Sunbleached dreams of summertime

Summertime is when we move outdoors. A favourite beach or the park down the road become an extended home. We met up with Rebecca and Alicia one chilly day in London to talk about designing vintage patterns and the work with SOLBLEKT.

Imagine a warm summer day. With your eyes half open, the bright light filters through your lashes and tints everything in shades of orange, yellow and brown. This is how Alicia and Rebecca describe the colour palette they worked with for the coming summer collection SOLBLEKT, inspired by vintage holidays and tropical patterns.

Alicia Perry and Rebecca Intavarant are the British design duo known for their botanical patterns. The style and the colour scheme with a retro and tropical summer feel was exactly what Maria O’Brian, Creative Leader at IKEA, was looking for when she started working on the summer collection SOLBLEKT—which means “sunbleached” in Swedish.

“Maria found a pattern of ours on Pinterest two years ago and asked us if we were interested in creating designs for IKEA, and we jumped at the chance to sink our teeth into our dream brief,” says Rebecca.

Maria O’Brian, Rebecca Intavarant, Nike Karlsson and Alicia Perry.

Rebecca and Alicia got to know each other when they studied illustration at Coventry University ten years ago. They immediately became best friends, and when they left school they decided to work together.

”We’d spent three years working from the front room in our student house together so we already knew that we made a good team. When we graduated from University we immediately started working on ideas and projects together when we could catch a moment between our jobs,“ says Alicia.

Back in London, they started Tuppence Collective, and Alicia’s father turned a backyard shed into a design studio. This is where the two started creating wedding stationery. Alicia and Rebecca designed invitation cards, envelopes and table plans. Many people liked the botanical style, but there was a tiny problem—not everyone planned on getting married.

“We realised we were missing out on a whole demographic, so we started on our own stationery range featuring our patterns,” says Alicia.

“Botanical patterns have been around for a while but at the time the designs on offer were very girly and feminine, especially within the wedding industry. We wanted to introduce more neutral designs that could appeal to everyone,” says Rebecca.

Today they find inspiration everywhere they go, always gazing up at the beautiful foliage or scanning the ground for perfect leaves for new shapes and shades. Whether it is a walk through a park down the road in London or a trip to Spain, they fill their phones with images of plants, flowers and leaves.

“We took a trip to Ibiza together last year. When we got back our friends and family naturally asked to see our holiday snaps but all we had were hundreds of photos of foliage,” says Rebecca.

When IKEA reached out to Rebecca and Alicia a year ago Maria asked them to come up with twelve figurative patterns, mixing botanical inspiration with classic cars to heighten the feeling of nostalgia and holidays past. What Maria had in mind was a collection inspired by typical seasonal activities with extra focus on things that help you be more mobile and extend your home to a park, a rooftop, the back yard or a terrace.

“Summer is all about escaping everyday life and going on adventures, no matter how close to home they might be taking place. By playing with the nostalgia of vintage summer patterns we wanted to create this escapism also in the aesthetics of the collection,” says Maria.

Together with Maria, Rebecca and Alicia decided to continue with four of the patterns, including palm trees, classic cars, flowers and a grid design.

“For SOLBLEKT we decided to work with colours inspired by vintage Havana posters and architecture—lots of orange, yellow and turquoise. We wanted to create a collection that felt nostalgic and fun. It was great working with Maria because she trusted us completely and gave us the freedom to explore. Usually, we hand paint everything but this time we had to paint digitally using standardised Pantone colours, which was initially challenging as we hadn’t worked in this medium before,” says Alicia.

“Alicia and Rebeccas patterns fit perfectly with this whimsical but also elegant vibe, so I was super excited with the patterns they came back with,” says Maria.

The very first challenge for Rebecca and Alicia was to limit themselves to eight shades. Normally they hand paint everything and blend lots of colours together. Now they had to think more about the contrast between colours. They believe the collaboration with IKEA has helped them develop their own style.

“It’s definitely changed the way we work! Now we always do a digital mockup and work out the colours before we start painting. It saves us a lot off re-painting and debating over colour palettes,” says Rebecca.

How do you divide the work between you?

“We do everything 50/50 – the drawing, the painting and the tea making. We design separately but always in each other’s company so we can give feedback and bounce ideas off each other,” says Rebecca.

Do you always agree?

“Not at all! We agree on most things but there have been a few hairy moments when it comes to deciding final colours,” says Rebecca.

“I tend to play it safer with colours whereas Rebecca always wants to go bigger and brighter. We always find that middle ground which is what gives us our style,” says Alicia.

Any single product you are especially happy with, now when you get to see the prototypes?

“I just love the parasols! We designed the patterns before we knew what products would be included in the range and I had always imagined them on a beach umbrella,” says Alicia.

“I love the bat and ball featuring the palm tree design. It’s reminiscent of a retro 50’s beach,” says Rebecca.

If Alicia likes to go to the seaside in Kent in the summers, Rebecca’s extended summer home is just around the corner in North London: The library and the tree neighbourhood parks Forty Hall Estate, Myddleton House Gardens and Caple Manor Gardens.

“My ideal British summer is full of craft activities. I always like to have a project on the go – whether I’m making presents for friends or trying a new hobby like the punch needle,” says Rebecca.

SOLBLEKT is a summer collection for your extended home and outdoor activities designed by Hanna-Kaarina Heikilää, Hanna Dalrot, Nike Karlsson, Synnöve Mork, Alicia Perry and Rebecca Intavarant. The beach chair, parasol, sunbed, beach towels, pillows, and many more products will be in stores April 2020.