Angelic figures that look like Greek sculptures when viewed from afar become moving black-and-white blossoms when viewed up close. The models used by the Swedish avant-garde fashion designer Sandra Backlund are actually sculptures. They are statues wrapped in heavy knits and — wallpaper! Rolls of paper sporting the decor of the late 1960s are wound around female bodies, to which the rhythmic pattern of the wallpaper seems to lend a new physiognomy. Backlund's cult couture astounded the Berlin and New York fashion scenes and beyond. It also reflects the unstoppable trend toward the aesthetic of the Flower Power era.
Meanwhile, woodchip wallpaper, which used to be standard in Germany, has been banned from German living rooms. The three-layer paper interspersed with wood fiber was above all else practical, easy to paint over, and a passably good substitute for plaster. Entire postwar generations grew up within walls covered with woodchip wallpaper before the 1990s, when people “discovered” something that had previously been considered more of a Mediterranean variant: fine plaster that was simply painted over. For a while wallpaper was absolutely taboo in “cool” homes. The memories of large-format photo atrocities showing a fall forest or Neuschwanstein Castle that were once popular choices for the decoration of children's rooms, game rooms, or basement bars still weighed too heavily. In addition, wallpaper was considered impractical because it was susceptible to scratches, tears, and stains. At best, it was tolerated in solid colors with an inconspicuous fiber or glass fiber structure — or as woodchip wallpaper.
Then came the revival. Luigi Colani and Karl Lagerfeld are just two of the prominent designers who are today bringing new looks to wallpaper. Their elegant decorations, generally using large patterns, are as impressive as they are expansive. Sufficient space is required for them to develop their full effect, for no opulently patterned wallpaper can tolerate small, overfilled rooms. The retro designs in the style of the 1960s and 1970s with their psychedelic designs in bold colors also require a lot of space and light. Otherwise they smother the room.
Popular TV interior decorators such as Tine Wittler and Enie van de Meiklokjes have played a large part in making wallpaper fashionable again for smaller walls in Germany. “Hip bars and dance clubs have been decorated with eye-catching, colorful wallpapers for some time now. Now it’s the turn of private homes," predicted van de Meiklokjes. The manufacturers reacted, with the result that never before has the variety of surfaces, colors, coatings, and designs been as wide as it is today. Also in demand are embossings and the gold, silver, or bronze-colored metallic effects which are made possible by films or novel interference pigments that diffract the light to produce a special shimmer. “Matt finish and soft-feel effects as well as metallic looks are among the diverse wallpaper styles produced using Merck effect pigments in combination with hot embossing, Alcantara foam, or scatter-on granules. With their depth and color gradients, Merck effect pigments emphasize any wallpaper design, whether elegantly subdued, opulent, or trendy,” says Ines Kahlert, who is responsible within Merck Chemicals for the marketing of effect pigments for print applications.
Furthermore, designers and interior decorators are confident that the retro trend will continue. This time, however, the aesthetic journey through time covers three centuries and not just decades. Baroque wallpaper is experiencing a resurgence, and with it luxurious textures, sumptuous ornaments, and classic colors.