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 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.
The latest collection from Trove, for example, features ethereal looks with names such as Nimbus, which evokes puffy clouds, and Heze, which features abstracted circles. For partners Jee Levin and Randall Buck, the design was a new, experimental adventure. The two created the images by making a series of paintings with flashlights and fiber-optic toys, exposing light to different photographic papers.
“It’s playfully lighthearted,” says Levin, who says the concept was inspired by New York City street fairs. “We started seeing weird, odd toys, like bracelets and wands. We thought, ‘Let’s play with those and use them as an unconventional art tools.’ So we gathered the pieces, brought them into a darkroom, used a variety of photographic papers and exposed light at different speeds. The experiment involved time, light and color. We learned that red does not actually expose light to the paper, and you can see interruptions in the patterning, sort of gestural brushstrokes. Color was the process, not just informing the process.”
Look closely at the patterns in Alyse Solomon’s wall coverings and you may begin to recognize elements. What they resemble may be anything from embroidery to pointillistic art to pixilations. One study of red lilies, composed on a ground of leaves that look as if they have been cut out of paper and set in, takes on a whole different vibe with a shift of color to fuchsia on olive, where you get lost in stylized pattern.
Solomon combines a background in graphic and textile design with photography. “I always create pattern and texture and color through the camera,” she says.
So the artistry has really given a boost to rethinking the wall in interiors.
“People are using wallpaper as a kind of artistic statement,” says Shanan Campanaro, creative director and founder of Eskayel, a company based in Brooklyn, N.Y. “It’s less expensive than a giant piece of art. You can use it as an accent rather than everywhere.”