All in a Day's Work

All in a Day's Work

By Camille Rankin
The lifetime oeuvre of British textile designer Lucienne Day is celebrated in her centennial year.

Lucienne Day, born in Surrey in 1917, was one of the leading lights of modern design in postwar England. Though she could easily have been mistaken for a 1950s homemaker, Lucienne was anything but. A groundbreaking textile designer, she created sunny yet sophisticated prints for the masses, becoming a household name in the process. 

The open-plan living room in Robin and Lucienne Day’s home on Cheyne Walk in London’s Chelsea, furnished with their designs. The couple, who met at the Royal College of Art in 1940 and were married in 1942, lived there for nearly 50 years. Image courtesy The Robin & Lucienne Day Foundation.

Her breakthrough pattern was Calyx, a plant-inspired design shown at the Festival of Britain in 1951. A huge success, it led to a decades-long partnership with Heal Fabrics. But Day was prolific in other areas as well, including wallpaper, carpets, ceramics, and silk mosaics. 

In the 1970s, searching for another outlet for her creativity, Lucienne began to produce one-of-a-kind silk mosaics, like "Meander 3" (1990). Image courtesy The Robin & Lucienne Day Foundation.  

Though sometimes referred to as the Eameses of the UK, Lucienne and her husband, furniture designer Robin Day, pursued separate careers and collaborated only a handful of times, notably on aircraft interiors for BOAC in the 1960s. 

Day’s Herb Antony fabric for Heal’s (1956) is an example of her bright, optimistic prints that were an antidote to the austerity of World War II and were widely embraced as a fresh alternative to traditional floral fabrics. Image courtesy of The Robin & Lucienne Day Foundation. Collection of Jill A. Wiltse and H. Kirk Brown III, Denver.

Lucienne, who died in 2010, would have turned 100 on January 5, 2017. The centenary is being marked with a year of exhibitions and events in the UK that will reveal works and photos never seen before, bringing back into the public eye the remarkable accomplishments of this midcentury modern woman. 

Lucienne Day’s Black Leaf tea towel for Thomas Somerset (1959) exemplifies her fascination with modern art and plant life. Image courtesy of The Robin & Lucienne Day Foundation. Collection of Jill A. Wiltse and H. Kirk Brown III, Denver. 


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