Unwrapping The Future Of Wallpaper

By Leanne Moore
London-based designers Alice Gates and Vanessa Barneby of Barneby Gates. Photo / Supplied

A new generation of designers is bringing a fresh eye to the world of colour and print.

When it comes to creating a home of self-expression, the impact of wallpaper can never be underestimated. It’s one of the single most dramatic vehicles for adding decorative colour and mood to a room, a way to make a home feel instantly your own.

Wallpaper is currently riding a wave of popularity in the world of interior design, thanks to a new bunch of boutique designers giving it a fresh twist, aided by the freedom that new technology brings.

“Digital technology has opened up the way we design,” says Auckland-based designer Emma Hayes, who has built an international client list since launching her painterly collections of wall coverings and textiles in 2011.

“The digital format allows for a lot more creative freedom. In the past, we were restricted with sizes and repeats by traditional screen-printing methods. Now we can produce works of larger scale and with more sophisticated use of colour.”

This new generation of designers is also keenly aware of the power of social media and online marketing. They showcase their wallpapers in room sets that are styled to get their unique aesthetic across.

“Styled room sets really help people picture the paper in their own home. I think it’s really important to be able to see a paper in a physical space because when you’re looking at a roll of paper or a swatch on screen it’s hard to get a good idea of the scale,” says Emma.

Emma Hayes' 'Daybreak' wallpaper in Verde pictured in a room concept styled by Juliette Wanty. Photo / Supplied
Emma Hayes' 'Daybreak' wallpaper in Verde pictured in a room concept styled by Juliette Wanty. Photo / Supplied

“Even for me, it’s a crucial part of the process. In fact, it’s almost my favourite part of designing a new paper, to see it all come together in a room. I’ve worked with stylist Juliette Wanty for a long time and I really love what she brings to our brand.

“When I’m giving Juliette a brief I always start with colour, building tone on tone, and then Juliette goes from there. She always adds something really special. What I like about these images we create is that they do the thinking for the client. The more inspiration we can give a client the better.”

London-based designers Vanessa Barneby and Alice Gates have added their own distinctive take to wallpaper with their brand Barneby Gates. Vanessa was a stylist with UK House & Garden magazine and British Vogue living editor, before teaming up with her lifelong friend Alice to create beautiful and quirky designs that mix traditional techniques and historical references with a contemporary twist.

Artist Deborah Bowness is another UK-based designer who has been adding a new spin to wallpaper design since launching her brand in 1999. From her home studio in St Leonards-on-Sea, on the south coast of England, she designs and prints wallpapers and sends them to clients across the world, including to Artisan Collective in New Zealand.

“Her wallpapers lean toward works of art,” says Bronwyn McAllister, of Artisan. “Her drops featuring dresses and chairs can be pasted to the wall but many people choose not to, so they can move them around, like an artwork.”

Jardin Sauvage wallpaper by Mind The Gap from Artisan Collective. Photo / Supplied
Jardin Sauvage wallpaper by Mind The Gap from Artisan Collective. Photo / Supplied

Paint brand Resene also offers an extensive range of wallpapers, including a collection of stunning patterned wallpaper created by William Mason. Born in Napier in 1919, he was a well-known artist designing patterns for Wellington-based Ashley Wallpapers before establishing Mason Handprints. Bill and his wife Maureen developed and designed the wallpapers, creating repetitious patterns that were characterised by the striking use of colour.

He made the screens used in the hand-printing process. The wallpapers they created are glamorous, alluring and, quite simply, beautiful. Bill’s innovative use of colour led to international acclaim and his designs became highly sought after in New Zealand and Australia. Resene now owns the collection, which is handmade to order. Colour selections can be customised using a choice of Resene colours.

About six years ago Martinborough-based studio Paperhands began printing from the Mason collection for Resene. Run by husband-and-wife design duo Ben and Helen Masters, Paperhands also has its own collection of original designs. Helen, a winemaker, and Ben, an artist and retail designer, initially began making wallpaper by hand as a creative outlet — until they realised no one else in New Zealand was making wallpaper quite like they were.

“Our designs have a New Zealand element to them,” says Ben. “I have a background in interior design and I’ve done a bit of fine art painting and drawing. When we started Paperhands we decided there was no point in us coming up with traditional, small repeating patterns as there was plenty of that around. We decided it was a chance to do stuff that was bigger and bolder and a bit of fun,” he says.

UK-based designer Deborah Bowness. Photo / Supplied
UK-based designer Deborah Bowness. Photo / Supplied

Auckland interior designer Alex McLeod, who runs At Space interior design studio with fellow interior designer Tomi Williams, lists Emma Hayes as one of her favourite New Zealand designers. “Her designs utilise subtle, soft colours that work in with many interiors and we have used these in a variety of applications from stairwells to bedrooms and living spaces.”

The powder room is another great space to use a unique wallpaper, she says. “This is often a dull, cupboard-like space but can be treated like a hidden treasure box and lined with an amazing detailed paper that can be a joyful surprise on a daily basis or touch of luxury when entertaining.”

A move toward colour and pattern in home decor has led to a surge in the adventurous use of statement wallpapers, including large-scale prints and stunning wall murals. “That’s the great thing about wallpaper,” says Alex.

“It’s the perfect medium to provide a unique response to a client’s brief. There are so many ways wallpaper can be used to build texture, ambience or personality into a residential environment. At our studio we love using the Rebel Walls range to create the wow factor with a large wall mural in perhaps a media room or bedroom,” she says.

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