Going with the Flo


“I was once asked, “How do you know you are living?” and I said, “I create so I know I am living”.’ Florence Broadhurst Australian Home Journal, 1968

In 1977, Florence Broadhurst’s whirlwind life of eccentricity and design was brought to an abrupt end when she was brutally bludgeoned to death in her Sydney studio after sharing a cup of tea with the person later assumed to be her murderer although the murder remains unsolved.

Image c/o Florence Broadhurst UK archive from  Mitchell Library, Australian Home Journal

She left a legacy of archived prints that are now, as far as the UK is concerned,  in the safe hands of Florence Broadhurst super-fans Rebecca Lawrence, Carole Spink, and Jane Martin, an interior designer and two retail supremos, who last year took over the UK license to Broadhurst’s eccentric and exuberant archive and will be heading to Midcentury Modern® this March. Expect to see some of Florence Broadhurst’s ground-breaking products that pay homage to her extraordinary life of design.

Image c/o Florence Broadhurst UK archive

Born in 1899 to humble Australian outback beginnings the Australian wallpaper and textile designer made it her goal to colour the world, creating an eclectic portfolio that documented a lifetime of reinvention.  From comedy showgirl Bobby Broadhurst in the Far East, to a fashion couturier on Bond Street, Madame Pellier. She achieved fame as a British artist in her native Oz and even set herself up for some time as a car saleswoman (when her second husband left her for a woman half her age). Finally she emerged as one of the most glamorous print designers of all time, recognised by Time Magazine as one of the world’s most influential post-war designers. Her archive is now the go to place for many interior designers charged with doing up boutique hotels, burlesque joints, glamorous members clubs and restaurants. 

Image c/o Florence Broadhurst UK archive

With her flame-red hair coiffed like one of Toulouse Lautrec’s muses Jane Avril and La Goulue, matching false eyelashes and flamboyant sense of dress – think fluorescent dresses and bright plastic shoes – she was the talk of everywhere she went. One look at her and you could tell what a charismatic and fearless eccentric she was. never afraid to court publicity, when it rained, she even dared to wear a white plastic bubble swimming cap out in public. 

Image c/o Florence Broadhurst UK archive

She set up an Academy of the Arts finishing school in Shanghai before moving to Europe where, in London, Florence was quite the socialite and befriended some prominent figures, including the Queen Mother and Churchill. The Queen Mother was clearly taken with her. When she visited Australia in 1958 (where Aussie Florence was then gaining fame as a ‘British’ artist) she made a beeline to chat to her at a reception after she spotted her in the crowd of Australian socialites – the Daily Telegraph ran the headline ‘Queen Mother Renewed Old Acquaintance’.

Gallivanting through life under the guise of numerous, colourful personas, the fearless hard-working Florence acquired the necessary skills, experiences and inspirations to become the legendary designer that we know of today. Ahead of her time in many respects, she experimented with and pioneered many innovative processes for wallpaper production. Importing bronze, copper, gold and silver papers from Norway and Sweden to her Australian studio, she embellished dazzling metallic accents onto her designs. She was also a visionary in adding pearlescent effects to her papers – a trend that is currently making the Instagram rounds of interiors pages – using them to add depth and glamour to the patterns.

Image c/o Florence Broadhurst UK archive

We love the mix of Far East and geometric from delicate chinoiserie and Japanese motifs, to flamboyant florals, bold Wiener Werkstätte and Art Deco style geometrics and elaborate tapestries and brocades. With colour-ways spanning bold and bright, dark and moody, soft pastels and warm neutrals Florence Broadhurst’s designs could span a gamut of trends in interiors. After discovering that Florence Broadhurst was no longer available in the UK whilst trying to source for an interiors project, no wonder Rebecca Lawrence, made it her mission to track down the rights’ owner with a view to accessing the archive and giving Florence’s designs the spotlight they deserve.

A positive response to a speculative email to the licensor followed. Rebecca then knew exactly who to approach, knowing that fellow local mums Carole Spink and Jane Martin had the perfect mix of retail expertise. Carole has 20 years’ experience of retail merchandising (ex-Head of Merchandising at Ted Baker, amongst other things) and had already dipped her toe in entrepreneurial waters managing a team to set up an online fashion business in India. Jane is a retail buyer with a passion for homewares and a BA in Interior Design, who had spent 16 years with John Lewis. A huge venture, the ‘dream team’ has exclusive rights to the designs from Florence’s archive across a broad array of product categories in the UK.

Image c/o Florence Broadhurst UK archive

The initial launch back in June comprised 61 wallpapers across 12 designs, and 23 fabrics across six designs originating from scans of Florence’s original silk screens, making them truly authentic and faithful re-creations of her work.

Image c/o Florence Broadhurst UK archive

The latest venture, a collection of lampshades crafted from handmade Buckram paper and finished with a hand-rolled edge with recycled glass flagon bases complete with cork tops and vintage-style fabric-covered cords “are hand-finished by a wonderful team in Dorset,’ says Rebecca Lawrence. A nod to Florence’s design team, the lamps are available in three different sizes, the names of which recognise three of Florence’s treasured employees in the 1960s and 1970s: Nerissa Bingle, Sally Fitzpatrick and Leonie Geyson. 

“The venture has been a significant financial, time and emotional investment! But we have great faith in Florence’s archive. With the resurgence of colour and pattern in the interiors world, and an increasing desire for authentic, heritage products, we believe that Florence’s designs are as relevant today as they were when she crafted them,” says Lawrence who looks forward to introducing you to the new lamp collection at Midcentury Modern®. 

“The brilliantly curated Modern Shows is a must-visit event for anyone after original mid-century design.” Charlotte Abrahams, freelance design writer FT How to Spend it, Guardian, Observer, Elle.


Midcentury Modern® 

Dulwich College 

London  SE217LD

Sunday 15th March 2020

10 – 4 

£10 on the door at Christison Hall


Advance discount tickets

10am – £9

1pm – £10 for two 

3pm – Free entry with mailing list sign up

Last entry 3.30pm

Doors Close 4pm 


85 top midcentury dealers and designers stands Seven rooms spread across 4 buildings with  items from £5 – £5,000 


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