environment, Ryan Whittaker and Pete Eastwood of Whittaker Wells talk creative history; the lush greenery, Africana influences and nostalgia vibes coming to prominence; and Bristol’s perfect storm

Our shop window serves two purposes at Whittaker Wells. Firstly, to excite passers-by and encourage them to come in and take a look, but more importantly for us, to act as a test lab and probe how Bristol reacts to the various design ideas we have found in the interiors industry.

When we started Whittaker Wells in 2014, tucked away in St. Werburghs, we were stoutly informed by all the suppliers that Bristol doesn’t do colour and bold pattern – not in its interiors anyway. It was a surprising thing to hear, used as we are to thinking of our city as a hotbed of culture and creativity. Those same suppliers are now beginning to applaud Bristol for embracing the latest, cutting-edge styles and fast becoming one of the most forward-thinking and daring cities in the UK. All this in three years.

Whittaker WellsWe are utterly in love with the vibrant Rainforest wall covering by Osborne & Little

We feel very lucky to have discovered 157 Whiteladies Road – a beautiful building full of original details dating back to its 1840 beginnings. In the 1920s it became a finishing school and the stained glass feature windows are from that period, based on art and literature motifs. It’s pretty cool to have a ballroom to make our curtains and blinds in, too. For 60 years it was the home of Bromhead Photography and it’s nice to think that this visual and creative history is continuing.

The building itself acts as a backdrop for our own interiors ideas and inside we are able to further test new ways of combining different elements. When visitors step inside Whittaker Wells, we are often told that it’s a factory of ideas, full of wonder and surprises. That’s nice to hear.

Whittaker WellsThe irresistible freshness of the Topical Tropical covering from the boundary-setting
Timorous Beasties catches our eye

We try hard to avoid the faux set-pieces of the national style magazines, but to layer things in a way that could be easy and exciting to live with, so as to create a real interior – not just a showcase – like those in the houses we go into.

This Spring we are installing a paint mixing machine in the showroom, to welcome Mylands to Bristol. Established in 1884, Mylands is the oldest family-owned paint and polish manufacturer in the country, producing the most exquisite, quality paints – with marble dust and earth pigments mixed into their emulsion to give superb coverage and super low sheen. They have predicted their Evergreen hues will emerge this year to fill the space currently occupied by dark blues and greys. Let’s face it, it’s time for a change.

Whittaker WellsGo for Kaleido Splatt by Timorous Beasties if you like their freshness and boldness 

And they aren’t just saying it by accident. Pantone, of course, release their colour of the year which all the design houses use as an inspiration for their new collections, and this year it is Greenery (Pantone 15-0343).

This verdant backdrop is obvious in the new wallpaper collection launches, with floral, jewel-like extravagance to the fore. We thought a peak had already been reached last year, but actually the theme is just getting bigger and better.

“…African influences jump out, with leopard spots, elephants and tribal markings used as design elements and seamlessly follows on from recent tropical trends…”

Following on from the hugely successful collaboration with Italian decorative arts company Fornasetti, Cole and Son have just launched their latest collection of wallpapers in conjunction with Ardmore, the collectable ceramic art company. African influences jump out at you with leopard spots, elephants and tribal markings being used as design elements. It seamlessly follows on from the recent tropical trends.

Whittaker WellsAfricana influences – as seen in Leopard Walk from Cole & Son’s Ardmore Collection

Osborne & Little have started 2017 with a real bang – so much so that when they showed us the new books we got a little bit over-excited. The colours are stunning – bright and intense, with thick textured weaves and velvets. The prints feature strong Eastern influences. It’s their strongest collection in a long time and already we are seeing it fill the order books for curtains and blinds.

Whittaker WellsThe Ardmore Collection’s Savuti – named after and recreating one of Africa’s most loved national parks, where baboons sun themselves in coral trees

Meanwhile: Grandma chic! Who ever thought we’d list that as a trend? House of Hackney are continuing to push the cool nostalgia vibe with their clashing patterns and fringes, so reminiscent of childhood memories and visits to Nan and Pops’ place. Beloved by the Shoreditch hipster, this look is starting to influence other designers. Though it’s not for everyone, our personal favourite, Timorous Beasties, stands alone in terms of setting new boundaries. They have a freshness and boldness – they feel like artists as opposed to designers. We thought they’d be a niche look for us, but Bristol, you are once again proving us wrong and embracing them – they are now a top seller. The more traditional looks are still here, of course, but they are noticeably more beautifully made – the detail of the new Sanderson embroideries is really something else.

Whittaker WellsPair Timorous Beasties Random Ruskin paper with a bang on-trend piece of uniquely crafted investment furniture

So, what’s running through all this is the thread of quality. Quality of design and commitment to producing amazing products. It’s obvious to us how these suppliers are pushing themselves to deliver exceptional collections right now. It’s a perfect storm for Bristol – a city that won’t dip its toe in to a new look, wanting to dive in head first.

Whittaker WellsOld Hollywood glamour meets the natural world to create velvety, heady late-summer vibes in House of Hackney’s Babylon paper

Artisan-crafted investment furniture is also big this year, and since opening on Whiteladies we have felt much more visible to the Bristol-based craftsmen and women – people who share our vision of quality and distinctiveness. From the hand-printed wallpapers of Bristol’s Addicted to Patterns, to our bespoke furniture – think calf hair cabinets made in the heart of the city – we’ve found collaborators who want to create gorgeous, unique new pieces and designs, with fun and beauty in abundance.

Moving up here was a gamble for sure, but we have been lucky to have made the move at a time when the city is ready to embrace the latest designs. Thank heavens for Bristol! We don’t think we’ll hear that we are slow on the uptake anymore..

To view the collections online or find out more about Whittaker Wells, visit whittakerwells.com