With the ubiquity of open-concept layouts, clients have more wall space than ever — but how do you fill all that blank space? In Episode 4 of the Chairish Podcast, Chairish’s Michael Boodro meets up with designers Bella Mancini and Elena Frampton, as well as Phillip Jeffries CEO Jeffrey Bershad, to analyze the comeback of vibrant wallpaper, how to navigate the selection of artworks, and more. Listen to this episode to discover how to make your walls stand out.

What you can expect from this episode:

  • The contemporary wallpaper trend
  • Client hesitation about wallpaper
  • Tips for selecting artworks for walls
  • Detailing, balance, and additional finishes
  • The trends and future of wall design

Get to know our chic guests:

Bella Mancini is known for her charming and astute way of working with patterns and wallcoverings within her designs. She founded her firm, Bella Mancini Design, just two years after making her career shift from fashion PR and marketing to interior design.

Elena Frampton is a talented designer and owner of interior design studio Frampton Co, which includes an art advisory service and locations in the Hamptons and New York City. Her studio uses dynamic, otherworldly palettes while also elevating artists and expanding access to their art.

Jeffrey Bershad is the CEO of Phillip Jeffries, a wallcovering company that was started with just 10 grasscloths over 40 years ago by his father, and is now a preeminent global company. With an elevated focus on design, quality, and efficiency, Phillip Jeffries prides itself on ready-to-ship and custom solutions and has been featured in magazines including Luxe, California Home+Design, and Interior Design.

During the episode, we mention these high-end wallpaper brands:

Think beyond conventional wallpaper ideas with these sources of inspiration:

Connect with Chairish and our guests on Instagram:

Lead image by Joshua McHugh / Design by Elena Frampton


Michael Boodro  0:00  

This is a Chairish podcast and I’m your host Michael Boodro.

Today we’re talking about walls, which any designer knows is a huge element of any interior. But what do you do with them, especially now in light of open plan layouts, expansive rooms, and huge wall spaces? And how do you fill them, make them exciting, and make them interesting? I’m very lucky today to have three very talented designers and industry insiders who are going to talk about how the way we treat walls has evolved over the past couple of decades. We have Bella Mancini, who is known for her incredibly charming and astute way with working with patterns and pattern walls. In fact, one of her new year’s resolutions on Instagram is to feature more pattern walls because they’re one of her followers favorite things. So welcome, Bella. Thank you. We also have Elena Frampton, who is not only a talented designer, but also runs an art advisory service and she has an experiential gallery in Bridgehampton and her showroom in New York. She also features young artists. And she’s an expert at dealing with bringing art into any interior, which is, of course, very important. And as we all know, the art world can be incredibly intimidating, and we’re going to talk with her about how she discovers new artists, works with artists and convinces clients of the importance of art. So welcome, Elena. 

Elena Frampton  1:53  

Hi, thanks so much. Happy to be here.

Michael Boodro  1:55  

And I’m very happy that we also have Jeffrey Bershad who is the CEO of Philip Jeffries, a wall coverings company that was founded by his father and started with a few grass cloths and they’re now one of the preeminent global companies who are very innovative in coming up with new wall coverings. Jeffrey’s here to explain how Philip Jeffries has evolved and how wall coverings have become such an important element of design. So welcome, Jeffrey.

Jeffrey Bershad  2:23  

Thanks. So great to be here.

Michael Boodro  2:25  

So I think I’m going to start with you, Bella, because I think you have such a charming way of working with patterns and wall coverings and all kinds of amazing wallpapers. There are so many companies now that are doing innovative and exciting wall coverings. There’s Gracie and de Gournay with more traditional murals and romantic Chinese looking walls. There’s Fromental, there’s Elitis, Maya Rudolph, Arte. How do you go about finding what you want to put on walls and convincing clients who can be a little conservative, that a wild pattern or texture on the wall or even a lacquered wall is the way to go? How does that come about?

Bella Mancini  3:05  

Well, I think it’s really important to state that wallpaper has come back in a really big way in the last 10 years. I’ve had my business and I’m going on my 20th year. And those first many years, I couldn’t get people to do wallpaper. They had the nightmare kind of memories of their parents house and grandmother’s house. Whatever it was, they had this impression that wallpaper was an old lady thing. So I think that the wallpaper companies have done such a great job with creating a product that is so much more visually interesting and doing things that are handmade and so that’s the first thing. I think it’s become more popular, so people are more open to it. I also in my practice feel like it’s not always easy to get people to use patterns on large pieces of upholstery. So it’s getting more so but I feel like in my mind, a room really comes alive when there’s some pattern. And I really love to use them on the walls if I can. I’m a pattern girl. I’m wearing a solid dress today but I wear a ton of patterns. And I have a ton of patterns in my own homes and I just happen to gravitate towards interesting color combinations and different techniques. And I think I don’t always even have to push so hard anymore because there’s just such good products out there. 

