The latest interior trend revisits Bloomsbury style

The paint-every-surface-in-sight spirit of the Bloomsbury Group is enjoying a revival...

Perhaps it's no surprise that this year has seen the rise in one interior style in particular: Bloomsbury style. The decorating style originally became popular from 1916 onwards – a period of austerity between wars, when people had less to spend, and it was all about 'make do and mend'.

Bloomsbury style involves transforming, upcycling, and decorating everything that surrounds you, from painting the walls and doors to the wood furniture and even lamp bases and lamp shades.

The free-spirited painting style was born in a farmhouse on the South Downs in East Sussex called Charleston – not to be confused with Charleston, South Carolina. This English country house became the meeting place of the original Bloomsbury Group – a close-knit circle of artists, writers and intellectuals. Artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant set about enlivening the dark, old interior by painting and adorning every surface with enchanting, naive graphics and striking, country-influenced images. 

See Also: Explore an eclectic, Grade II-listed townhouse with a rich 'Bloomsbury Set' history – Virginia Woolf used to dance in the kitchen...

Bloomsbury style was a radical break from traditional Victorian and Edwardian interiors, and the key elements are inspiring us once more.

This year, as people have had more time at home, more people have picked up a paintbrush and taken to decorating the space around them, and our Instagram feeds are becoming increasingly populated with murals, painted fireplaces, and decorated, upcycled pieces.

Here, circles and swishes in Annie Sloan with Charleston Chalk Paint set the tone. From £5.95 for 120ml, anniesloan.com

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Leading the way are designer Cressida Bell, granddaughter of Vanessa Bell, artist and resident of Charleston Farmhouse, and artist Tess Newall who paints whimsical murals and folksy furniture. 

Meanwhile designer Eppie Thompson behind The Fabled Thread took to decorating her English home this year, from painting built-in bookcases to chests of drawers and accessories like picture frames and lampshades...

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Even her fireplace got the Charleston-inspired, Bloomsbury style paint treatment...

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It's not just proving popular in England; French designer Nathalie Lete also spent her lockdown decorating her home with Charleston-inspired murals...

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No wall was left untouched during the time spent in quarantine.

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This year there has been a treasure trove of artists and businesses born out of lockdown. One pair of ladies in particular have emerged out of the woodwork with distinctly Bloomsbury style homeware; artist Jane McCall and business partner Jane Howard launched their painted lamps and lampshades shop, aptly named Bloomsbury Revisited.

Bloomsbury Revisited

(Image credit: Bloomsbury Revisited)

painted lampshades

(Image credit: Bloomsbury Revisited)

The pair have been friends for 20 years, and this year artist Jane McCall moved next door to Jane Howard's family run farm so the pair could launch a business together. At the start of the year, their plan was to paint and decorate furniture, lamps and lampshades to sell at fairs, but when Covid-19 hit, they had to come up with a new plan. "We'll have to set up a website," they decided. So in between calving, looking after cows, pigs, sheep and chickens, and collecting honey from the farm's beehives, the pair built up their business.

painted lampshade


(Image credit: Bloomsbury Revisited)

painted lampshades

(Image credit: Bloomsbury Revisited)

painted lampshades

(Image credit: Bloomsbury Revisited)

Jane McCall has always painted in the Bloomsbury style and feels that "art shouldn't just be in a frame". She paints very loosely and freely, and no lampshade is the same as they're each done by hand – this brings the added benefit of being able to customise them slightly, for example if a customer wanted a particular colourway, they would just need to make a note of the Farrow & Ball colours to match.

While the business started with selling lampshades online, they've now also expanded into lamp bases. Some customers have sent in lampshades to be painted; some wonderfully odd shapes, and others part of a large set to go on chandeliers.

As for the striking tables, mirrors and trays that they were originally hoping to sell at markets, those are a little trickier to dispatch and ship – but the pair would be happy for people to collect.

When Jane McCall isn't painting lampshades, she's hosting painting workshops at Curious House, and business partner Jane Howard is still very much involved with the day to day running of her family farm.

painted table

(Image credit: Bloomsbury Revisited)

painted table

(Image credit: Bloomsbury Revisited)

painted tray Jane McCall

(Image credit: Bloomsbury Revisited)

The lampshades are very reasonably priced, ranging from £60 for a small to £100 for an extra large one.

Commenting on the popularity of the style this year, the pair tell us: "The original Bloomsbury style was a bit like coming out of austerity – it was a time between the wars. This year too, people have been looking to decorate their homes themselves, to 'make do and mend', and give painting more of a go."