Barometer: design

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Higher street

Conran Coat Wall Hooks, £29.50,

Thomas Dachshund Print Chair, £899,

Ray Green Lacquer Sideboard by James Shaw, £1,795,

Festoon Light, £245,, from August 28

B&Q Musca Table Lamp, £30,, from late August

Tom Helme

Meet the studio: Fermoie

When Tom Helme and Martin Ephson sold Farrow & Ball in 2006, they had a multi-million-pound windfall to cushion a well-earned break. They had bought the paint and wallpaper business in 1992, masterminded its expansion and made the brand de rigueur for the discerning homemaker. The sale was worth about £80m.

Afterwards, Helme says, “There’s quite a wind-down, which helps before rushing into something else”. He spent much of his time off still immersed in colour, however, by studying oil portraiture. He only downed paintbrushes to concentrate on the duo’s new venture, Fermoie, an upmarket textiles business. Helme says: “Martin and I had both talked a lot about doing fabrics at Farrow & Ball, which I guess grew out of my time as an adviser on decorating at the National Trust, but there wasn’t enough time to do it properly.”

So why now? “The mountain was there,” says Helme. Apart from feeling “too young” to retire, they were drawn to the detail and reward of the manufacturing process. Using basecloths woven in Lancashire, they print all the fabrics in their own factory in Marlborough, Wiltshire. “There are very few printers left in the country, and many of them have gone the digital printing route, which we absolutely didn’t want,” Helme says. “We’re actually designing on the printing bed … our studio is just up a little staircase.”

The collection, though with traditional echoes, has the distinction of being completely original – not reviving old prints or patterns. “The biggest high of the thing is making it all,” Helme says. Pronounced Fermoy, after its namesake town in County Cork, the brand was deliberately not too “personalised”. And Helme and Ephson want others to lead the way: “All the people working for us are really young, which is great – last time Martin and I drove [Farrow & Ball], this time we want other people more involved.”

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