Michael Boodro  4:33  

But one of the things I think you’re really skilled at is mixing patterns. And that’s harder. I mean, you know, one reason we all love solids in our wardrobes and in our rooms is because you can contrast blue with brown. But whenever there’s a pattern involving the scale of the pattern, don’t you think that’s much harder? I think maybe that’s one reason that you are so successful. People look at your rooms and say this is fabulous, but I could never do this myself. So how do you go about that?

Bella Mancini  5:00  

Thank you. First of all, that’s sort of the idea, right? We want people to come to us and keep hiring decorators. I think it’s practice and knowing that, you know, when you’re looking at a mood board, or however, a designer puts something together – we don’t do mood boards in our office, but we have a large bulletin board and we pin kind of everything up. If you’re looking at that, you’re not really seeing the room as it will be. So I think people tend to overthink how patterns are going to play with one another. They’re not thinking about the fact that one pattern is going to be 10 feet away from the other. And it’s going to be separated by maybe a solid carpet, and have lots of other furniture in the space. So I think it just takes practice. Mixing scales is really important and not having too many of the same sized prints.

Michael Boodro  5:50  

And how do you do that in terms of your presentation? Because of course, when you do a swatch, everything is the same scale. How do you convince people? Do you do renderings?

Bella Mancini  5:58  

We do a lot of renderings. Yes. And, you know, a lot of it is just really trying to explain it to people. And hopefully at the point when we’re doing a decorating presentation, they’re really trusting us at that point anyway, and hand it over to us a bit.

Michael Boodro  6:15  

Great. So Elena, how do you feel about wallpaper? Because your work often uses a lot of neutrals, often features artwork, obviously. But you also use wallpaper. So how does that fit?

Elena Frampton  6:27  

I love wallpaper. And I also love exploring wallpaper as an illusion of a mural. So that means perhaps doing a custom pattern and custom layout that’s tailored for the space. So it could be on the ceiling. Clients usually are comfortable with and asked for a feature wall. This is something that happens all the time. And so then it’s our job to say, as the professional, that’s a great idea. We’re on board with that. But we want to paper the whole space. And we want to envelop you in this tropical print. And that is more of a push.

Michael Boodro  7:06  

It’s interesting you say that because when we did our podcast on color, Martin Kesselman, who’s a designer and a color expert said, you know, there’s this idea that people have only one wall of a certain color. And he said he hates that. He loves to do them. Do you agree?

Bella Mancini  7:22  

It makes me crazy. I always think it looks like either they ran out of money and couldn’t finish wallpapering the room, or they just couldn’t commit. It never really looks like it’s meant to be and especially when people do it with something that’s fairly affordable, like grasscloth or something. I think if you’re going to do the one wall thing, which I really will discourage clients from doing, I think you at least have to pull some really intense color from whatever’s happening on the print and carry it through. And either do a lacquer finish or something that looks very intentional. So it doesn’t just look like you ran out of money like, oh, is the installer coming back to finish the rest?

Elena Frampton  8:02  

I think when a client is afraid to, perhaps it’s like starting them off with doing it in a bathroom or a powder room or something that’s contained. And maybe that’s why they’re always asking for the feature wall because there’s something about the safety element and the emotional security of that.

Michael Boodro  8:18  

Well, most clients are pretty conservative. I think most people are and they get weary that they are going to be overwhelmed by either color or a pattern or whatever. 

 Jeffrey Bershad  8:27  

What do you think it is? This question is more for Bella and Elena. What do you think it is that clients are fearing, around wall coverings, that they only want to get started in a powder room and then they see how beautiful it is? And I hear this from designers all the time. You know, let’s start in the powder room. And then they’ll be like, oh, this looks amazing. Let’s do something in the hallway. Let’s do something in my kid’s room. Let’s do something in the master bedroom. Where do you think that fear comes from?

