Globetrotter, chameleon, revolutionary – however you want to label the legendary Florence Broadhurst, you can’t deny the appeal of her dynamic designs and fascinating life story.

Florence Broadhurst napery

Florence Broadhurst was born into a farming life in rural Queensland in 1899. Her golden ticket to another world lay in her fine voice, a gift she nurtured and put to work singing as part of a vaudeville troop in the early 20s. When the opportunity to tour Asia arose, restless Florence found her way out of the bush, and out of Australia.

From Singapore to China, India to England, she lived an exhilarating life of travel where her greatest performances were those in which she reinvented herself. In Singapore she was no longer Florence Broadhurst, instead; Bobby Broadhurst an innocent flapper girl dancing her way up in the world. In China she was a savvy business woman, setting up a finishing School in Shanghai that taught wealthy Western expats; and by the time she hit London’s social scene, she was Madame Pellier: a French couturier dressing the rich and famous.

Florence BroadhurstFlorence smashed the social norm for women of the time by living a flamboyant life and adopting a new personality whenever she saw fit, but with one marriage behind her, and a second relationship with the father of her son on the rocks, she returned to Australia in 1949 with an embellished fictional history as an English aristocrat in tow.

‘With every incarnation Florence became somebody new – new hair colour, new accent, new history. Even, on occasion, new name.
With a few white lies about her qualifications and heritage sowed, Florence began painting prolifically when she returned to Australia. She reportedly produced some 114 works in just two years, but in 1959 when she found herself single and strapped for cash, Florence turned her creative eye to the interiors industry, taking over the wallpaper business of her then tenant who was struggling to pay his rent.

Florence BroadhurstImage source: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and Courtesy ACP Magazines Ltd.

When most would consider the quiet life of retirement, Florence dived head first into her new career as wallpaper designer. She went on to revolutionise the industry during the 60s and 70s by manufacturing and producing some 500 inspired hand-drawn and hand-screen-printed wallpapers. Be it brightly coloured peacocks, English tapestries, psychedelic patterns, Japanese-inspired florals, timeless geometrics and more, her work shook things up with shocking shades, never-before-seen scale, and exotic glamour inspired by her travels.

Florence Broadhurst patterns

The Florence Broadhurst factory in Sydney’s Paddington was the place to be seen. It’s was a magnet for the hip with celebrities popping in and a party always in the works. Florence’s designs were now highly prized both locally and internationally, and with her unique style and fiery red hair, she was a staple on Sydney’s social scene. In a tragic twist, however; it all came to a sudden end when Florence was at the top of her game. On October 15, 1977, the 78-year-old designer was bludgeoned to death in the showroom of her factory as she was closing up for the day. Her murder has never been solved.

Florence BroadhurstImage source: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and Courtesy ACP Magazines Ltd.

The label’s spark died with Florence that day, and her son, Robert, sold her library of wooden silk-printing screens and left Sydney for a quiet life. Her screens languished in the dusty corner of the company that bought them for two decades till New Zealand entrepreneur David Lennie of Sydney’s Signature Prints found them. He knew he had stumbled upon something magical, something worthy of being brought back to life, and he took control of the designs and reintroduced them to the world.

Kate Spade Florence Broadhurst

Today the hallmark patterns have been reimagined as travel goods, bedding, fashion, jewellery, homewares and more as fans of energetic pattern and colour fall in love with Florence Broadhurst all over again. Vintage Broadhurst patterns have can be spied coating walls of hip nightclubs, trendy salons, and chic department stores. Local and international fashion designers such as Akira Isogawa, Nicky Zimmermann, Kate Spade, and Karen Walker have all turned to Broadhurst patterns for an exotic inspiration hit to their collections, and famous faces such as Marc Jacobs, Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cameron Diaz have all expressed a personal love for the look, too.

Florence Broadhurst

For those who share the same sentiments as the famous faces mentioned above, The Home is thrilled to invite you to shop its official store partnership with Florence Broadhurst. Shop stationery, luggage, beautiful bedding and more exclusively on The Home now.


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