The Perfect Storm Behind Brooklyn’s Calico Wallpaper

Visitors to this New York artist’s loft can’t help but notice the intricate network of molten gold that spills over an entire wall and laps up 15 feet to the ceiling. It may look like Jackson Pollack had especially good fortune with a can of sunshine, but it’s actually a custom mural from Brooklyn-based Calico Wallpaper.

“The striations are meant to mimic water flowing over pebbles,” says Rachel Cope, designer and co-founder of the company. “I’m always interested in what kind of energy the piece will give off in the space.” In this case, the owner’s kinship with wabi-sabi, the Japanese fondness for the less-than-perfect, served as a jumping-off point for the marbleized wall covering.

A sculptor by training, Cope and her husband, Nick, a photographer and interior designer, founded Calico — named as a nod to their cat, Irene — in the aftermath of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which resulted in the shutdown of the hospital where Rachel worked as an art therapist. The couple wanted to “explore a creative project” where they could work together.

After scoring a booth at a New York design show, the company grew quickly. Its work has served as a backdrop for articles in Martha Stewart Living and House and Garden and everyone from actor Neil Patrick Harris to Mast Chocolates has fallen under the spell of its evocative designs.

Each piece is custom fit and installed in one continuous, non-repeating swath. In creating her designs— whether they’re inspired by the moody otherness of lunar photography or the gilded halls of Versailles—Rachel turns to a variety of traditional crafts.

Early pieces leaned on Italian, Turkish and Japanese methods of paper marbling, while the Aurora collection explores fabric dyeing techniques. The new Satori line takes its cues from the Japanese process of kintsugi, which uses lacquer and gold leaf to mend broken pottery. “We worked with a third-generation lacquer artist on this process,” Rachel explains. “He repaired some beautiful hand-thrown ceramic vessels, and then I used the [resulting]motifs in original paintings that mirrored his glazing.”

The couple is looking forward to expanding its collection next year, in part by forging partnerships similar to the one with the kintsugi artisan. “We’d like to see how designers we admire take our processes and technology and do something different and unexpected with them,” Nick says. Always, he adds, “Our goal is creating immersive, emotional interior spaces.”

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