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Who lives in a shed like this...?

It's Chelsea Flower Show season: the 99-year-old event opens officially today, but I got a sneak preview* of one of the exhibits from yesterday's press day. And it's not hard to tell who is behind this retro palette and patterns... 

The instantly recognisable designer responsible is, of course, Orla Kiely. The pleasingly sludgy colours, punctuated by sharp bursts of brightness, and her trademark geometric-floral designs have become rather ubiquitous, but they look fresh in this new, outdoor setting... and more like a 70s timewarp than ever.

I don't know if I could live with it, despite the 1970s being an era I'm particularly drawn to aesthetically, but that wallpaper is fantastic. And it is Orla's bold, colourful mixing and matching that makes it – and stops it coming over all Terry and June.

What I like about her style is that she does pretty without going too girly-girly, thanks to the lack of whimsical pastels and the strength of  the geometry. I love, too, how she clashes pattern and colour, as above; a couple of years ago I interviewed Kiely, who shared some inspiring tips for putting different textiles together effectively and explained how the Ireland of her childhood in the 60s and 70s first inspired her designs.

The theme of this design is around relaxation and reading. I can certainly imagine drifting off in it, and dreaming I'd turned into Felicity Kendall in The Good Life.
Orla was one of five designers contributing to the Artisan Retreats area this year.

* Thanks to my spy, Paul, who was manning the garden sponsored by his firm, APCO, whose design theme is pastoral communication throughout history (in other words, people talking and making decisions in gardens down the years). 

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