Bella Mancini  8:51  

Oh, I mean, I think sometimes it’s simply something as practical as being a big financial undertaking. So oftentimes we’ll plan for something really dramatic and that might be something that gets value engineered and either it turns into just a different covering. Like I’ll go back to grasscloth something that’s more affordable and you could still do intense color or it gets eliminated altogether. I don’t know that people are afraid so much. Maybe they are a little bit but I think it’s a commitment. You know, it’s a commitment.

Michael Boodro  9:23  

And you know we all love wallpaper here but let’s remember it’s not the easiest thing to do. It’s not like putting on a coat of paint or whatever. You have to do precise measurements ,you have to order, and you have to worry about the repeat. I think a lot of people are overwhelmed by that. Now obviously Jeffrey, this is your life so to speak so you’re not intimidated. But is it difficult yet in spite of that as Bella was saying before, with such a huge resurgence in wall coverings? And now I mean you can get hand embroidered wall coverings. You can get Lalique flowers that are sewn onto the wall. I mean it seems like the budget constraints for the high end have been blown out and people are willing to pay for extravagant wallpapers. Your dad started your company, right? And with grasscloth, only grasscloth. And yet you guys have evolved hugely. So I’d love you to talk a little bit about that and how that happened.

 Jeffrey Bershad  10:16  

My father started in 1976, literally in our garage with 10 grasscloths. And then he started out originally as just a salesperson and mom and dad had their own shop with interior designers on staff in Livingston, New Jersey, which funny enough is where Philip and I ended up both living. And really, I guess, the rods are filled up from my much smarter, better looking charming brother.

Michael Boodro  10:46  

He is now the president. Is that right?

Jeffrey Bershad  10:48  

Philip is the president and I am CEO.

Michael Boodro  10:49  

That’s why it’s called Phillip Jeffries, because we have half of the duo here.

Michael Boodro  11:37  

I would love Elena and Bella to weigh in on this. Why did wallpapers catch on? I think it had something to do with the physical shape of walls – open plan layouts, open kitchens, and I think walls got bigger. And I think the popularity of moldings disappeared. There are no moldings at all. But you know, the traditional Upper East Side apartment in New York, which would have moldings on the walls on the floor and on the ceiling – that’s sort of just a gateway. So it really created a challenge. I mean, to have this nice open space everybody wanted, you know, was inspired by lofts and in the 70s and Soho all that. People wanted to live in big spaces. But now I think that those big expanses of white – what do you do with them?

Elena Frampton  12:24  

I think people want warmth and containment. And I think whenever you’re going in one direction, there’s sort of a backlash into the other direction.

Michael Boodro  12:34  

Yes, because that’s another factor.

Elena Frampton  12:36  

People are seeking  the sense of being grounded. I’ve even had clients where the spouses have different ideas about the real estate purchase. So someone wants a pre war and someone wants an open loft? Who wins? And how do we achieve that? We ended up with the loft. But how do we create this sense of intimacy and space in this football field interior?

Michael Boodro  12:59  

I’m a person who actually likes doors and walls and rooms. But you know, I’m in a minority, I don’t particularly like an open kitchen.

Elena Frampton  13:08  

Sometimes it changes so people think that they want an open layout, and then they get a sense for the acoustics or how it feels and then maybe, you know, we get the call. This is not working out for us. What can we do to create this sense of space? So I think the idea of wall coverings or pattern or layering color – that’s when the professional can come in and help.

Michael Boodro  13:28  

Right, right. And Bella, how have you seen that evolve over the years?

Bella Mancini  13:32  

Well, I totally agree with Elena. And I think that we have to remember that the 90s were super minimal. You know, it was like the most minimal decade. I mean, I’m not very old so I don’t remember much before that. The 90s were super minimal which is amazing. But I think to expand on what Elena was saying, I think people want layers now. And I think this whole like maximalist vibe, which I’m not really at all, but I think that that’s kind of where things are leaning now. So the curve has totally swung in the other direction. So people are liking that pattern and texture and just layering all sorts of different materials together.

Michael Boodro  14:24  

And the demand seems to be only growing. Like Jeffrey, you started your company and your dad started with about 10 grasscloths. So how many SKUs do you have now? How many different patterns and ranges do you have?

 Jeffrey Bershad  14:34  

We have over 3,000 skews. I really don’t know over how many ranges but we being a creative house, we come up with a lot and put a lot into design. So in Paris Déco Off in January, we introduced 23 new designs. 

Michael Boodro  14:51  

Wow. I remember when you would introduce six and that was a lot.

