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.
The first thing people marvel at when they see the furniture of the young duo Sebastian Herkner and Reinhard Dienes is its industrial, institutional cool — bare wood against metal against richly colored glass, in shapes evoking old spotlights and torches and desk chairs. The second thing is how these hip, talented designers — whose first collection this year caught the eye of Wallpaper, DAMn, and Monocle — landed in Frankfurt, a middling city of 650,000 without a glimmer of Berlin’s cachet.
When you're a graphic designer and an aircraft engineer with zero fashion training, and yet you find yourself becoming the go-to clothing line of Melbourne — worn by the likes of Patti Smith, LCD Soundsystem, and Jamie Oliver — you learn to get really good at improvising. And trusting your instincts. So it goes for Alex and Georgie Cleary, the brother-and-sister duo behind Alpha60, who base its designs not on fashion trends but on whatever random pop-culture reference they happen to be into at any given moment.
Atelier NL’s Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck keep a studio in the airy loft of a ’70s-style church in Eindhoven. They live there, too, but you wouldn’t exactly say that’s where they work. More often than not, the designers can be found doing fieldwork, whether that means scouring the area’s secondhand shops for mechanical knickknacks to inspire their more analog designs — like van Ryswyck’s hand-cranked radio — or digging up clay in the Noordoostpolder, an area of reclaimed farmland north of Amsterdam that until the 1940s was submerged under a shallow inlet of the North Sea.