NEW YORK — The prevailing design mantra is that home decor should be expressive of one’s personality — however gaudy it may be. And that means that wallpaper, which waned in popularity following the grass-cloth craze of the Seventies and Eighties, is enjoying a renaissance of sorts in this nesting era.
Noted fabric designers such as Lulu de Kwiatkowski launched wall covering collections in 2002, and interior decorator and social figure Celerie Kemble also has started dabbling in the medium. “There’s a real appreciation right now in the market for strong, graphic prints,” says Kemble.
Capitalizing on the paper craze — while managing to transcend its less-than-fashionable past — is Kansas City-based duo Kelly Porter, 31, and Bridgett Cochran, 29, who combined their respective talents in fine art and interior design to start Porter Teleo, a new high-end line of hand-printed, custom-designed wallpaper that made its debut this spring.
A former teacher at the Kansas City Art Institute, Porter is an accomplished artist whose eerie paintings of natural objects and abstractions appear in prestigious forums such as Kansas City’s Blue Gallery. Cochran has worked as an interior designer creating spaces in private residences, hotels and country clubs for years. The friends met at a coffee shop several years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that they decided to combine forces.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What is the best thing about fine art that we can bring to design, and what is the best thing about design that we can bring to fine art?'” recalls Porter.
Creating a company name was the next step. “Teleo is the root word of teleology, which is the study of form-following functions,” explains Cochran. In homage to that design principal, Porter Teleo produces museum-quality prints churned by hand from an etching press rather than silk-screening, which has — until now — constituted the top line of wallcoverings. Using high-quality paper sourced from France and Japan, Porter carves printing blocks and plates and uses oil-based ink to draw additional details, consulting with Cochran on matters of concept, color and marketing.
In the process, they have turned a tool of the interior design trade into a sustainable art form. Porter Teleo’s series, “Climbing Vine,” enables an entire room to be enclosed by a crop of strewn teal branches against a blanket of olive green. Classicists might prefer a tally of stumpy lines reminiscent of hieroglyphics (called “Mathematical Rain”) or a smattering of original celery crests backed by a haze of gunmetal grey, a Teleo Porter trademark.
With retail prices beginning at $90 for a 24-by-42-inch sheet and costing up to $10,000 for a entire bedroom, this flat-packaged wallpaper is not for the faint of heart … or wallet.
“Don’t install it anywhere that you wouldn’t install fine art,” warns Porter. That said, the paper is durable enough to sustain the predictable wear and tear of daily life, including the occasional child with an errant crayon.
A New York launch is planned in the coming months, but in the meantime, Porter and Cochran aim to infuse public spaces with their peculiar brand of art. “I’d love to see it in the cocktail lounge of an antique hotel,” says Cochran. “It lends itself to cool places.”