 Jeffrey Bershad  14:53  

That was a lot, right. That was a lot and for me, it’s interesting going back and looking at wallcoverings trends. And going out of vogue. You mentioned minimalism and the change in the architecture. But for me, I was a history major, you know, I love history. So I’ve gone back and tried to ask all of my father’s friends and many of which are retired now. Why did wallcovering go out of vogue in the 90s and early 2000s? And the number one thing that I hear from them is a lack of originality and design. And in the 80s, wallcovering was amazing. So many of these companies that are no longer even in business did so well, that they just started to build on their success. And so this does well, let’s do it again. This does well, let’s do it again. I think many high end designers, like Bella and Elena, when you see the same thing again, and again, and again, and again, again, from every company that walks through your door or every showroom that you go into, it’s almost like, well, I don’t want to do that anymore.

Michael Boodro  15:58  

I actually am older than Bella. So I remember the 70s. I mean, there were super graphics on the wall. They were mylar wall coverings, it was graphic and bold with David Hicks blown up 40 times the scale. I mean, I do remember that. But you know, as I said, I’m prehistoric. But it’s so interesting now that it’s back and I do think it has to do with architecture. But maybe it also has to do with this idea of costing yourself too. It’s like almost an American take on the English country house thing but urbanized.

Elena Frampton  16:31  

I think the idea that perhaps people looked at wallpaper is very traditional. Wallpapers are this traditional aesthetic when actually, you know, companies like Philip Jeffries have created papers that are modern, or can be customized into a modern way. And I think that’s how we’ve evolved with our clientele, is showing, you know, people what we can do with the products that are offered in the marketplace, or what we can create. It might not be this repeating floral. It might be something as you mentioned him, you know, an embroidered something. So maybe it’s some dense pattern that breaks away into nothing, and then fades into the ceiling. I don’t know.

Michael Boodro  17:11  

These are the very popular ombre papers, I remember.

Elena Frampton  17:16  

So it is that modern look at wallpaper and what’s available on the marketplace. What are the visions that we have? And you know, to have a wall covering is much more durable, actually than a painted white wall. 

Michael Boodro  17:28  

Well, that brings up the idea of budget, which I know, I’m not going to ask you to name figures. But you know, it’s obviously much more complicated, but also more expensive to do wall coverings, especially some of the wall coverings. Now today, we’re talking about hand embroidery, which is very expensive. You have some lines that are quite pricey, as opposed to your grass cloth, basic grass cloth or your vinyl grasscloth or whatever. So, is that a consideration with your clients?

Elena Frampton  17:59  

Well, I think whenever we’re handling the budget, it’s a matter of where you are allocating the resources, right? So is the future the wall? Is the future the rug? Is the future the light fixture? I mean, there’s always a budget no matter what it is. And so where are we putting that. If the feature in that space is the wall, then that’s where you can put the resources. Perhaps in other areas, it’s something different, or you spend more here and save something here, there’s also the long term value. So if you’re not having to repaint the walls all the time, and we look at this in our commercial projects. The wall covering is, you know, a cost effective choice in the long term as opposed to painting.

Michael Boodro  18:33  

Because that’s one of the reasons I had brought up hospitality. Although Jeffrey, you said, it wasn’t that much of an influence. But I think in hospitality, I think a lot of people who travel get inspired when they go to these high design hotels and that kind of thing. And often there’s a very dramatic wall covering or a feature wall or sculptural wall, living wall of plants, or whatever. And I think that has had an influence on what people want in their homes. Do you find that to be true, Bella?

Bella Mancini  18:59  

I do. I do. I think sometimes in our projects, the art is, you know, it’s the last thing and I’d love to hear from Elena on this as she gets to do testing on amazing art. But sometimes art is something that we wait a long time for which isn’t great, but we have to and I just got back from Paris and it was really, besides Phillip Jeffries of course, I was really super wowed by a couple of collections like Gournay are always like, outrageously beautiful. But I thought what Pierre Frey is doing with wallcovering was super interesting to me. They’re actually commissioning artists to use their point of view on wallpaper, or wall covering. And I just thought that it was so beautiful. And it would not be for you know, not everything was for every client, but I thought well, what a great way. Like a dining room for example, which is a place where we are often able to have that kind of very inspired vision come to life. And oftentimes, to the point of your budget question, there’s a chair rail or some sort of woodwork at the bottom of the half of the room. And so you can paint that and then do something more elaborate above. And I thought to myself, what a great way of kind of killing two birds with one stone of having the walls actually be the art. So I love what some of these companies are doing. I think that that kind of helps drive that kind of inspiration.

