Design

The Wallpaper Makes a Comeback

The paint alternative gets a makeover with sturdier materials, state-of-the-art technology, and modern artistry.

"Ten years ago," says Paul Simmons, who launched Timorous Beasties, a Glasgow design firm that makes fabrics and wallpapers, in 1990, "digital wallpaper was not nonexistent. But it was bad quality—even five years ago. Now the quality is amazing, so everyone's using it." That's only slightly hyperbolic: A confluence of artistry, computing power, and sturdier paper is transforming wallpaper into a much more interesting alternative to paint. Here, three designers talk about the inspiration for—and production of—their gallery-worthy work.

marble-gum-wallpaper-blog-250.jpg 1. Paul Simmons, cofounder of Timorous Beasties
The idea behind "Marble Gum" (left) was to achieve the effect you see in the bindings of old books. Getting that pattern the traditional way—by boiling moss—didn't work, so Simmons stretched marbled balloons on a scanner, warping them until he had the desired look: "slightly psychedelic, slightly traditional, but kind of weird," he says. His advice? "Use it on one wall as a statement piece."
fog-wallpaper-blog-250.jpg 2. Nick Cope, cofounder of Calico Wallpaper
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy put Cope's interior-design contracts on hold and forced his wife, Rachel, to go on paid leave from her job. So they started a project together, which led to custom digital prints—like "Fog" (left). If you're afraid of hanging it, don't be. "All these patterns are custom-printed," Cope says. "When it's installed, it's seamless."
Octopussi-wallpaper-blog-250.jpg 3. George Venson, founder of Voutsa
Venson's flora-and-fauna-inspired papers, like "Octopussi" (left), start as hand-painted watercolors before being digitally reproduced for the masses. "My entire apartment is wallpapered," Venson says. "I like the idea that it's a mass-produced printed object, but the watercolor gives the viewer a relationship to the artist's hand."

Pro Tip
George Venson on bringing wallpaper into your home:

"This is a new type of paper—thin and strong. BUt you can take it down in a few hours without ruining your walls. If you want to hang a painting, you just tap in a nail—you don't have to treat it like it's precious. People are terrified of wallpaper, but they shouldn't be."

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Photographs courtesy of each supplier.
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