When landscape architect Miranda Brooks and her husband, the French-born architect and designer Bastien Halard, were in the midst of building a large biodynamic garden for the Gloucestershire farmhouse they acquired in 2017, they were faced with the same question as their clients: what fabric should they use for their outdoor furniture? After they couldn’t find designs that met their vision, they created their own. “It’s in our nature: if we need something we tend to make it,” says Halard. 

The couple spent two years developing the collection (from £90 per metre, tissusdhelene.co.uk), which is named after their Cotswolds home Catswood, and is inspired by an eclectic mix of references: from American photographer Slim Aarons to velvet hair ribbons and vintage wallpaper and fabrics, some of which date back to the 19th century and belonged to Halard’s grandmother. He comes from a family of fabric designers – his great-grandfather, Adolphe Halard, founded the French textile and wallpaper company Nobilis.

Swatches of the new Catswood Design outdoor fabrics, from £90 a metre, tissusdhelene.co.uk
Swatches of the new Catswood Design outdoor fabrics, from £90 a metre, tissusdhelene.co.uk

The pair sketched and played around with their own ideas and reinterpretations of archive designs and photographs before calling on Hope Hanni – a local talent who taught their children art – to handpaint the eight motifs. Each showcases the couple’s individual but harmonious aesthetic and bursts with blooms, muted ikat and ribbon-like stripes. “It has both of us in it,” notes Brooks. Raised in a modern 1970s house in Lancashire with her architect father John Sergeant and mother Ronni, whom she recalls “wore clogs and leather”, Brooks inherited her painterly sensibility from her English grandmother – and is still seduced by the memory of her glazed chintz eiderdowns in silky, saturated pink hues. In contrast, Halard leans towards quieter, pared-down designs.

Artist Hope Hanni and Ping the duckling
Artist Hope Hanni and Ping the duckling © Lottie Hampson
The sitting room at Brooks and Halard’s house, Catswood
The sitting room at Brooks and Halard’s house, Catswood © François Halard

Brooks, whose roster of clients includes Ulla Johnson and Anna Wintour, was keen to source a waterproof textile that was kind to the skin. “Most material suitable for the garden is treated with carcinogenic chemicals, so the idea of sunbathing on something that is toxic has zero appeal,” she says.  

The couple decided to use recycled acrylic. “Instead of Teflon, we chose ‘eco-tech’, which has a waterproof finish but is non-carcinogenic,” explains Halard. All components are sourced within 500km of Auvergne in France, where the textiles are produced – and where Halard’s grandmother grew up, adding “a pinch to the heart”, says Brooks. 

Cuckoo the dog sits on a chaise longue upholstered in Catswood Design Yellow Rose Chintz
Cuckoo the dog sits on a chaise longue upholstered in Catswood Design Yellow Rose Chintz © Lottie Hampson

The collection’s joyful colour palette also chimes with the natural world in “dirty pink”, yellow and green. “I was after something cheerful that would create an instant garden inside and out,” says Brooks, who has also upholstered their kitchen sofa in one of the new designs, decorated with red peonies. 

Halard, who is often found napping on said sofa with shoes and an ensemble of dogs and cats, understood the need for fabrics that were both pretty and practical. “We really live life, so we wouldn’t want something no one is allowed to sit on,” he says. As a child he spent summer holidays at Châteaurenaud, his grandparents’ French château. “[It was] an environment where fabric was incredibly precious and pristine, but I didn’t really want to get into that challenge. I wanted something a bit kitsch that didn’t take itself too seriously.”

Having been together for 19 years, the husband-and-wife team have collaborated before (on a collection of furniture and several home projects for themselves and clients) but this is their first foray into fabric. “It’s definitely getting smoother,” says Brooks, who recalls the disagreements when they were renovating their house in New York. They decided to leave the bustle of Brooklyn in 2019 (but they keep a base and office there). “Living in New York, you don’t do anything but work so there’s not much time for dreaming,” she reflects. “I always felt like that happened somewhere else.”

Their 17th-century farm in the Cotswolds, now renovated, is a reverie that unfolds through lime-washed walls, Georgian panelling and Jacobean chandeliers. “We feel so creative here and this collection is the result of that – and because we wanted to make something together that felt fun.” The pair are already sketching new designs. “This is just the beginning,” Brooks concludes. “We plan to expand the range to furniture and lighting, along with accessories including gardening tools, hats and gloves.” 

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