8 Things
39.22.'s Wallpaper Designers

Long ago, wallpaper was reserved for royalty — a handcrafted thing made with high artistry and hung with equally high aspirations. But since then, with a few very recent notable exceptions, it’s become the ambitionless cop-out of modern-day interior design, a failure blamed on wimpy printing techniques but which probably has to do more with a lack of imagination. Among those getting it right is the Athens-based design collective 39.22., which draws both its name and its stable of talent from its own geographical coordinates.

Headed by Vassilios Bartzokas — the managing director of one of Greece’s leading materials, lighting, and furniture distributors — along with creative directors Melissa Lascaratou and Constantinos Hoursoglou, 39.22. debuted an eccentric collection of wallpapers at last year’s Milan furniture fair whose designs pushed far beyond the typical greige florals. To ensure as much, they began the project by cherry-picking a handful of local, multidisciplinary designers who were new to wallpaper entirely: Annie Papadimitriou typically makes fashion textiles, Anna Psaroudaki works with photography and animation, while Martin Ericsson is a graphic designer.

Then there were the graffiti artists, including local talents Littll, b, and Dreyk, who created some of the line’s most unusual patterns and colorways. Their perspectives are striking: The wallpapers, which can be printed to order, look like graphic design and illustration boldly scaled to the size of a room, where conventional designs try to hide walls or pretend they’re somewhere else entirely — a 17th-century palace, say. Launching later this year, 39.22.’s second collection won’t feature wallpaper at all, so we decided to turn our attention to these designs before the team turns its gaze elsewhere. Here are eight samples from the collection, along with their graphical inspirations.

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As a print textile designer in the fashion industry, Annie Papadimitriou loves to work with existing patterns and shapes but then alter them beyond recognition. The final pattern for Circles was generated by experimenting in Photoshop with filters, layering techniques, and extreme scales. “In general my work is very colorful and busy,” she says. “For this project I wanted to do something different.”

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She began her search for a solid, clear design that focused on the volume and clarity of the pattern by looking into architectural elements she could isolate and enlarge. “I found this old silo warehouse in Copenhagen, as well as a skylight in San Diego airport,” she says.

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“The way light reflects on the surface gives on the impression of a plastic surface, almost like LEGO pieces,” Papadimitriou says. “So I looked for an object that would help me capture this shiny 3-D effect and found a hose that inspired the final design.”

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While Anna Psaroudaki normally makes a great effort to “go analogue,” eschewing television and other sources of information overload, her Peekaboo pattern is “a digital baby, born and bred in Adobe Illustrator,” says the photographer and graphic designer.

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Psaroudaki explored saturation and tonality in the pattern, mostly because while she was designing it, she found herself noticing all the artificial light while returning home late at night from the 3-D production studio where she was working. “I found the sight calming,” she says. “I referred to the flickering neon lights and shop signs on empty commercial streets that were bustling with life during the day.”

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She also mined her fascination with tweed and argyle socks, having lived in London for eight years. “If you take a closer look at tweed, it’s closest to grey herringbone and checker forms, and argyle socks make you think of hairy legs rushing toward the city,” she says. “So it’s not a literal influence, but more a feeling of an era, perhaps something that goes back to an uncle’s socks, or a friend’s grandmother and her tweed jacket. A homey feeling, like Regent Street and double-decker buses.”

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Now a self-taught designer working in branding, advertising, and illustration, Littll discovered his talent for graphics and typography after starting out as a graffitti artist. He still makes street art, and he’s known for extremely linear arrangements like his Exakk wallpaper.

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“I was watching my city from above and observing the urban network of lines and blocks,” recounts Littll, who sometimes collaborates on local graffiti pieces with the fellow 39.22. contributor known as “b.” “I like this chaotic harmony in the way the buildings are placed to create the city’s structure, making both symmetrical and asymmetrical volumes. The Exakk pattern for the wallpaper followed that chaos in harmony.”

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As for b, he’s not just a street artist — showing with the influential emerging art gallery the Breeder in Athens — but a trained architect as well. His cartoonish Egg paper gains an unexpected sophistication by way of its color palette.

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The source was a simple drawing he made of a truck bearing colorful eggs. “Somehow these stacked eggs were forming a pattern, so without even thinking twice, I experimented with how this pattern could become a wallpaper,” he explains. “Afterward I started imagining colors and materials like the pastels of cement, the blue of the sea, the pink of love, and more.”

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Papadimitriou also produced two other patterns for the 39.22. line. For Mosaic, she researched ancient surfaces, settling on a glass mosaic from Caesaria dated 600 A.D. “What caught my eye was its texture and its unfinished, out of focus appearance,” she explains.

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“I enhanced the blurriness by looking into the reflections of light on water,” she says. Mosaic was produced by using a combination of liquified tools to stretch elements of the original images and then layer them.

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For her green and pink Liquid pattern, Papadimitriou again sought ‘liquified’ forms, this time in nature.

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She chose a close-up image of a tree’s trunk. “I love that cracked surface, but I tried to make it look a bit smoother and floaty,” she says. “Using a number of filters, I came up with an abstract wavy pattern.”

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Martin Ericsson’s Planet Rock design takes its inspiration from the music of the German synth band Kraftwerk.

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Afrika Bambaataa, who pioneered hip-hop, went gold with the song “Planet Rock” in 1982, sampling the hook from Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express.” “This theft of melodic line sparked a debate in the early ’80s about what was stolen, what was inspiration, and what we’re allowed to copy from others,” the graphic designer says. As soon as he found this source of inspiration, the design of the pattern became obvious. Planet Rock was formed by the shape of sound waves taken from the “samples” that Afrika Bambaataa stole, borrowed, or perhaps merely developed.

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Cote D'Azur is part of a series Ericsson did recently on the effects of global warming. Called ”The Unnatural Environment,” its designs all depicted projected changes due to warming trends, some expected to be catastrophic.

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Though Africa is expected to suffer the most from a rise of up to 8ºF in the coming century, the Mediterranean will also be hit hard, especially in the summertime. "The tourist paradise of Côte d’Azur could become what Sahara desert is today," Ericsson explains. "That's what this wallpaper design is meant to illustrate. The former sand bank is exchanged for a dry, thick ground whose surface is covered in deep cracks. The pattern is very beautiful in and of itself, but in this context it's quite scary."