Jeffrey Bershad  20:35  

And I think it’s also cost effective when you look at your cost of art versus doing artwork on your wall surface, as wallcovering is extremely cost effective.

Michael Boodro  20:44  

And that’s a very good lead into Elena here, because one of the things that impressed me about Elena is that she has a network of young artists. She supports them, she has salons, she has exhibitions in her showroom, she has her experiential gallery in Bridgehampton and I, for one, and I actually worked in the art world for a number of years, I find it very intimidating to walk into a gallery still. And I would love to hear from her how she got involved, and she has an art advisory service. How did that evolve, because art can be hugely expensive, especially if you want to get a Jeff Koons or Richard Serra, which so many designers do encourage their clients to get. But even if it’s not a bad expense, it’s intimidating, and people feel alienated from it. So Elena, how did you get into that?

Elena Frampton  21:33  

Well, about probably 12 years ago, I started utilizing art imagery as inspiration sources, on our project boards when we were talking to clients about design strategies. And then it just evolved over time where clients would say, but I actually really liked that.

Michael Boodro  21:51  

Can I say we’re responding to the image?

Elena Frampton  21:54  

Absolutely, they responded to it in, in the scenario of this is the point of view I have for your space. And they not only wanted the materials but they wanted the artwork. So it was a natural evolution, where it became an inspiration for the space. And then we started purchasing. And then I started building relationships. And it happened over a dozen years. I didn’t wake up one day and open an art advisory. It happened over time. And it was a very natural process.

Michael Boodro  22:23  

But you mentioned that you started purchasing. Now that is no easy task because I know galleries can be incredibly snobby. And I think there’s still this perception, you know, 50-60 years later that we’re gonna go in and buy a painting that matches the sofa. And I think that they’re not always treated with appropriate respect by art world personnel. So did you experience that?

Elena Frampton  22:47  

Sure, yeah. But I think that it’s a couple of things. You know, galleries aren’t putting their prices on the wall. 

Michael Boodro  22:53  

There’s a state law, by the way, that says you’re supposed to post the prices for everything but you still don’t.

Elena Frampton  22:58  

That’s right. Even recently, I was somewhere and I asked for the price list. And it was a gallery I hadn’t worked with yet. And they said they didn’t have a price list. I said, that’s fine, you don’t know who I am. And I followed up with the director, and we’re on our way, but it takes time to build relationships. And I think for us, the proof is in the pudding. We just kept putting out work where the artwork was the feature. And so we just built credibility. And that’s how it goes with being a designer too. I mean, you just have to do the work. So I think that gallerists saw the appreciation that I have, and the research that we do. And they also saw us as an asset for them in terms of sales, because we do a lot of work. We’re putting artworks into renderings. We’re doing options. We’re putting different works together, and so we’re buying multiples, and so we’re sort of doing their job.

Michael Boodro  23:51  

Right. And also, you feature a lot of work by younger artists, and these are not people where it’s going to cost you a half a million dollars or have a waiting list of 10 years to get to work. I mean, you would think that the galleries would be more eager to work with you. 

Elena Frampton  24:07  

There’s a little bit of bias towards the interior designer as the decorator who doesn’t know what’s going on. But then once a dealer spends 10 minutes with me, they know exactly that I know what’s going on. And so I don’t really have that issue so much anymore. I’m also president of all the affairs. So we’ve developed a reputation. But I will say that our design approach is to create really unique spaces. So I actually don’t want to necessarily feature artworks by artists who everybody is utilizing in their projects. I personally like emerging art work by emerging artists but I also like to feature that in our projects so that our projects have that unique aesthetic. So it could be an emerging artist who was a young artist, but it could also be a mid-career artist who just hasn’t gained recognition yet. And that’s something that I find a lot because I don’t just go to shows. I’m invited back into the storage rooms, and I’m putting on the gloves, and I’m looking at the works. And I’m discovering things. And it’s that process of discovery that’s so exciting to me. So when I can feature mid- career artists and have that in our projects, and then that project gets recognition, these people become better known and it actually smooths the market too.

