Today's freshest interiors are taking a page from the past -- by way of reissued wallpaper designs. These expertly crafted patterns hark back to a time when prints were painstakingly hand-drawn and screen printed, some as recently as 20 years ago.
"The artwork on these papers was done at a time when there were in-house artists who would spend all day painting and drawing," says Margaret W. Braff, president of Meg Braff Designs LLC in Locust Valley. "These old papers have a lot of depth, and it feels like there's a story behind them."
Such artistry may be hard to come by in contemporary prints, says Susan Calabria, co-owner of Noli Hahn in Cold Spring Harbor. "A lot of things today are computer printed," says Calabria. "But the older way has more of an artisan feel."
Using these rare and often limited-edition designs, most of them hand screened, helps bring a sense of the past into even the most modern home, says Suzanne Costa, president of Suzanne Costa Interiors in Centerport.
"Vintage" by today's standards is anything that is about 20 years old or older. Thus, a paper first released in 1996 qualifies as a vintage reissue.
For this grand foyer in Lloyd Harbor, Centerport designer Suzanne Costa used Florencecourt, a 19th century leafy, botanical print from the archive anthology of Cole & Son and now distributed by Bethpage-based Lee Jofa/Kravet. "Although the design is super sophisticated, the 'dancing leaves' print is quite whimsical," she says.
Designer Susan Calabria says she needed to make a big statement within the confines of this tiny Cold Spring Harbor powder room. She chose a wallpaper called Casa De Whitney by Tyler Hall. "We wanted to find a shade and scale that would turn the room into a little gem," says Calabria, who is based in Cold Spring Harbor. "This saturated color with fretwork looked beautiful with the room's existing window treatment." The pattern was inspired by a vintage paper that Tyler Hall designer Dennis Lee recovered from a 125-year-old farmhouse.
In this Cold Spring Harbor mudroom, designer Susan Calabria chose to play with scale and bring in chinoiserie elements from the neighboring room. "This striping pattern is similar to what we did in the adjoining kitchen," says Calabria. "I like to use mid- or large-scale wallpaper in spaces like this, because it makes them look larger. A small scale tends to shrink the room. Plus, a stripe also adds height." The paper, called Teahouse, also by Tyler Hall, was inspired by a 19th century fabric that designer Dennis Lee purchased and then recolored.
"I think a small space is the best place to use a bold pattern," says Locust Valley designer Margaret W. Braff. For this Manhasset powder room, Braff chose Up a Tree, a 30-year-old vintage pattern from her Meg Braff Archive Collection that was recently reissued in new colorways. "A powder room is an excellent choice for a big moment and a wild splash of color," she says. "It's nice to use something bold and colorful in a space that's smaller and a little isolated. It allows you to enjoy its impact, but only occasionally."
Hallways and large transitional spaces can accommodate big prints, but Braff suggests keeping colors muted. For this Manhasset hall, she chose Tumtin, another print from her archival collection. Braff says the paper has a very large-scale pattern, which repeats every 48 inches, making it an ideal choice for a wide expanse, since a smaller pattern might get too repetitive. Braff chose the subtle color for its ability to visually soothe the transition between rooms. "You want to be more neutral in a hallway, because it connects several rooms together," she says.
Where to find vintage patterns
Some reissued patterns you might try in your home:
-- Mikonos by Scalamandré: Originally introduced in 1996, this hand-printed paper comes in eight colorways. Price upon request to the trade only through scalamandre.com
-- A Colossal Tassel by Meg Braff Designs: This pearlized paper was first produced as a 1970s design in the Philip Graf collection. $65 per roll at Meg Braff Designs, 92 Forest Ave., Locust Valley, 516-801-4939, and megbraffdesigns.com
-- Charmetie by Bailey & Griffin: A 100 percent cotton sheeting suitable for wall coverings, this fabric is part of Long Island-based Bailey & Griffin's archival collection. Available in four colorways. $210 a yard to the trade at Duralee, 125 Michael Dr., Syosset, 516-584-8370, and through duralee.com
-- Le Zebre by Brunschwig & Fils: This classic hide print from the 1970s, by Bethpage-based Brunschwig & Fils, has been updated with eight new colorations. $196 by the six-yard roll and sold by the 12-yard double roll to the trade only through brunschwig.com
-- Tourbillon by Farrow and Ball: France's Ducharne studio, which created couture designs from the 1920s to 1960s, was the inspiration for this print, available in seven colorways. $225 per roll at Aboff's Glen Cove, Huntington and Wainscott locations and through farrow-ball.com
-- Follies from Tyler Hall: Designer and artist Dennis Lee created this pattern from a design discovered on a fabric fragment sourced at a street market in southern France. Available in eight colorways. Price upon request through tyler-hall.com