Sanderson Design Group is paying homage to tradition while embracing modern design trends 

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, one thing is clear; we’ve all come to appreciate the warmth, comfort, and safety of our homes. As a result, many of us embracing creativity and the interior design market has consequently grown rapidly around the globe.

Sanderson Design Group (Sanderson) offers luxurious, quintessentially British prints for wallpaper and fabrics, comprising six consumer-facing brands split into two categories. Its heritage brands are Zoffany, Sanderson, and Morris & Co, combined with contemporary brands, Harlequin, Scion, and Clarke & Clarke. Within the portfolio, it manages Anstey, a world-leading wallpaper printer, and Standfast & Barracks (Standfast), a renowned fabric printing company with a 100-year heritage.

Lisa Montague, Sanderson Design Group CEO

Previously known as Walker Greenbank, the company changed its name in 2020 to reflect the evolving landscape of our operations. “We felt that ‘Sanderson Design Group’ more adequately reflected what we do today across the six brands and two manufacturing sites,” begins Lisa Montague, Sanderson Design Group CEO. “With roots in engineering, we gradually expanded to a portfolio of brands providing finished goods and boasting internal manufacturing capabilities.”

Elaborating on the heritage brands specifically, she shares: “Zoffany offers the finest luxury fabrics and wallpapers, and was founded in the early 1980s to create bespoke designs for the restoration of Temple Newsam, a Tudor-Jacobean country house in Yorkshire, England. It is now considered one of the world’s leading names in luxury fabrics and wallpaper design, and its acquisition by Sanderson has enabled further development of beautiful, niche designs.

“We then have Morris & Co. and Sanderson, both of which date back to the 1800s and were considered contemporary, whilst very different. Universally acknowledged as the founder and leader of the arts and crafts movement William Morris’ work is widely recognized, having garnered cult followings over the century for many of the designs, his work is consistently in demand. The prints tend to be on a grid, meaning they’re very pleasing to the eye and perfectly balanced regardless of how they are recolored or rescaled.

“Morris & Co. has grown by double digits in recent years, and we’re still seeing an uptake in the appeal and demand for print, texture, embellishment, and elaborate decoration. We’re in a cultural period of design, especially after the pandemic, where we’re seeing much more color, patterns, and prints in both classic and modern interiors. It’s a great addition to our portfolio, providing great opportunities for lifestyle products, as well as the archive collection.

“From the same era, we have Sanderson, which celebrated its 160th birthday back in 2020,” she explains. “Back in the nineteenth century, Arthur Sanderson enjoyed global travel, collecting designs he loved, from French Impressionism to Japanese and American art. Only when he’d exhausted his imports did he begin designing and making himself, later passing the business onto his sons, who played into the evolving arts and crafts movement in the 1920s and 30s.

“We also maintain the Sanderson Design Group archive, featuring archival designs and color recipe books with a grand total of around 70,000 historic documents. The Morris and Sanderson archives have endless possibilities and we’re currently cataloguing all the files to find a solution that enables access (by appointment) for industry and art history purposes while preserving it for the future.

“The archives speak to our strong history, especially as we prepare to celebrate Standfast’s 100th birthday at its current site. They’ve been printing fabrics there since 1924, and the last three years have been the best in terms of both productivity and profitability. We’ve got a whole year of celebration planned with an event happening every month, including events to welcome the wider community in Lancaster to the site.

“Standfast suffered a disastrous flood in 2015, but the recovery provided the business with an opportunity to reorganize the factory with a modern layout and streamline its operations. We’ve maintained a great range of conventional printing methods while investing in digital methods to provide a mix of techniques. We now boast three digital printers, two rotary screens, and two flat-bed screens, with around 70 percent of our operations being printed digitally. The next step is to continuously invest in machinery and equipment to keep Standfast at the forefront of textiles printing.

“It was an honor to have HRH The Princess of Wales visit the site recently,” Lisa reflects. “Princess Catherine wanted to visit a traditional textiles company that also champions young people and brands, so she looked at our machinery and through our archives and spoke to several people around the site. We had our longest-serving employee, Peter Ellison, bring his granddaughter to present the Princess with a posy and a charming drawing; everyone is still walking on air from her visit!”

Returning to the need for a blend of techniques, Lisa explains how Sanderson has integrated modern methods in its wallpaper manufacturing. “Technology in wallpaper printing has not been as widely developed, as the process demands the challenging ability of creating texture,” Lisa explains. “We’ve worked with engineers to develop modern techniques that mirror those in Standfast, and we’ve recently invested in a digital printer at Anstey to enhance our design and manufacturing capabilities.

“Aside from enabling customers to color-match fabric and wallpaper from two different sites, the combination of techniques is proving to be very interesting. We can print a digital background and overprint by hand, for instance, as we still provide a full range of traditional methods like hand block printing. In fact, we’ve trained two apprentices in hand block printing over the last two years, as we previously had to pull a former employee out of retirement if a project required this method.”

In terms of projects, Sanderson has recently created a new collection in partnership with renowned brand, Disney Home. “It all came about when we took one of our new executives to look at the archives and they were struck by the fabric fragments of Disney’s original Fantasia characters from around 1935, including Snow White,” Lisa recalls. “We contacted Disney, and they came back to us with a proposition we couldn’t resist – a collaboration to mark their 100th anniversary in October 2023.

“It was a huge challenge; we had already booked full collection launches and allocated design resources, but we needed our best designers as the prints were redrawn in a vintage style. The 101 Dalmatians print, for instance, was drawn from scratch in a vintage, washed-down style, and Mickey and Minnie are also vintage versions of their modern-day selves. Embracing the concept of nostalgia, the Disney Home team refer to this as ‘newstalgia,’ which is a lovely way of bringing heritage reflection into a relevant, modern era.

“As we’ve only recently launched to trade customers, we’re looking forward to seeing how and where people will decorate with the collection, but we’re excited to be experiencing the highest sampling numbers we’ve ever seen,” she reveals. “The best thing about the collection is that it puts a smile on everyone’s faces, and that’s a precious thing with all that’s going on in the world at the moment.”

Turning to sustainability, Lisa explains: “Everything we do is designed within our ‘live beautiful’ framework, ensuring that sustainability is a priority at the forefront of our minds, rather than an add-on initiative. We’ve adopted Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) certified cottons, for instance, and invested in an eco-printing machine, which saves around 80 liters of water per meter of fabric produced.

“At Standfast, the team has pulled together to change shift patterns and enable more efficient operations. This includes turning the boiler off on Thursday evenings, meaning no steam runs on Fridays. This procedure alone has resulted in a 20 percent reduction in the site’s energy usage. We’re also in the process of installing a new roof at the site, which will be equipped with solar panels to bolster our renewable energy portfolio.”

Blending luxurious interiors with sustainable living is Sanderson’s mission over the coming years. “As we look to 2024, there are some great opportunities for us in the US,” Lisa concludes. “The future for us is all about looking upwards and outwards to identify exciting development opportunities, while, of course, operating under our ‘live beautiful’ framework, supporting our customers to ensure we all have truly sustainable businesses that bring the beautiful into people’s homes and lives.”