Designing The Glittering Hour by Sian Wilson
The Glittering Hour is one of those books that was a total gift to design. There are so many rich starting points: the opulent locations, the atmospheric period setting or the playful idea of the treasure hunt – it’s a designers’ dream to work on such a book and I had lots of ideas that I wanted to try.
The editor and author had lots of ideas too, and after reading the manuscript I was keen to try a couple of different approaches. Iona had sent over some beautiful 1920s illustrated book covers (California and Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales) so the first thing I did was to research similar looks along these lines.
I really wanted to create a similar vintage feel for our book cover, integrating visual elements from the story: the country house, the Chinese pergola in the grounds, a motor car, champagne, lilies…but I wasn’t 100% convinced that my final design was as evocative of the story as I wanted it to be.
So I then started to focus on an image that would evoke the glamour of Selina’s life as a Bright Young Thing in the 1920s. One scene from the book that had really moved me was where Selina is attending a lavish house party, with swarms of people dancing around her and drinking champagne but she feels isolated and alone. I remembered I’d seen some beautiful wallpaper designs by the interiors brand House of Hackney I loved, especially this gorgeous dark green design…
… so, when I found this stunning vintage Chinese wallpaper with a similar feel from Bridgeman image library, I knew I’d found exactly the pattern I wanted! But the colour wasn’t right, so I started working on various washes to make the image as vibrant as possible…
The image of Selina came from photographer Jeff Cottenden. Jeff’s speciality is really striking portraits of people in historical clothing. He sent me a range of images which fit Selina’s description, but there was something really special in one photo that I fell in love with and felt really captured the essence of Selina’s character perfectly.
This final composition got an immediate positive reaction from the whole team – which certainly doesn’t always happen! – so we knew we had the right cover.
Sian Wilson is the S&S UK Adult Department Deputy Art Director.