Book of the Month: Florence Broadhurst by Helen O’Neill

The first Book of the Month for 2014 goes to one of my all-time favourite design books, Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret and Extraordinary Lives by Helen O’Neill.

Florence Broadhurst Her Secret and Extraordinary Lives

It was the first book that caught my eye when I came to the APDL, and every time I’m down in the lounge I can’t resist picking it up for a quick flick through. The cover, featuring one of Florence Broadhurt’s iconic wallpaper prints, provides a mere taster for the stunning full colour prints within. It is one of more than 800 prints produced by Broadhurst, who enjoyed international success for her intricate and colourful wallpaper designs.

Equally as inspiring as her work is the woman herself. Born in 1899 in Mount Perry, outback Queensland, Broadhurst went on to travel throughout Asia as a performer during the thirties, had a successful career as a courtier in both London and Shanghai and raised a family before returning to Australia as a landscape and portrait artist. At age 63 she declared Australia was “afraid of colour” and established her hugely successful wallpaper business. Fifteen years later, at the age of 79 she was brutally murdered, her killer never found.

‘She lived her life like a spy – changing her appearance, her identity and her personal history time and time again,’ says O’Neill of a woman whose life was as vivid and surprising as her remarkable creations.

For me, the life and work of Florence Broadhurst has been a big influence. Initially attracted to her bold prints, her determination to succeed and her ability to reinvent herself have continued to inspire my own practice. The enduring relevance of her work also continues to amaze me. Now, more than 50 years after her initial designs were released, the popularity of Braodhurst’s work continues to grow with designers like Kate Spade and Akira Isogawa using her designs in their collections.

The book itself has won a stack of awards, including Book of the Year and Best Non-Fiction Book from the Australian Publishers Association. It was also a finalist in the Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism, the Australian Book Industry Award’s Biography of the Year, The Age‘s Book of the Year and the APA’s Best Cover of the Year.

Make sure you pick it up next time you’re visiting us in the design lounge! Love it? Tell us on Facebook.