Michael Boodro  25:27  

Well, it’s interesting, because, you know, the art world would deny it, but I would say it is just as susceptible to trends and fads as the fashion or the interior world. And there are artists whose work I’ve admired, who were very successful in the 70s, or 80s, and now are forgotten. And they’re worth a second look. And I think that’s an interesting thing to do as well that you’re doing that. And it’s starting to, and I think there’s also a lot more information about art available, again, via Instagram and other social media. And I think that has helped to break down some barriers. I mean, I don’t know if you guys follow Jerry Saltz, who’s an art critic, you know, he’s very political. But what I love as well is that he features an artist practically every day, many of whom are young and alive and still working, many of them are from the 70s, and some from the past that are forgotten. And he has such a voracious eye and I find that inspiring. Is that something that you look at Bella, in terms of, you know, I’m sure clients come to you and say we are you say to a client, we need some artwork here. And not everybody is a knowledgeable artist and might like to be or don’t have time. How do you approach getting art for your clients?

Bella Mancini  26:36  

I work with a few galleries really closely, and who represent a lot of different artists. Those would be my go to’s. I do go to the art fairs, not like Elena does, but I try to go to Miami once a year as the main fare and I just collect things that I like on my own on my phone and follow up with galleries later. I’ve toyed with hiring an art consultant on some projects. And I have a friend of mine who owns a gallery in Chelsea. She kind of pulled me aside one day and she was like, you don’t need it. She’s like, you know exactly what you like. And you know exactly what’s right for the projects and to have a little more confidence in that. So I’m getting there. It’s taking a little while. I know what I like for myself, for sure. That’s kind of easy. But for clients, it’s taking me a little longer.

Elena Frampton  27:31  

I think Bella brings up a great point, which is the purity of knowing what I like. And I think that’s one of the things that I use to help clients get over that intimidation that you’re talking about. Once I show them a lot of options, it’s very clear what they respond to and what they like. And it’s exactly what Bella’s describing. We don’t have to have an art history degree. We’ve done the research on the front end, but we are sharing things with clients and some clients respond to photography or others paintings, you know. I’m always trying to bring in sculpture. That’s a whole nother thing. Some clients get it. But I would say it’s that purity of just what do you respond to? What do you like? Maybe there’s a childhood nostalgia thing going on. Or maybe there’s a way in which you want your space to feel and that, you know, connects for them. So it does, I think, part of the exclusivity, and perhaps a little bit of the snobbishness of the art world, is a disservice. And that’s where we come in to help break that wall down and just look at what you like.

Michael Boodro  28:40  

Right. And I think one of the things that you guys can do is really expand their vision a little bit. You know, we all know what we like. But there’s other stuff out there that you might like if you knew about it, but maybe you don’t. And I think that that’s a really valuable thing that you can bring to any client is to say, you like this, what about this as well, or a different way of approaching it. So now I want to get back now that we’ve talked a little about art, because traditionally, art was to be presented on those bare expanses of white walls. So I think that that was a very limiting thing. And if actually, if you look at museums, like The Met or whatever, a lot of the walls there are colored or covered with a wall covering, 

Jeffrey Bershad  29:29  

That’s what I was gonna say, covered in burlap or linens. 

Michael Boodro  29:32  

Right. So you know, but I think there was this idea in the 80s and 90s, that a gallery had to be a white cube, and paintings and contemporary artworks could only be shown on white walls. So how do you go about mixing your artwork with wall coverings and different colors and that kind of thing? Is that something that is really a challenge for you? Like Bella, you do a lot of patterns. So how do you work in artworks with that?

Bella Mancini  29:58  

I don’t think they’re really any rules to it. I work a lot off instinct and it’s not necessarily pre planned. So if we have a day then we’re installing all the art. I mean, some of the pieces are purchased for specific spaces, of course, but sometimes they’re not. It’s just like a visual thing. I mean, it’s sort of how I hang a light fixture. You can plan for it all you want but sometimes you stand in this space, and it actually needs to be up or down by 12 inches. So I think the same thing about art. I will say, I tend to put quieter artwork on more, I guess, louder walls. But I wouldn’t say that that’s necessarily a rule. But I would say that more often than not, that’s what we’ll do, something graphic on something playing or something, with a lot of movement on something that’s geometric. Just creating a little bit of a tension between the two things, I think, is usually pretty interesting.

Michael Boodro  30:57  

See, I would have thought, just reverse that. You would put the quiet artwork on the subtle background. And so that to me, that’s fascinating, but that you do exactly the opposite of what I would have thought. What do you do, Elena, how do you do?

