Walls are trending this year, but you don’t have to build one, just decorate what you have, writes Carol O’Callaghan.
Unpredictable weather is keeping us indoors more than we would like, but rather than let the walls close in around us, it might be a good time to find inspiration for a decorating project.
The choice available in wallpapers now is endless, no longer confined to florals and flocks of previous decades which faded out as paint colour options grew.
Now with on-going developments in digital printing, wallpaper has developed into a decorative art form in its own right, with some astonishingly realistic trompe l’oeil effects, photographic techniques, and fun, interactive versions.
Something sophisticated is offered by Cole & Sons, a company which has been papering English royal residences since 1875 and is now taking advantage of digital print methods while continuing to offer the traditional and pricier hand-block printing.
Taking inspiration from the Fornasetti Collection, a series of fourteen fine art drawings from the archive of Italian artist, Piero Fornasetti, the wallpapers incorporate elements from the collection’s design archives, blown up in scale.
They’ve also embarked on their first ever collaboration recently to make a collection with South Africa’s Ardmore Ceramic Studio celebrating African traditions and culture.
Launched last month in Paris, the result is vibrant, quirky and full of colour, featuring big cats, elephants, rhino, impish monkeys and exotic flowers, as well as beautiful patterns of Zulu beadwork and basket ware.
From Africa, we travel on to America, to New York in particular, to see the work of Trove, a wallpaper design studio which has broken the rules of repeat patterns and the geometry so typical of traditional wallpapers, replacing them with depth and perspective.
One in particular gives a new meaning to the wallpaper term ‘flock’. It’s an action shot of birds in flight as a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film The Birds, but sinister-free.
It’s clever and beautiful and an engaging composition, as is another of their papers, Allee, which shows an expansive dreamscape inspired by the 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad.
Set in a formal garden, where everything leads from a central path, its design ingenuity cites the theatrical term mise en scene - where everything in the composition is viewed at once.
Closer to home is the fabulously eclectic Timorous Beasties from Glasgow, but far from being the ‘tim’rous beastie’ of Robert Burn’s poem To a Mouse on Turning Her Up in her Nest with the Plough which inspired the company’s name, it shows diversity with a stable of courageous patterns, including copperplate engraving and edgy urban reinterpretations of traditional patterns like Toile de Jouy.
One in particular is Glasgow Toile which abandons gentle pastoral scenes in favour of the modern urban cityscape.
Even 1,000 year old damask is given a makeover, blotching and blurring the famous pattern with a mix of colour to achieve a result that suggests a highly decorative Rorschach Test inkblot.
Meanwhile in Holland, NLXL is a small design studio with a huge international reach, designing papers with finishes resembling architectural materials like concrete, wood, tin, marble, and cork (starting at €199p/roll), but they also have quirky options citing aspects of contemporary lifestyles.
Back home we have David Skinner Wallpapers which is retaining the craft of hand printed wallpapers and their historic designs.
Extensive research by the studio has led to the reproduction of patterns and borders from original designs found in Georgian and Victorian houses, and includes damasks, Regency stripes and Gothic themes which can be produced in a choice of colours.
Just across the water, Graham & Brown has launched Reflections and named it its wallpaper of the year for 2017. Featuring a geometric pattern, it’s finished in reflective, rose gold, copper, silver and mint (€40 p/roll).
But for anyone who remembers the joy of scribbling on wallpaper when they were a child, and having their creative freedom chastened by a parental shriek, there’s a light-hearted wallpaper called Frames to reconnect with your inner toddler.
Liberally sketched with animated black and white frames, you can feel free to doodle, sketch or colour-in, or apply favourite photographs without risking banishment to the naughty step (€40 p/roll).
Perhaps you wouldn’t want this pasted over an entire room, but it offers something fun and a conversation piece on a single wall of a family room or in a downstairs loo.
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