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Discover the Humble Beauty of Folk Art

15th February 2018

If you read our Interiors Forecast 2018, then you’ll know that designs inspired by Folk Art are set to be a big trend within the interiors world over the next 12 months. Celebrating techniques from across the world and the relationship between maker and object, Folk Art provides a way to create meaningful stylish interiors with real personality. 

What is 'Folk Art'?

There seems to be no set definition for this term, though the most widely agreed upon is that as opposed to ‘high art’ created by trained professionals, Folk Art is ‘art of the people’, namely those who are self-taught or have learned techniques handed down through generations.  Creators of Folk Art are often considered craftspeople rather than artists, typically hailing from modest rural locations, from which their inspiration is drawn. Their work takes many forms, from pottery or metalwork to quilt-making, but is almost always characterised by an endearingly naïve style and abundance of pattern and colour. 

Woven pots from the Folk Art Festival in Sante Fe

Woven pots from a Folk Art Festival in Sante Fe

Straw horse sculpture from Sumatra

Straw horse sculpture from Sumatra

American Bird of Paradise Quilt Top from the 19th century

American Bird of Paradise Quilt Top from the 19th century


The motifs that appear most commonly in Folk Art are those derived from nature. Rural scenes featuring animals, workers or depictions of the local flora are often popular, as well as repeating designs such as those seen on ikat or kilim rugs. These themes contrast with more abstract designs often showcasing the craft itself, such as intricate needlework or fascinating dyeing methods. 

Folk Art in Interior Design

Over the last few months, we’ve seen Folk Art provide the inspiration for several fabric and wallpaper collections, from Gaston Y Daniela’s African Queen which draws on African textiles, and Andrew Martin’s Hacienda Fabrics and Wallpapers, which celebrate Mayan crafts and textiles, to Nina Campbell’s Les Rêves Collection, encompassing a selection of designs inspired by ceramics and paintings. This look has also long been championed by designers such as Kit Kemp and William Yeoward, who have demonstrated its effects beautifully in both contemporary and traditional spaces. 

Astasia Wallpaper

Poeme D´Amour Wallpaper

Queen's Sampler Linen

Exuberance Embroidered Fabric

While it may not be most polished of looks, therein lies its charm. It speaks of a strong relationship between maker and object, and will appeal to those enjoying the ‘craft revival’ currently taking the art and design world by storm. As opposed to the more refined, uniform designs and colour palettes often seen in interiors, Folk Art provides a more laid-back, lived-in style, perfect for creating a highly original scheme that celebrates the wisdom and imagination of the humble craftsperson.

Three ways to work this look:

As this is such an eclectic style, it can be difficult to know how to incorporate it in your home. While there are certainly endless ways to make it work for you, here are three very different looks you should consider:

Colour pop

Using fresh and zesty colours against a white backdrop can help prevent this look from becoming overwhelming, while still allowing you to use a multitude of different patterns and textures. Lush greens and lemon yellows work particularly well together, with occasional pops of coral pink or sky blue. 

Earthly charm

This style really harks back to the roots of Folk Art and the natural vegetable and mineral dyes which were traditionally used in place of synthetic pigments. Large blocks of colour such as red, brown, orange and yellow coupled with green and blue create a grounded, intimate space, and work especially well alongside materials such as wood, rattan or clay. If you’ve gone for warmer tones, consider accessorising with an earthenware vase or woven rug, or if cooler tones suit your space, opt for a striking painting or lampshade.

Subtle and subdued

Despite the assortment of patterns and motifs, this look needn’t be overwhelming – in fact, its appeal lies in being down-to-earth and liveable. Soothing grey, duck egg and off-white shades make it easy to combine patterns and pair beautifully with bleached woods and dark glossy metalwork. 

Folk Art pieces

It goes without saying that this look is likely to enthuse those with an inherent fondness for Folk Art itself, and it is indeed the physical artefacts that add the finishing touch. Handcrafted pieces can be found anywhere from charity shops or car boots sales to auctions, either handed down through generations, brought back from travels abroad or created by a budding local artist.

As well as choosing pieces that will fit with your interior look, always go for ones that for one reason or another appeal to you on a personal level. Folk art is an expression of personality, so you should be able to see some of your own in any item you buy. A few key pieces – a dramatic sculpture, detailed lamp base or wall-hanging are enough to enhance your scheme and bring you endless joy. 


Image credits: Woven pots -Weaved’ by Spacedust Design. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. Straw horse - By Belarusian people (Belarusian folk art) (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. Bird of Paradise Quilt - By Unidentified [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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