Elena Frampton  31:10  

I mean, I think exactly what you’re saying is that juxtaposition which I think is very dynamic. And so I think that utilizing the design principles that we use, when we’re creating the space is the same thing with the art process of how we’re installing it. I think with us, what you’re talking about in terms of opening a client’s mind to what else is possible, there may be more that they like that they don’t know. And I think layering artwork on top of wallcoverings is a whole nother level that can kind of blow people’s minds. And so I think it’s, for us, it’s showing them from the beginning the possibilities, and that I think that’s a little different about what we do is that we’re showing art at the first presentation. And so we’re showing materials, patterns, color, texture, artwork, thinking about it right from the beginning, from the outset, usually. I mean, this is where this sort of intuition comes in is that I usually have visions of artwork when I’m meeting someone for the first time. And so I sort of log that in. Once a project is signed, I start pulling artworks and fabrics and carpets and pink colors and everything all at once and I start to put it together. And then there’s the vision because it’s really about a feeling and an experience. Then we present it to them. And we put things in renderings and we show them options for how it is going to be. And that’s how we sort of pitched the idea. Now they may or may not purchase that one item. It may not be available by the time you know, we do that design process. But it triggers this thing of being open to that or ready for that.

Michael Boodro  32:48  

Alright, and no offense, Jeffrey. I want to talk briefly about other ways to deal with walls. I mean, clearly there’s paneling and Venetian plaster,

Jeffrey Bershad  33:00  

Okay if we are going there, then I’m definitely taking offense.

Michael Boodro  33:04  

You know, Venetian plaster and lacquer – lacquer has been incredibly strong as well as colored lacquer and wood paneling. How often do you think about that? How do you work that in? Is it smaller rooms? So like a library, do you do paneling? Because I know, there’s still a lot of that. I mean, Steven Gambrel, I think made lacquer almost ubiquitous in America now. But that’s again, a very expensive process. So, when do you decide?

Bella Mancini  33:33  

We have been actually doing a lot of different paint treatments and just like wall coverings are such great innovation and paint now. So yes, we do some lacquering for sure. But we have also been doing a lot of plaster. And particularly I mean, it just happens that we’ve done it in larger homes.

Michael Boodro  33:55  

You mean plastering the walls?

Bella Mancini  33:57  

Venetian plaster, or you know, it goes by lots of different forms.

Michael Boodro  34:01  

I think molding is coming back in a way.

Elena Frampton  34:05  

Oh, yeah. I mean, when we can, we will. But we have recently completed a project. And we brought in a specialty painter to do a plaster finish on all the walls everywhere, on both floors in the main living spaces. And yeah, and then we’ve added a lot of moldings and woodwork to the walls and libraries. And I think we’re seeing, at least in our practice, a return to having some natural wood tones or not painting everything.

Michael Boodro  34:42  

Right, I’ve noticed that as well. And interiors – I’ve been looking into shelter magazines and that kind of thing. And I think that speaks, Elena, to your idea of creating this sort of cozy layered space. So how do you address that?

Elena Frampton  34:54  

One thing I was thinking about was that as interior designers, we’re often in response. Often you know, it’s like an intervention. It’s a surgical situation because there’s an architectural condition that usually needs some sort of improvement. You know, I’m thinking of a project we completed in Noho, where it felt very imbalanced because it was all windows on one side and walls on the other. I had the sense of tipping over. I’m sensitive to space. And so the response was paneling the wall, and it grounded it so that there was an intensity to balance this with the windows, which had a very strong view of the city. And so we did this ebonized paneling, which was very rich but it was modern. And I think it weighted the room. But the detailing was done in a modern way. You know, I think people think paneling, and they think traditional, and this client in this bachelor pad, and he and I had to do a little bit of a sell on this, but we could integrate the speakers. We could integrate the TV. And so I think, I think it’s paneling or plaster or even a mirror, or all sorts of for us – it’s like an architectural solution to balance the space.

Michael Boodro  36:09  

It’s interesting. I remember from the 70s, we had lots of mirrored walls. Again, if you could afford more than the Mylar wallpaper, you would get the mirrored walls. And that seems to be coming back to which is sort of interesting as well. And I guess it’s often for architectural reasons.

