As we emerge from the pandemic and reboot the economy, how are designers changing their creative vision for public spaces? Some believe that there will be an emphasis on crafting environments that reassure occupants of their cleanliness. But white-washed, sterile-looking interiors are not visually stimulating, encouraging few people to spend time there.
How do we reassure and comfort occupants while still inspiring them with original design statements? The Wallcoverings Association, a nonprofit group of manufacturers, distributors and suppliers of wall products, asked members recently how they were bridging this gap.
Appeal to the Ethereal
Astek has harnessed a cyanotype printing technique to create compositions that can only be described as ethereal. The company’s Phantasm series of evocative murals explores the interplay of sunlight, shadow and water through rich handmade details in vivid shades of cyan blue. Designers pushed the printing process to create spectral images and textures that are figurative and at times unknowable. Phantasm brings a touch of otherworldly delicacy to interiors, providing a calming yet striking focal point.
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Walls of Whimsy
Momentum injects a dash of humor into the room with the work of artist Shantell Martin. Her meditation of lines and language of characters and creatures invites viewers to share a role in her creative process. Martin’s wallcoverings, designed in collaboration with Momentum, are unique yet unified by connecting stories. Patterns communicate a series of conversations between the elements, places and internal questions of her life and those of our own. Introspective yet entertaining, these playful images bring a smile to the face.
Nod to Nostalgia
At Wolf-Gordon, nostalgic patterns are making a comeback, but are reimagined in a larger scale and with softer edges. Comforting and reassuring, these motifs remind occupants of gentler times. The latest additions to the London Chic wallcovering collection are Russell and Russell Square, which use corduroy as inspiration. Traditionally used for British country clothing, corduroy takes on a sleeker, more modern appearance when overlaid with linear compositions that reference architectural structures. The dynamic geometric results in a fresh design with an Art Deco influence. The color palette recalls influences of English Country style complemented by crisp linen hues.
Back to Nature
According to MDC, a visual connection to nature reduces stress, promotes positive emotional functioning, and improves concentration and recovery rates. These visual connections have been known to aid in lowering blood pressure and heart rate, reducing attentional fatigue, sadness, anger, and aggression, and improving mental engagement, attitude and overall happiness. Evidence also suggests stress reduction can be achieved by experiencing real nature or seeing images of nature in anything from art to patterns on the walls.
MDC is working to incorporate biophilic design into products, including its Zintra Timber collection. Emulating the grain of real timber, Zintra Timber combines the aesthetic beauty of the natural environment with the acoustic benefits of Zintra Acoustic Panels (NRC 0.45-0.9). The system has the added benefit of application to the ceiling, the fifth wall of design. Interior designers increasingly are asking for sophisticated, nature-based patterns for ceiling applications that also provide acoustic functionality.
Versa has been working on new technologies and recently launched a PVC-free substrate with a performance topcoat that enhances cleanability. Aspect, part of the PVC-free collection, is a mid-scale architectural embossing that artfully blends diagonal shapes with undulating line-work, resulting in a cohesive visual depth and dimensionality. Aspect and other Versa designs are available with the company’s new Assure performance protective treatment. Engineered to resist scuffs, scratches and stains, the surface protection product stands up to a wide variety of cleaners and disinfectants.
Aislinn by Len-Tex celebrates the unique and unplanned flow of color and form created by the popular acrylic pour technique. This mesmerizing pattern is based on an original handmade artwork created by Len-Tex. The abstract fluid design features threads of shining mylar paired with spellbinding colorways. Depending on color treatment, the pattern takes on the look of swirling wood, dazzling water or earthy minerals. The recyclable wallcoverings are ultra-low VOC, meet CA CHPS, and are certified to SCS Indoor Advantage Gold and GreenCircle.
Bijou Wallcoverings works with designers on custom-printed murals that transport viewers to whimsical and creative environments that are one-of-a-kind experiences. The company’s mission is to create fully bespoke and unique wallpaper for commercial, healthcare and hospitality interiors. That mission is on full display at the Goodtime Hotel in Miami, which describes itself as a collection of experiences linked by a commitment to create emotional good. The company worked with Ken Fulk and Jim Boyd to create the lush, exotic garden mural, which gives guests a glimpse of the tropical oasis that awaits them.
In addition to designing with an eye toward mental health and well-being, wallcoverings companies are testing products against more stringent cleaning guidelines that address today’s increased need for disinfecting. Members of the Wallcoverings Association routinely test products against disinfectants on the EPA’s List N of recommended disinfectants. Test results for specific products are posted on the individual websites of wallcoverings providers.
To see the Wallcovering Industry’s Disinfecting Declaration, visit www.wallcoverings.org.
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About the Author: Matthew Jones is executive director of the Wallcoverings Association, a nonprofit trade association that represents wallcoverings manufacturers, distributors and suppliers. The WA educates consumers, designers and specifiers about the beauty and use of wallcoverings.