Fornasetti Wallpaper from Cole & Son

The right wallpaper — graphic, figurative or patterned — can be striking enough to function as “wall art”. Cole & Son’s collection of 16 wallpapers by prolific Italian illustrator and designer Piero Fornasetti is one of the best examples of wallpaper that becomes artwrok. In the last few years, as there has been a renewed interest and appreciation of Fornasetti’s oeuvre, these wallpapers have become increasingly popular.

Cole & Son have been making elegant wall coverings since 1873 and can boast having decorated rooms in Buckingham Palace. One of the company’s early success was devising an affordable alternative to silk wall coverings made of mica (a mineral substance found on rocks such as granite). While Cole & Son has preserved many of the traditional ways of making wall coverings, they have also been progressive in their patronage of contemporary designers including Vivienne Westwood and Tom Dixon.

Cole & Son was quite brave to produce Fornasetti as his designs are boldly whimsical. The Fornasetti collection is without a doubt their most visually ambitious and striking product from their large offerings. Fornasetti applied trompe l’oeil affects on an array of consumer products and the papers are a continuation of that interest. “Ex Libris” is a design that gives the illusion that the wall is covered in floor to ceiling filled bookshelves. “Riflesso” is an imaginary ancient Roman/Renaissance pastiche of grand buildings that would make Piranesi jealous. In contrast to these designs — that practically demand an unadorned wall — there are several prints that are far more restraint and decorative composed of flora and fauna. While papers such as “Ramo” and “Ortensia” are not particularly iconic or even immediately recognizable as Fornasetti, they similarly demonstrate Fornasetti’s skill as a master illustrator. Cole & Son round out the collection with papers that honor the most cherished motifs from his career including Malachite, Tema e Variazioni (in which has a young woman’s face appears in a host of semi surrealist portraits) and Il Sole (Fornasetti’s anthropomorphic rendering of the sun).

Images: Cole & Son