Elena Frampton  36:24  

Exactly. So, just on the Upper Eastside a few weeks ago, we installed two enormous mirrors that have sort of a subtle antique finish, but they’re enormous. And they flank the fireplace and it makes sense of the space. It also reflects the light in the view. And that’s what we’re thinking about. We think about a choice of is it wallpaper? Is it paneling? Is it a mirror? You know, I’m not going to put mirrors somewhere where I don’t want the reflection, right? So if I want to reflect the light and the view, then a mirror makes sense.

Jeffrey Bershad  36:53  

And it’s interesting. That’s actually the history of the metallic leaf. So if you go back to the gold and the silver leaf wallcovers that were used in the palaces in Kyoto and also in China. In many cases, that was before electricity. And this was something to reflect all the candlelight to light up the room. 

Michael Boodro  37:09  

Exactly. And again, in Europe too.

 Jeffrey Bershad  37:11  

Absolutely, yeah. You’ll see it right, exactly. And the Hall of Mirrors. So Jeffrey, now to get back to your territory where you’re more comfortable, because I don’t want it to be uncomfortable. I wanted to ask, because one of the things that has amazed me in the last few years going to Paris, or whatever, is the range of textured and different materials that are going on the walls now. And I’d love to know, and actually, I want all three of you to weigh in on this. But we’ll start with Jeffrey, what do you see is coming next, in terms of wall coverings? I really think that obviously, we know texture is here. It’s here in fabric. It’s here in wall covering. We feel that we are definitely a texture house and that’s our DNA. And it continues to evolve to become more and more 3D.

Michael Boodro  37:58  

I was gonna say, going beyond textured and almost sculptural.

 Jeffrey Bershad  38:01  

Yes, almost sculptural and I don’t want to give it away.

Michael Boodro  38:05  

Go ahead, give it away.

 Jeffrey Bershad  38:06  

But you will see some things coming out in our next launch, which is around the time of High Point where you’re going to see some amazing 3D textured materials that in our mind provide the ability to create almost a plaster molding for the wall. But for the price of a wall covering and the ease of installation of a wall covering.

Bella Mancini  38:29  

I was going to say I feel like I can already hear my wallpaper installer complaining.

Michael Boodro  38:36  

So Bella, what are you looking at because if anyone who follows her Instagram feed which I suggest everybody does, Bella is Miss wallcovering. So what do you and what are you looking at? What are you thinking about? I’m gonna have a banner and I have a tiara for you.

Bella Mancini  38:56  

Well, I I definitely want to continue to use products that are showing a lot of pattern but I think what I’d like to see is and this might make me very unpopular, but I’m kind of over the digital printing and I’d like to see things that are even more handmade and feel, I guess for lack of a better word, earthier. Those are materials I’m always drawn to anyway so I like real things that exist in the world like cotton and jute and raffia and linen. Those are fibers that I tend to gravitate towards anyway. So perhaps that but I also like what I was seeing and saw in Paris. I think that artistry is really interesting to me. 

Michael Boodro  39:53  

And Elena, what about you? What are you looking at? What do you think about?

Elena Frampton  39:55  

I think for us and in the high end market it is really about options for customization. So luxury now is sort of old news. What is luxury? Is it just too expensive? Now, I go into many, many high end homes, and they all sort of look the same and it’s pretty boring. What it is and what sets apart design and luxury now I think is uniqueness, originality. And so we’re looking at products that allow us for customization, we may not always have 20 or 30 weeks to do something completely original. We want to take something that is sort of tested and true and alter it for our design vision. That’s what we’re really looking for. We love to push and excite our vendors. So we will say, see that floral, see that stripe, I want that mash up. Can we do that? How is that going to happen? And if the stripe can kind of fade and then the floral becomes stronger, then it gets really exciting. So I mean, I definitely like to take something that’s classic and sort of exploded a little bit and how does that work? That’s what’s interesting to me. Most of our clients are interested in those ideas, they just, they’re not going to think of it themselves. That’s why they bring us in so they don’t necessarily come in with a preconception of what they want. They say we’d love that before and after and we love our before and afters. What can you do here so it doesn’t look like everybody else’s?

 Jeffrey Bershad  41:22  

Yeah, I think that and I 100% agree. I think that’s more and more the future of the super high end, luxury designer. And I know Bella, you’ve done things. We’ve done collages of different wall coverings together and, and that type of thing as well, which is how do I take the different materials available to me and create something unique for my client.

Michael Boodro  41:41  

Okay, well, I want to thank my wonderful guests. I think one of the lessons here is that, yes, there’s a lot of blank walls, but they are an incredible canvas for creativity.

February 5, 2020

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