Wallcovering trends 2013 - 2014
The “Feature wall” trend is still a strong element in the majority of collections that we see coming in from a large number of international suppliers.
Feature wall, by its definition, opens up a very wide door to allow all sorts of weird and wonderful designs onto the consumer’s walls, the range of which presently is quite eclectic. It was also noted that there were a few more companies getting into murals this time round, which I guess are the ultimate statement in Feature Walls.
At Heimtex this year, the weird was seen from a French wallpaper mill, Ugepa, producing a design of glitter printed skulls, whilst a Monty Pythonesque graphic look can be seen in Cole and Son’s latest collection from Fornasetti, again weird but at the same time wonderful. Where this skull concept came from had me wondering about the growth in dystopian zombie and vampire movies along with Damien Hirst’s iconic diamond skull.
Trying to get a handle on these trends at the moment could be compared to studying alchemy, but I think the trick is to be able to tap the pulse of emotion that gives rise to these images and identify the underlying drive that creates the trend. In saying this, nostalgia is an underlying drive in many collections.
Whether this has arisen from feelings of insecurity and uncertainty with contemporary life, or just a natural turning of the design circle is up for question, but there is no doubting this mood is prevalent in many collections. Blatant examples of this were seen in designs displaying collage layouts of old sepia photographs from the early 1900’s. Also in this vein were designs showing old French theatre posters from the 1890s. (This was a popular trend in the 1970s). Pragmatically, one could say that nostalgia has always been linked with wallcoverings. The classic traditional style (damasks, stripes, silks) along with the cottage mini print floral are prime examples of this. These types of collections wax and wane through the years, however it was noted this year that a lot of mills were producing classical style ranges echoing the Italian look of heavyweight vinyl in register emboss that produces a more opulent expensive looking product. This style perfectly complements the more traditionally furnished home. (Regalis/Regent collections).
Duly noted also is the popularity of some retro 50s style. This trend, when originally introduced, grew out of the Austerity Binge movement of the 40s. Surface patterns became more loosely drawn, more cartoon style in appearance and this style is influencing the roots of a lot of contemporary collections. Sanderson’s iconic 1950s design “Dandelion Clocks” can be seen influencing a number of contemporary patterns (Chacran and Manhattan).
Into this area also comes the rebirth of cameo scenics, such as gondolas in Venice, the extension of which would be the popularity of the city skyline designs (Seduction, Manhattan and Black & White).
The geometric fits well into this area with geometric designs reflecting the abstract quality of the atomic age of the 1950s.
The current popularity of petrified forests, or the bracken look, are also an echo of this (Manhattan, Whites and Neutrals 2013).
Indeed most of the major mills will have some part of their collections highlighting the trend, while anecdotally there is comment on small independent “bespoke/boutique” design studios creating 1950s collections such as Miss Prints which appear to be well received.
Florals too have been growing again in their popularity. It was noticed initially with the success of designs from Aurora and Caravaggio. These designs displayed more retro 1950s influence, but recently more of the well-drawn artistic style with a watercolour finish has been making an introduction (these were last seen in the 1980s and are to be seen in Whites and Neutrals 2013).
It makes sense following on from this to see more of the beautiful floral designs echoing the fine bone china/porcelain prints that can be seen on Royal Doulton and Wedgewood. In truth, this trend has never really disappeared; it was always to be seen in some of the more high end collections such as Ralph Lauren, Cole and Son, Sanderson and Harlequin as classic examples of beautiful floral design.
The contemporary woodgrains and brick effects that we are seeing in collections such as Elements and Murano also have their roots firmly back in the decades of the 1950s and 60s - the main difference today being the quality of modern sophisticated production techniques that lift them out of the kitsch category where they use to be. This trend is now getting stronger in popularity (look for Essentially Yours, a new collection from B+N International to be launched in August).
Another trend, or affect, that has been seen in various collections is 3D finishes to patterns. Simply done it is seen as a drop shadow behind design motifs that creates the illusion of the design floating off the wall, (Flock 3) or as full tromp l’oeil in the drapery design from Caravaggio.
The one trend that does not seem to wane in this market is for textured wallcoverings. It outsells by far all the exciting design elements that we see at present. It was introduced in the mid-1980s as a total range concept and has stayed with this market ever since then.
It dominated the 1990s with most collections having a strong textural content and minimal design. The trend covers all product mix from Anaglypta, Paint on blown vinyl and embossed vinyl. Over the years there have been preferences in the type of texture used; however presently natural fabric weaves appear to be the style of choice.
Nostalgia or just the natural turn of the design circle?
Robin led ICI’s Vymura design team from its inception in the 1960’s and it was he who offered me my first design job in their studio.
In the newspaper interview he was promoting the move to using “Feature Wall” designs as an option in interior decoration.
It was remarked that “Feature Walls” had been out of favour with designers since 1960 and Robin - though in agreement with the difficulties of mixing and matching papers - stated it was important to give people the choice. I know it certainly worked for Vymura at the time.
‘What goes around comes around’ is a general comment heard when talking about trends, but it is also important to consider how the re interpretation relates or is defined by its time.
And in times of uncertainty, nostalgia is one of those emotions that rise to the surface.