As my love for wallpaper continues to grow, I’m always wondering why it was so unpopular in and around the 90’s. From my perspective it seemed to start becoming unpopular in the mid-eighties. The trend only really started to turn upward in the mid 2000’s.
This kind of cycle is common with many things. Moustaches is another one that holds interest for me. I think it might be on its way back, as soon as the Movember charity initiative stops convincing everyone that moustaches are so cool that you can only have them in one month of the year.
Wallpaper and moustaches are two things that I thought were no-nos growing up. Now I really like them. But my question about wallpaper is a difficult one because there were so many really good patterns around during the time when it was so unpopular.
I think that the trend has something to do with symmetry. The best pattern art of that time was used in ways very different from how wallpaper is used. Pieces of pattern were used as parts of other design to create a contrast in texture. Or the pattern did not have a strict repeat. Pattern was asymmetric or was used in an asymmetrical way. And pattern was used mostly for graphic design and not in décor. Anyone who used pattern in décor, like Karim Rashid, was considered a bit out there and a too experimental for the mainstream.
One of the most intriguing situations about pattern in the 80’s is the life’s work of the New York artist Keith Haring. His murals are so representative of the design of the time. He repeated elements in his design but some would not consider his work as pattern. And you wouldn’t really be able to create wallpaper repeats from his art. Luckily for his legacy, his work is now considered art, while wallpaper often battles (like his supporters did) to have that label applied.
But we also have to look at the fact that many of the wallpaper patterns prior to the decline in popularity were and can still be considered pretty awful. The intensity and concentration of pattern seemed to reach a critical mass in the early 80’s. Did people eventually just overdo it until they just had to run away or stop?
Trends are influenced by many things. Love for things past can infiltrate trends, but really valuing what past design teaches us, is something I treasure. Seeing and understanding how people of a certain time feel about design and design trends is so important. And finding a way to bring something new to a thing that still carries a few negative connotations is truly an art.
Would you consider any of the patterns here trend setting?