I first started to design wallpaper because I love patterns. I used to work as a graphic designer and illustrator, but I became increasingly interested in product and how surfaces can be used to transform a space. I attended the Royal College of Art (RCA), in London then studied for a Masters (MA) degree in printed textiles.
During this time, I won two major awards for both wallpapers and textiles, and it encouraged me to set up my own design label.
One of the most important challenges initially was finding the right manufacturer, and I started working with The Surface Print Company, one of the few remaining wallpaper factories in the UK.
It was open to working with me in an experimental way. For example, my first metallic wallpaper, Angles, involved very careful control of the spread of the pigment, to ensure the lines in the design were the correct width.
There is a lot of trial, error and testing to get the wallpapers to work. Even getting the right shade of white can take time. For my papers, all of the colours are mixed by hand and eye, and I value this human element which goes into the production process.
My designs are modern, aesthetically minimal and graphic compared to other designers. The design process involves many different stages, from the starting point of the research, ideas and drawings, to getting the repeat pattern to work and the final print and colours.
I love the way a pattern can transform an interior. I have been hugely inspired by the principals of Modernism – a restricted colour palette, a particular proportion, and a sense of light and space. I keep a sketchbook of ideas and drawings – I enjoy the quality of the drawn line and this is the starting point for more graphic prints.
I once used to house sit during the summer in a building designed by the architect David Chipperfield. I was absorbed and inspired by the spaces and composition of the interior. It was a very clean, composed and austere venue. It made me think about how a pattern could be used, to work with the architecture, rather than embellish, and to help humanise the interior.
I started my design label ‘Erica Wakerly’ very much as a designer, rather than as a business person. I had developed a strong individual aesthetic, graphic and modern, and I wanted to produce the wallpapers under my own name, rather than selling my designs to another brand. The business side has been something I have had to learn along the way, but I am strongly motivated as I believe in my designs and product.
I have used metallic in 15 of my wallpaper designs. The reflective surfaces bring an extra layer of depth and the use of silver and white has been very successful, as the silver picks up colour and light from the surrounding area, changing throughout the day as the light moves, and integrates the pattern with the space in which it sits.
An important challenge as a designer for any interior product is to design something with longevity.
We see designs from the mid 20th century like an Eames chair, which still remain relevant and widely used today, but how do we create something which will be selected in 50 years time? The influence of fashion on the interiors industry has increased the pace more than ever before.
There is a pressure on designers to create new collections every season, but interiors naturally have a longer lifespan than fashion design. I am not saying fashion isn’t or shouldn’t be influential in the design process, but we do not need a new wallcovering as often as we need a new dress.
I work from my studio in London and have two distributors in the Middle East, Jacob Sardini and Squisito Interior Design in Dubai. My wallpaper has also been chosen for a large hotel project in Abu Dhabi, due for completion later this year, but the details remain confidential.
I find that commercial clients readily embrace the modern aesthetic of my wallpapers. They are often looking for something ‘new’ and my designs reflect this. In the Middle East and internationally, I have supplied wallpaper to hotel groups including the Hilton, Rotana and Pestana.