Friday, November 12

A vintage wallpaper found, reproduced and archived - a labor of love to recreate "Alexander's Blast-Off!"

A family's journey to 
restore their historic home...
first they buy a house built in 1874 in Old Chatham, New York
Elizabeth with her son Alexander
In the middle of construction,
the Kelly family discovers a unique wallpaper on the walls
Several month's back I was having dinner with my friend Elizabeth.  It was a celebatory evening to toast our mutual friend Patrice's birthday.  As we were all in great spirits, the dinner table was buzzing with energy. Elizabeth was especially excited about a vintage wallpaper she recently had recreated.  She had discovered the paper in her historic home and had it reproduced, custom designed the colors herself, and now the labor of love was even garnishing the attention of a museum. She was in awe of the creative process and we all listened wide eyed with appreciation. With my topic on Nest turning to fabric and wallpaper this month, I knew it was time to bring this interesting story to my readers.

The story goes like this:
Elizabeth and her husband fell in love the rural landscape of Columbia County in upstate New York.  In 2004, they bought a unique home built in 1874 and situated on 16-acres in Old Chatham New York. 

The good news:  the home had only two prior owners and had been well built in an interesting combination of Italianate Gothic and farmhouse styles.  From the Victorian times it captured the elegance of the era, but with a farmhouse sensibility it also appeals to a modern family. 
The bad news:  The home was in dire need of a basic construction makeover as well as a significant cosmetic lift.  Elizabeth bravely took on the challenge, and she and her husband dove headfirst into a full reconstruction, which included major demolition of the back part of the house.  Elizabeth loves design and became fascinated with the many layers of history as she started the process. She literally peeled away the layers of wallpaper, and uncovered two or three papers on one wall alone ranging from different timeframes beginning in the early 1900s and through this century.  Elizabeth pulled away a paper in her son's bedroom to discover more or less intact a whole section of an interesting paper that seemed a throwback to a Ray Bradbury novel or Twilight Zone story.  The paper depicts an imaginative idea of space travel and Elizabeth thinks it must be from the 1930-1940s era.  Because of her son's love of space and science, Elizabeth thought it would be fun to find this paper and use it as a way to keep some of the home's history intact. The paper has a retro feel and Elizabeth knew it would fit in nicely with Alexander's robot collection and furniture.  As a matter of fact, the design of the room started to center around this swatch of wallpaper.  
After a ten month search for its origins or manufacturer, Elizabeth came up empty handed.  She carefully peeled what she could off the wall and with a sizeable sample, headed straight to the experts.  
This is where Dennis Shah from Printworks, Inc. came in.  Elizabeth had heard of Dennis' reputation as the premiere hand printer in the country. His printing company, Chambord Prints, produces luxury wallpapers for upscale design houses in the decorating world. The hand printing is done in the Chambord Prints’ mill in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Together, the two conspired to re-create the paper, worked up a color story, and one that was appropriate for the paper and best illustrated it's unique appeal.  After each seperate color application Elizabeth tweaked the design and colors, and after a few month process they had reproduced two colorways of the paper.  

The icing on the cake:
The well regarded Cooper Hewitt Museum on 91st and Fifth Avenue caught wind of this project and they exhibited the paper in their retrospective on children's wallpaper workshop soon after it was complete.  Dennis was on hand to showcase his artistry during the workshop.

The museum is set within the former Andrew Carnegie mansion on 91st and Fifth Avenue, and named the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Instititute.  It claims to be the only national museum devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design.  Of course the Kelly family was excited to have their wallpaper shown here. 

About Dennis Shah and Studio Printworks:

Studio Printworks LLC.
Wallpapers, vinyls, grasscloths & fabric
38 Jackson Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Tel 201-795-2007 ext. 27

About Printworks:  In 2005, Dennis Shah paired with design veteran Temo Callahan and established Studio Printworks, the iconoclastic wallpaper firm that has challenged the design industry to re-think wallcoverings. They produce a beautiful and fresh collection of papers that are satirical, socially relevant and humorous.

It is an exciting time for Studio Printworks and in addition to beautiful and unique custom wallpaper, Temo and Dennis have launched their first fabric collection.The fabric and wallpaper came together from the minds of Temo & Dennis as well as upcoming artists who had concepts that had not been tested as wallpaper. The collection has been very well received in the industry and the notereity that followed attracted many other artists, museums and design oriented consumers. 

a glimpse of Dennis' studio:
To order Alexander's Blast Off! 


Anonymous said...

What a fascinating story! I just loved it! It must have been so amazing to uncover that wallpaper--a treasure!

Tamara Matthews-Stephenson said...

thanks Kathe - looking forward to featuring you this week as well and showing my viewers your beautiful would make exquisite wallpaper and fabric as, tamara

Anonymous said...

This wallpaper would have been perfect in my client's sons room. We searched everywhere for wallpaper of this nature and decided to paint. I will remember this for future reference. Thank You tamara for another great story about design. Yours truly, Jessica

Anonymous said...

This wallpaper would have been perfect in my client's sons room. We searched everywhere for wallpaper of this nature and decided to paint. I will remember this for future reference. Thank You tamara for another great story about design. Yours truly, Jessica

Renae said...

Great story, don't you just wish the wallpaper could talk? Could be some interesting tales to be told!

Anonymous said...

This feels so retro yet futuristic from a time full of optimism.