Storytelling Through Wallpaper Design with Abnormals Anonymous
The design team behind Abnormals Anonymous has a unique eye, wallpapering their eclectic inspirational finds from sea life and strange creatures to dainty plant life. Popularly known for the adorable Mr. Blow, the surprising patterns and colorways have been a delightful treat for the design community. Abnormals Anonymous shares their creative process, trend forecast, non-conventional ways to use wallpaper, and tips of practices for using wallpaper in a space.
How did Abnormals Anonymous come to be?
My husband and business partner met serendipitously in an elevator in Nashville, TN and almost immediately started talking about our dreams to have a wallpaper collection. Several years later, during a stroll through the Santa Monica flea market, the collection (in our heads) was born. We spotted some vintage illustrations of sea creatures and immediately knew this was the direction we wanted to take for the story of our wallpapers. About 2 years later, our first collection of 12 patterns was fully launched.
Abnormals Anonymous uses eco friendly, VOC free inks on all wallpapers, printing on materials such as paper, mylar, type II vinyl, textural papers, and other new recycled materials. What’s your creative and production process like, from idea to print?
Our creative process starts with lots of espresso followed by a dive into designing patterns with an interesting story to tell. Influence comes our way via our travels through the NW and beyond. Design and color inspiration arrives by way of everything from strange and wonderful sea life and old shipwrecks to aging forests and delicate mosses, all which carry us back to our studio for a little more espresso. These ideas are mocked up, manipulated in scale and pattern, and then TONS of time is spent on color to perfect combinations that speak to us and the personality of the patterns. Many samples are produced until we find our must haves that make it into the line. One of our favorite parts of the process is naming the patterns and colorways. The designs all come to life!
Which wallpapers are your best-sellers?
Mr. Blow is hands down our best seller. He was our first design and has become our company mascot. We still get so giddy seeing him go up on walls. Animal House, Bruce, Gossip, Floria and Lobby have been really popular as well. It’s so much fun to see which patterns and colorways are well received in the design community.
“One of our favorite parts of the process is naming the patterns and colorways. The designs all come to life!”
What are some spaces you know of using Abnormals Anonymous wallpaper that you are particularly proud of?
In our first year in business, we landed a boutique hotel project, Palihouse Santa Monica, where 3 of our patterns were specified for each of the guest rooms. We worked with the designers on giving them custom versions of our papers to make their guest spaces one of a kind. It was a really fun collaboration.
Chango & Co. in New York has used our Lobby print in their gorgeous beach house designs. We love how the coastal vibe of the lobster fuses with their seaside aesthetic.
Pulp Design Studios in Seattle and Dallas used our latest Flashdance pattern that was a collaboration with artist Anna Redmond in a DXV Luxury Showhouse in Palm Springs. The bathroom Pulp designed was amazing!
Based on your knowledge of the industry, what trends are you forecasting for the end of the year and 2018 in regards to wallpaper style, pattern, and color?
We’ve seen a trend towards larger scale pattern and wall murals which is something we have envisioned getting into for some time. It really feels like art on your walls. We are drawn to the textural patterns that we are seeing out there and as far as color goes, it is still all over the place, totally depends on the space and client. Neutrals, grays, blues and greens have been on the rise for us.
What are some non-conventional ways to use wallpaper?
Put some wallpaper on the ceiling! It’s such a fun surprise and keeps you looking up. Wallpapering the inside backs of bookcases, wall panel insets, and closet interiors are other unique ways of incorporating wallpaper into spaces.
“Make sure you have your installer measure and calculate based on the specifics of the paper you are ordering. This will save you time and money down the road and avoid ordering too much or too little.”
Can you offer interior designers 3 tips of “best practices” for choosing the right wallpaper and making the most out of wallpaper when decorating a space?
1. Order samples. Most wallpaper studios will send out sampling at no charge to designers. Reach out to your local showroom or representative or directly if needed and request samples. We love for designers to have our samples in their libraries for current and future projects.
2. Do the whole room! Focal walls are fun, but the impact a fully wallpapered room can make is big. Hang art or shelving right over the paper to give some visual breaks in the space.
3. Wallpapers come in a variety of formats these days. Make sure you have your installer measure and calculate based on the specifics of the paper you are ordering. This will save you time and money down the road and avoid ordering too much or too little. And, always hire a professional installer!
What do you enjoy about working with interior designers?
Seeing how designers work with our papers and style them with a range of aesthetics is very exciting and inspiring. We love seeing where our papers end up – seeing the installation photos is the best! Doing custom projects is also extremely rewarding. We did a custom pattern for a coffee truck in Austin, TX with Ore Studios and a one of a kind oyster design for a seafood restaurant with Farouki Farouki in New Orleans. The possibilities are endless!
For the interior designers working with clients who are shy of wallpaper – what are some ways to get those clients to take the plunge?
1. Have fun with wallpaper in spaces that your clients don’t spend the majority of their time. Do something a little wild in a powder room or a laundry room where you can get away with more drama.
2. Add a wainscot to the bottom half of a wall in a powder room or dining space. The paper costs go down sometimes by half and the result is a nice balance of pattern and thoughtful details.
3. Think of wallpaper as art. Compare the perfect wallpaper installation to a clients connection with their favorite art piece. Sometimes you just have to find the right pattern to get your client on board. Make sure it makes them smile.
Tell us about your custom wallpaper capabilities…
We love doing custom work. Custom coloring, working on a variety of substrates (think canvas, grasscloth, vellum, and even papers that earn LEED credit) and developing fully one of a kind patterns are several ways we can create unique designs. Because we digitally print everything, it’s an easy process without a huge price tag.
What’s next for Abnormals Anonymous?
We just finished our first artist collaboration with Seattle artist Anna Redmond. It was a labor of love and so much fun. We would love to do more of this with small independent designers that we feel passionate about.
Fabrics are also on our radar. There are several of our patterns that we feel will translate really well to textiles for drapery, upholstery and pillows (Floria, Flashdance, Buggie, Bruce and Mr. Blow of course). Stay tuned!
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