In monochrome, patterns from 1938 look surprisingly modern.
Anyone who has ridden public transportation would probably concur: the seat cushions, in general, are not things of beauty. But pare the prints down to their most basic elements, divorce them from their function of protecting commuters’ weary rumps, and you might just be left with a thoroughly lovely pattern for three-dimensional wall tiles.
That is, in part, what London-based designer Lindsay Lang proves with her latest tile collection, for which she plumbed Transport for London’s vast design archive and came up with two sources of inspiration, both dating from 1938: textile designer Edith Marx’s Chevron-print upholstery, and architectural designer Harold Stabler’s Underground station tiles. Though Lang’s tiles are unmistakably domestic, she nods to their grittier origins by crafting them out of cement, the material used in transit stations throughout London.
After growing up in Kansas—a place with “practically no transit systems in place”—Lang developed a fascination with the Tube during ten years of living in London. “As an artist, it would be impossible not to react and respond to the colors and graphics that I see every day,” she told CityLab in an email.
From her background in textile design, Lang was already familiar with Enid Marx’s iconic upholstery patterns. Marx’s “quintessentially British” Chevron print, which adorned seats on the Piccadilly and Central line trains, appeared in reds and greens, with diagonal lines and checks overlaying a background grid. Lang’s Chevron tiles—available in white, pink, black, and three shades of blue—recall Marx’s structure, but monochromatically; the pattern emerges through Lang’s use of dimension.
Lang’s Roundel tiles are even more familiar: they’re a modern interpretation of Stabler’s ceramic Underground panels of the same name, which were themselves inspired by the Tube’s iconic logo, introduced in 1908. Lang complicated the design, adding vertical and diagonal lines to create hidden shapes that emerge throughout her series of single-color tiles, which are available either whole or in quarter segments.
“The aim of the project was to give customers the opportunity to think about Transport for London in new and creative ways,” Lang says. In doing so, she follows the lead of Frank Pick, the head of the London Underground’s publicity from 1908 through the ‘30s, who commissioned artists and designers to re-imagine the look of the transit system through striking posters and beautiful station tiles.
At $25 per square foot, Lang’s tiles, manufactured by Walls and Floors in Europe, are not exactly cheap, but given that the London Underground consistently ranks among the world’s most expensive public transit systems, it’s really your call whether your money goes toward multiple trips on the Tube or a pleasant reminder of it in the form of an accent wall.
Tiles, from $25 at Walls and Floors