Luxury on a roll
Omexco Mineral and Graphite
Luxury wallcoverings have always been around, but only as a small and very niche part of the interior design portfolio. The original luxury wallcovering was of course a beautiful fabric, often an opulent silk, stretched tightly over the entire wall. Evidence of this can still be seen in many a stately home. Fabric walling as it’s called has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, and is an extremely skilful process to be undertaken by a specialist.
However, it’s not the traditional side of luxury wallcoverings that I want to focus on this month but the contemporary. Over the last few years there have been great advances in both the techniques used to create the most gorgeous of wallcoverings, and the sheer imagination of the product designers. You can now have any number of stunning wallcoverings, made of diverse materials ranging from banana leaves to sea shells, paper mache to glass beads and cork to quartz.
Many manufacturers are dipping their collective toes into this water, but for me the undisputed champions, who bring out the most fabulously mouth-watering collections time after time, are Omexco, Arte and Elitis. Pretty much all of their products tick the luxury box in terms of price, but if elegance, opulence and having something of worth excites you then look no further.
So let’s take a more detailed look at a soupcon of the ranges on offer. If textured mineral wallcoverings are your thing then you’ll love the Omexco collections Mineral and Graphite. Vermiculite is a mineral formed out of a chemical reaction between quartz and granite. Exposed to extreme heat, the mineral expands into pieces 2000 or even 3000 % of their original size, in a spectrum of brilliant colours. After the vermiculite has been heat-expanded, it is crushed into small pieces and glued on a non-woven backing. Finally, the surface is coloured. The natural sparkle of the mineral stones enhance dark colours like graphite, night blue and onyx. They confer a mother-of-pearl glow to gold, cream and grey, while they brighten up purple, anthracite, brown and charcoal.
Perhaps a step up in terms of the “Wow” factor is the Capiz collection. This really is currently one of my favourites, including show-stopping wallcoverings made from sea shells. Capiz shells, often referred to as “glass oysters” because of their translucent appearance, thrive in the coastal water off the Philippines, more specifically in the province of Capiz where the shells are harvested every fourth month. After a careful cleaning and drying process, the shells are softened, coloured with water-based dyes and then polished. Subsequently small segments of the organic shells are laminated one by one on a non-woven backing, which is then cut into strips. These strips are patiently woven by skilled craftsmen on handlooms. Some of the weaves in this collection are inter-woven with bakbak - the bark of the banana tree, providing a stunning combination of different authentic natural materials. The combination of exquisite craftsmanship and innovative design makes the Capiz collection truly luxurious, and goes a long way in justifying its top end price tag.
The last Omexco collection I’d like to talk about is called Cobra, and is based around the product cork. “Yawn, yawn” you may say, “cork has been around for donkey’s years”. Well not like this it hasn’t. If you like a bit of bling (and I have to confess that I do) you’ll love this. The Cobra collection is printed mainly on natural cork which is harvested manually from the bark of the cork oak, cut into squares then glued onto a metallic backing. The squares are then polished until perfectly smooth and flat, ready to be overprinted - a specialized and hand-crafted production process.
Arte, whilst having a magnificent range to offer, are probably a little more subdued in their offerings. Now don’t get me wrong, their Alchemy collection ranges from the beautifully subtle veined and pleated metal Cobalt, through Volt – a classic damask-like print given a contemporary twist with a metallic shine, to the marvellously bonkers Mercury – a true statement wallcovering for the bold in spirit. In fact Arte are real masters of taking the traditional, giving it a tweak and ending up with something totally contemporary and relevant. The design Opus, in their Rhapsody collection is a perfect example of this.
Another Arte favourite of mine is the Shibori collection, inspired by and based around the ancient Japanese technique of tie-dyeing. Those of us of a certain age will no doubt recall tie-dying our various granddad vests, muslin shirts et al in the late 60s. Maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for it. I’m not sure how, but Arte have transferred this technique into a splendid collection of vibrant wallcoverings, and then upped the ante again by adding a touch of sheen and a high-gloss varnish.
If brutal minimalism is your bag Arte’s Unit design from their Galena collection will be right up your street. Available in 11 strong colours, it gives the impression of weathered concrete tiles.
Elitis are a different kettle of fish again. A lot of their collections feature texture, whether it be light, heavy, random or in the form of squares (such as their eminently usable Memoires collection). Their range is vast, so I’ve chosen 3 collections to talk about – each with a very different feel.
Equateur is a lovely collection of broad patterns in bright colours, made from metal and paper weaves. Some of the designs take a traditional idea, such as a plaid in the case of Derby, and give it a real whizz with the metallic thread. Others need no help in the whizz department, like Caryes - the most stunning uber-modern panel design.
When the Mise En Scene collection was launched a few years ago it became an instant favourite of mine, and still is today. With its shimmering, silky surface and metallic highlights, it just looks like the most incredible polished steel wall. It’s available in a fabulous range of primary colours, along with the neutrals you would expect, of which my out and out favourite is an eye-achingly bright tangerine.
All of these collections, and many more like them are available from John Charles Interiors.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - March 2017