Compass Profile 30
Lulu Lytle A new collection of fabrics based on exemplary antique textiles, a research scholarship and a book on rattan are among the recent and forthcoming projects orchestrated by the co-founder of Soane Britain. Rachel Meek discovers that integrity is the company’s core value
Soane Britain produces wallpaper, lighting, furniture and fabrics sought after by those who favour antiques, but appreciate outstanding craftsmanship of any era, as well as the freedom of choice that bespoke options bring. Company co-founder Lulu Lytle describes how the desire to ‘make things as beautifully as they would have been made historically’, and a thirst for knowledge about the history of making in England, led to a series of road trips in the mid-1990s to source reliable craftsmen capable of both replicating antique furniture and of creating new interpretations of her own design. She met saddlers, blacksmiths, ceramicists, stone-carvers, cabinet makers and traditional upholsterers, returning with enough contacts to make her quest a reality.
At the heart of the business— which now has three offices in the US in addition to the London showroom—is integrity. ‘It’s about making things in a way that we are really proud of and that bears scrutiny,’ Lytle explains. Her insistence on fully transparent and properly understood supply chains means that all Soane Britain pieces are made in Britain, so their production can be carefully monitored, but Lytle’s stylistic influences come from further afield. ‘I’ve always been drawn to Islamic textiles,’ she says. The first textile she splurged on was an Egyptian applique, aged just 14. Later, she bought Indian palampores and Italian mezzaros saying, ‘I’d throw old textiles over the back of sofas, use some for upholstery, have them framed or stretched to hang on walls or in windows.’ Some of her expansive fabric collection recently migrated from baskets dotted around her London apartment to be archived geographically and housed in the Soane Britain studio. Middle Eastern pieces dominate, but Norwich
1 Lulu Lytle in Soane Britain’s own rattan workshop, Leicester, which now employs twenty-four people, of which six are apprentices
2 Palampore (detail), India, 18th century. It is the inspiration for Soane Britain’s Palampore Blossom fabric and wallpaper design, Lulu Lytle’s collection