The Wonder of Wall Coverings

de Gournay hand-painted wallpaper
de Gournay hand-painted wallpaper

Let’s put it on the table straight away. I love wallpaper. Would I paper an entire house? Probably not. For one thing, the paper I covet is probably the most costly available, and for another, I am a renter, so I’m saving that indulgence for my very first home. It’s not for everyone, but the paper above? The monkeys? That’s definitely for me.

de Gournay butterflies
de Gournay butterflies

The first time I saw gorgeous, hand-painted wallpaper used in a design magazine, I had just started high school. Up until that point, my only exposure to wallpaper was what I had seen peeling off the dentist’s office walls and the hideous bright yellow floral that adorned my bedroom when my mom first bought the house.

de Gournay panels
de Gournay panels

Nothing about the magazine photo stayed in my memory except the wall-coverings, which were a vibrant Chinoiserie scene that included flying birds, cherry blossoms, pagodas, butterflies and branches, and was painted on a soft silver background. It took my breath away. Furniture was inconsequential next to that art. I filed it away in my head with other beautiful things that have left their imprint on me. de Gournay hand-painted wallpaper is, to me, the epitome of luxury and timeless chic. 

de Gournay
de Gournay

Walls are a very personal thing – both physically and metaphorically. The way you adorn (or not), the walls of your environment says volumes about who you are, and what you are about. While I love the look of great and eclectic art on bright, white walls, I also really, really love faux bois wallpaper and think that I would love to do an entire hallway in it. Nobilis does the most realistic I’ve ever seen.

Nobilis faux bois
Nobilis faux bois

Then again, I also really like the more playful and topographic-map looking faux bois as it  would look gorgeous in a modern, minimalist or contemporary home.

AVictoria faux bois
AVictoria faux bois

But here’s the thing, I am also obsessed with textured walls, and thus, organic wall-coverings. There was a time back in the 70’s and early 80’s when textured wall-coverings were pretty commonplace. I remember my mother painting over some textured brown grass cloth, turning it white, and I thought that wall was the coolest thing I had ever seen afterward! Texture creates a warm elegance that a flat wall just doesn’t have on its own. My favorite place to use texture is in an entryway. Grass cloth is perfect for creating an interesting, high-end and earthy-feeling space.

Grasscloth Foyer
Grasscloth Foyer

It can be really subtle, (or not) depending on the color and whether it’s metallic. There is nothing quite like metallic grasscloth. It’s absolutely stunning when mixed with masculine and industrial-style pieces.

Metallic grasscloth
Metallic grasscloth

I have to admit I also have a little bit of a thing for pricess-style wallpaper. You know, the soft, fuzzy kind that Cinderella probably had when she moved into the castle? Yeah, I love that too. Design Your Wall has an awesome collection of flocked velvet wallpaper that makes me fall in love a little bit more every time I see it. The ultimate in textured paper, it definitely evokes a retro-brothel feel that I think would be so wicked in a small bathroom or a woman’s dressing room. It’s fun, unique and definitely over-the-top princessy.

flocked velvet wallpaper
flocked velvet wallpaper

If I were going to forgo wallpaper, I would probably opt for large-format art for my walls. I am completely smitten by the look of a single wall done in one giant, graphic image. Like a feature wall, but without the paint. I was digging through a pile of old design magazines and found a 2009 issue of Elle Decor UK, (now called Elle Decoration) and re-discovered Tektura, a UK-based company that turns digital photographs into large-scale vinyl wall coverings. Although it’s a 4-year old idea, it feels fresh to me, and I’m pretty sure I need it. In my future dream home, I will have them turn the below image of a fighter-pilot’s helmet into a floor-to-ceiling piece of art – and I will love it madly. I have carried this image with me for years, knowing that one day, it would be on the wall of my home.

Photo-realistic Charcoal Rendering

Seven years ago I learned about Flavor Paper in NYC and went a little bit mental ordering samples. I decided that there is definitely a project out there in the world that requires me to install their hand-screened Elysian Fields paper in a nursery, counseling office, or some other totally cheeky place. The black and purple colorway almost made its way onto the walls of my shop, but I am constantly nailing things to the walls and that wouldn’t be good for the paper.

Elysian Fields in Antique Pink by Flavor Paper
Elysian Fields in Antique Pink by Flavor Paper

Just saying the word “wallpaper” used to bring to mind a grandmother’s house, or a stuffy, cold manor on a bog. Today’s bold patterns and modern colorways have given new life to wallpaper and a new opportunity to do something different and graphic in your space. Dwell Studio has a line of wallpaper that’s both modern and edgy. My heart beats a little stronger for their Snake Chain pattern, which looks like basic curled “S” shapes until you get up close. LOVE it.

