NEW YORK TIMES Styles
4 October 2016
Wallpaper That’s More Like a Painting
By Tim McKeough
Cosmos from Sarkos is a wallpaper of uncommon beauty, with a hazy wash of watery blue or smoky charcoal blasted by a spray of gold-leaf points resembling stars in the night sky. There is no pattern repeat – the shimmering dots seem to cluster or spread out at random – and the texture is similar to a painting.
There’s good reason for the variability and tactile nature of the product. Stephanie Dedes Reimers, who founded the company last year, paints and splatters the paper by hand in her Brooklyn studio.
“When you look at something that’s done by hand, it has a certain soul that something printed will never have,” said Ms. Dedes Reimers. “And no two installations are ever alike.”
The made-to-order wallpaper sells for about $120 to $270 per yard; regular screen-printed designer wallpaper can be bought for less than $20 a yard.
At a time when many wallpaper companies are embracing digital printers as a way to create flawless high-resolution patterns, some producers are doing the opposite by painting wallpaper freehand.
Callidus Guild, a Brooklyn company that has created custom wall surfaces in boutiques for brands like Chanel and Tiffany & Company, introduced its latest collection of hand-painted wallpaper at The Future Perfect in Manhattan last month.
Named Meta, it pulls inspiration from such influences as French Art Deco, Japanese lacquer and the artwork of Richard Tuttle. The resulting wallpaper (left), which costs about $300 to $400 a yard, includes patterns made with marble-dust plaster enlivened by geometric flashes of color and embedded strips of mother-of-pearl.
The New York interior designer Kelly Behun, who has recently been using hand-painted wallpaper from Callidus Guild and Kansas City, Mo.-based Porter Teleo in her projects, said, “You have a different emotional connection to something where you see the hand and these little imperfections. It’s just like art, and the difference between an original painting and a print of the same thing.”
George Venson started the New York wallpaper company Voutsa in 2013 after painting blank rolls of wallpaper with boisterous colors and patterns. His designs (top) include riffs on traditional wallpaper motifs like bamboo and koi in a loose, exuberant style; fields of plump red lips, and trees and vines sprouting human genitalia.
Some Voutsa wallpaper is now printed, but custom designs are still painted by hand.
When customers can afford it, “There’s a reason they want it to be done by hand,” Mr. Venson said. “They want a one-of-a-kind piece that nobody else has.”