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Atmospheric and ethereal, some images defy references. There are unlikely patchwork montages, graphically arresting, which actually reference a colorful range of intricately patterned silk scarves. Watercolor abstractions in intense hues are spellbinding. Blooms of dahlias evoking more psychedelic than natural colors are explosive. Mega-scale, mural-sized photos are crisp and realistic. Brushstrokes and drips of paint may, in fact, be real.
This is the world of the today’s most creative wallpaper design. It’s a modern movement with deep roots in nostalgia, both in history and in imagery.
Technological advances, including ink-jet printing, have opened a new world of scale, color and technique, one that has been happily embraced by artisans, many of whom have been trained in fine arts, graphic design and photography.
In an ongoing effort to push the envelope with unique surface coverings, in recent years we’ve seen an uptick in the use of leather, skin and more unconventional materials such as metal, resin, beads, shells and even Swarovski crystals, which add dimension as well as texture and sheen. One London-based company, Meystyle, even embeds LED lights into its sophisticated patterns.
Pattern certainly has played a pivotal role in dimensional or textural examples. But perhaps the most excitement these days is in the imagery itself — in traditional silk screens, hand-painting, and digital and print technology.
And these days, there is so much more than meets the eye. There’s a mix of sophistication, serendipity and wit at play with the creative process.
“Wallpaper adds depth and personality to a room,” says designer Frances Merril. “I love to mix patterns and wallpaper is another opportunity to do that.” Her own tastes run the gamut from “old fashioned looking” to very modern.
Some actually attribute the hip factor of today’s wallpaper to nostalgia. “People feel they want to be connected to something in their memory,” says Chris Sotz. “Everybody grew up with wallpaper in their mother’s or grandmother’s home, so they’re really drawn to the sense of familiar, a reminder of another time.”
At the same time, technology has made the medium more modern, especially with graphic kaleidoscopic patterns or intriguing designs whose subjects are ambiguous.
“People are so exposed to everything out there — on Pinterest and Instagram — amazing designs from artists big and small. Wall covering is a great way to create a big impact.”
One in-house design called Grand Bazaar was inspired by buyer trips to Turkey and Morocco. “In Turkey, at the Blue Mosque, there were all these amazing tiles and Islamic art patterns, kind of fading away. It was almost like a watercolor. In Morocco, there were about 35 rugs laid out on the ground. We mixed the two images to create the pattern.”
“I love that people are embracing (wallpaper),” says Soltz of the newer bolder papers. “It takes a bold person to wallpaper a wall.”
Walls may not talk, but these days they’re likely to be the source of a lot of conversations.
By Elaine Markoutsas