Dwell Studio's Snake Chain wallpaper
Dwell Studio

I am going to be experimenting with some of  Tempaper’s removable wallpaper in my dining area. For us renters, it’s kind of a dream come true! My dining space is very small, and very boring, and I’ve painted it more times than I care to admit and it still makes me sad. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out and whether it was really “removable.” 

Tempaper styles
Tempaper styles

So next time you are thinking about refreshing your space, consider adding a bit of interest with wallpaper. Whether your style is conservative, traditional, playful, eclectic, or minimalist, there is a paper in this world for you. You just have to pick one you like and get it up on those walls!

Wishing you much inspiration,

Melisa

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Cheap vs. Chic

I am mad about New York-based designer James Huniford. This room he designed above and everything in it – yes please! His rooms are places people could actually live in, and that’s important to me. I don’t want to merely possess a space, I want to be a part of it. I am smitten with his individual pieces and his intense attention to detail. Craftsmanship matters, especially when you are deciding which pieces will be an “investment” and which are functional and less costly.

Speaking of less costly, anyone that has worked with me knows that I don’t advocate spending money on expensive furnishings just because they exist. There has to be a reason. There are times I get really upset flipping through my Elle Decor, Veranda, Traditional Home, or Dwell – they show amazing rooms meant to inspire a wide and varied readership but likely only 2% of that readership could actually afford to purchase the items in those same rooms. This morning I was reading Veranda and came to their New and Noteworthy page. I was excited they featured a Huniford chair, at a not-insignificant cost of $3700, but dumbfounded that they also featured a Bottega Veneta trash can, or as BV calls it, Intrecciato Nappa Paper Basket, in woven leather, for $850. A trash can. Made of leather. To put my trash in. (Insert blank stare here) I am confused as to who they believe their demographic is.

There is probably nothing anyone can say to me to make the purchase of this “paper bin” worthwhile. If you are willing to go that route I will happily purchase you an equally stylish trash can and take the remaining $800 and donate it to one of my favorite charities (or suggest you do the same). Of course there is a huge gap in stylishness between a $9.00 bin and a higher-end container, but a stylish bin to hold your trash never needs to cost three figures. In fact, I just found a gorgeous bin made of capiz shell for $45 and that felt weirdly indulgent.

Things that are well-made are almost always more expensive and worthwhile. Like absolutely everything from de Gournay.

However, things that are beautiful, or chic, don’t always need to be expensive. Many people are conditioned to believe that if they get it at Target, it’s cheap or if it comes from Home Goods, it’s tacky. While this can be true, both of these stores offer some amazing finds if you know what you’re looking for. I wouldn’t buy my next sofa at a discount store as I already made that mistake and regret it every time I sit down on it. However, I’m redoing my bedroom on a really tight budget and my investment will be my mattress. I’ll be using a Thomas O’Brien for Target vintage modern bedding set mixed with the Nimbus Duvet cover from Anthropologie and have a gorgeous room I’m proud of.

Neither are totally expensive, but both feel amazing and look great. So while I don’t always agree that you can outfit your complete home on the cheap, I strongly believe that you can make it completely chic within any sized budget.

All my best,

Melisa

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What Exactly is Eclectic?

 

Courtesy of Anne Sage

If I had to define my style as an interior designer, I’d say I’m eclectic. But what does that really mean? In my mind, eclectic design is a colorful mix of periods and styles with the unifying themes being comfort and interest. To me, an all white home cannot be eclectic, but others would disagree. I also don’t think bohemian and eclectic are interchangeable words or styles because a bohemian style feels very ethnic or very period – say, 1960’s or 70’s. However, an eclectic space will have touches of bohemian in it. It will also have industrial, traditional, modern, contemporary, and ethnic in the mix but it will rarely be minimalist, although I’m sure it’s possible to do an eclectic-minimalist home.

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Helpful Hot Weather Design Tips

One day it’s raining here in San Mateo, the next it’s 80 degrees. It’s been a strange season to navigate and prepare for. When the weather turns warm, I usually stock the shop with flowers that can withstand the heat. I don’t have a floral cooler here and I honestly wouldn’t want one. The reality is that if you take an arrangement from a floral cooler and bring it to your house – which is clearly room temperature (whatever that may be) – it’s a shock to the flowers. From here they go from normal to normal.

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Who Are You?

The other day I had a heavenly Caligula moment. I was indulging myself in anything and everything involving design. I went to the local bookstore and filled my arms with every imaginable publication – from designing southern style mansions to decorating tiny big city apartments. Flipping through the pages it’s easy for me to decide which ones are worth taking home. If even one picture deeply inspires me, I buy it.

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