Thursday 18 October 2018

Thanks to digitally printed wall coverings you can live in your imaginary world all year round

A Japanese garden in winter, a science fiction comic strip...thanks to digital printing you can live in your imaginary world all year round

Tektura wallcoverings, Frida's garden room
Tektura wallcoverings, Frida's garden room
Sci-fi pulp wallpaper from Mind the Gap
Tektura wallcoverings, Wonderland by Modern Love
Tektura wallcoverings, Kyoto Warm by Modern Love
Globe Trotter Wonder cabinet by Marcel Wanders for Roche Bobois
Tektura wallcoverings, Kyoto Cool by Modern Love
Tektura wallcoverings, Cabinet of Curiosities by Modern Love

Imagine living in a magical landscape, surrounded by exotic plants and mythological creatures. You could open your living room door to find yourself inside a Victorian cabinet of curiosities. Or a Japanese garden in winter. Or in the heart of a science fiction comic strip. Now, thanks to the magic of digital printing, you actually can. Great news for anyone who doesn't really want to grow up!

Fantastical interiors aren't for everybody. They're escapist and many people prefer the real world. They're elaborate and many people prefer plain surfaces. And, in design terms, they're a big commitment. If you decide to theme your dining room wall as a make-believe garden in midnight blue, you're going to have to follow through with the furnishings. Living in an imaginary world requires the courage of your convictions.

Earlier this year, Tektura launched a collection of digitally printed wall coverings designed by Modern Love. Unlike conventional wallpaper, which depends on a repeat pattern, a single design covers an entire wall to create a fantasy landscape, ranging from the dark backdrop and saturated palette of Wonderland to the delicate fronds of Jungle Palms, which comes in a choice of pale, bronze, and dark.

Based in Brighton, England, Kim Hunt is one half of Modern Love. The other is Sarah Harnett, illustrator and textile designer. Formerly, they designed for the fashion industry and have only recently begun to work on people's homes. "We wanted to go big and you can't on a dress," Hunt explains. "You can only go so far." About a year and a half ago, they made the switch from fashion to interiors.

Sci-fi pulp wallpaper from Mind the Gap
Sci-fi pulp wallpaper from Mind the Gap

It all began when a client that used to buy their dresses suggested that Harnett and Hunt could do something for her house in Brighton. "We'd done some cushions, but interiors and fashion are very different worlds." For design professionals, transitioning from one industry to another can be challenging, but interiors and fashion share a common ground. In both contexts, Modern Love is working with surfaces and using them to tell stories. "It's the story of life, the things we have experienced and the places we visit - the architecture and the flowers. Sarah was born in Africa. The heat and the colours are deep inside her."

An early design scheme incorporated a dark dining room which she describes as: "reflective rather than jumping out at you. The sitting room was "very Brighton, but it was a fantasy Brighton". Then, in their own 1950s home, they designed a scheme based on an Indian club house. "It's a fantasy for our living room," Hunt says. "It's quite insane. There's a slight colonial feel. The idea is that you're sitting in the club house and this is what you're seeing. There's a boat floating by. The rest of the house is quite neutral. But, when you're in there, you're feeling it. It totally makes sense. I'd hate to do something that was ridiculous. I'd never do that." Modern Love has a distinctive, highly original aesthetic. "Some people shudder and walk by," Hunt admits. "We like dark. We start from a dark background. We're very marmite." For those who can afford it, they will design a whole house with wallcoverings, fabric, tiles and furnishing all conspiring to tell a story that they will evolve with you, according to your tastes, your personality, and the architecture of your house. Naturally, this level of bespoke design doesn't come cheap. Hunt describes her clients as: "People who have the kind of house where they can say - let's do this!"

Initially, they approached Tektura, producer of wall coverings, in search of "someone who could print things properly". The manufacturer spotted the potential appeal of Modern Love's designs and offered to launch a collection of panels that could be sized according to the proportions of a room and fitted to a wall. The designs cost €60 per square metre (+ VAT) and are made to measure, so they recommend a chat with someone in their Dublin office before placing an order. It's probably a good idea to factor in the cost of installation too.

The Dutch designer Marcel Wanders has also been tapping into the fantasy zeitgeist with his new Globe Trotter collection for Roche Bobois, which he describes as "inspired by the travels of fabled adventurers to mythical wonderlands".

The starting point for the design was the story of the Montgolfier brothers who invented the hot air balloon in late 18th-century France. Aptly, their early balloons were made with the help of a wallpaper manufacturer, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon. The first public flight took place in September 1783 in front of King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette, who must have thought the Montgolfiers had lost their heads.

The balloon achieved a height of 460 metres and landed safely eight kilometres away. Nobody knew how living creatures would react to high altitudes, so the balloon carried three: a sheep, a duck and a rooster. The king had suggested that they use convicted criminals as guinea pigs for the test flight, but the Montgolfier brothers rejected his offer and used animal aviators instead.

Tektura wallcoverings, Wonderland by Modern Love
Tektura wallcoverings, Wonderland by Modern Love

"This collection is a tribute to the adventurer we all dreamt of being," Wanders says. "A journey is a transformative experience and we wanted each piece to capture the experience of bringing home worldly treasures from faraway places." The Roche Bobois range is geared towards those with plenty to spend on their homes. The most narrative pieces are the rugs (€5,250 each), each named for a stopover on the fabled flight - London, Paris, and Istanbul - but you can find the same motifs on the small cushions and inside the Wonder Cabinet (€7,050) and the Wonder sideboard (€6,410). Both are plain on the outside and fantastical within.

For more accessibly priced fantasies, check out the Intergalactic space wallpaper from Mind the Gap. It costs €175 for a set of three rolls, each 52cm wide by 300cm long (covering around 4.65 sq m) and is available from April and the Bear. What's great about this design is that the theme isn't predicated on any of the big sci-fi franchises. Instead, it uses generic space opera in a retro style. The result is whacky but, because it uses a repeat pattern, strangely restful. Complete the look with a golden robot (17.4cm high). It's designed by Selab + Alessandro Zambelli for Seletti, made of porcelain, and costs €110 from April and the Bear.

See modernlovestudio.co.uk; tektura.com; aprilandthebear.com; and roche-bobois.com where the Globe Trotter collection will be available from mid-September

Tektura wallcoverings, Kyoto Warm by Modern Love
Tektura wallcoverings, Kyoto Warm by Modern Love

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