The power of wallpaper has been demonstrated time after time.
And the wallpaper designs of Cristina Buckley showcase that power in vibrant colors, bold patterns and sophisticated design.
Buckley’s approach is designed to create a mood and evoke emotion, drawing on her background, training and inspirations.
Raised in New York City in a family of designers, she has long cultivated a love of art, interiors and collecting. Destined for a creative career, she began in set design for film and television, which sparked an interest in textiles and wallpaper.
It was in 2018 that Buckley introduced her own line of six wallpapers, inspired by a love of pattern-on-pattern fashions and interiors, travels in California and a love of saturated color, with the artisanal approach realized by a screen-printing by hand process completed here in America.
This spring, Buckley’s second wallpaper collection — The Muses Collection — will be introduced, featuring designs that draw inspiration from Art Deco, chinoiserie and Ornamentalism and are what she collectively calls a “bold statement for the new decade.”
Returning to New York after years in California, Buckley gives WAG a glimpse into her world of design.
Can you share a bit about your background, training and influences?
“As my parents were both designers (my father worked in print advertising and my mother was a package designer for cosmetics), I grew up in an environment that was very visual. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an artist. I attended the (Fiorello H.) LaGuardia High School (of Music & Art and Performing Arts) in New York City, which is a specialized school where students concentrate on art, dance, drama, vocal or instrumental music. It was a wonderful immersive experience that exposed me to so much talent and inspiration.
“In college I studied art history and film (film theory, history and production). I became deeply interested in how a film looks and how production design creates and informs the mood. After college back in NYC, I began working in the art department on independent movies and television. I started out as a production assistant and eventually worked as a set dresser and set decorator. So much of this work is about sourcing and shopping for everything in a set — the furniture, art, lighting, etc. I worked on some films in small towns in Texas and Mississippi where there weren’t prop houses or any real shops for home furnishings, especially not period or vintage items. Through word of mouth I’d find people in the towns who would let me rummage through their basement or someone’s barn. It was the most fun part, getting to meet people, hear their stories and discover some dusty treasures they would lend us for the project.
“Through researching and shopping for different settings and time periods I became fascinated by antique textiles and wallpaper, so much so that I decided to go back to school to study textile and surface pattern design at (the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan). FIT is a great school that trains students for the practical world. They really give you the tools you need for the workplace of whatever field you’re studying. At FIT I learned how to create repeats from my artwork, which was fascinating and is still one of my favorite aspects of the process. I also took courses in screen printing, weaving and color theory.
“During this time, I decided to do an internship for school credit to get some on-the-job experience. I was placed in an internship at Schumacher, which was an opportunity that really impacted my career. First and foremost, it was a great learning experience. I got to see how a collection is put together — from taking original artwork or an antique textile document and adjusting its scale or repeat to adhere to technical requirements, creating multiple colorways, adjusting samples from the printers, etc. When my internship ended, I was offered a position at Schumacher as a colorist. This involved painting designs by hand, mixing paint for color chips to go to the printer and putting designs into repeat.”
Can you share a few details about your time in both creative fields, what you did and what you learned from the experiences?
“At Schumacher I worked in several different divisions on which each had a distinct style, such as very traditional collections for Colonial Williamsburg to historic toiles to updating mid-century Modern designs from the company archives. I was exposed to the whole history of textiles and wallpaper by the breadth of what the company produced and from its own past. Eventually as creative director for Schumacher’s contemporary line, ‘Decorators Walk,’ I worked with Kelly Wearstler on her first licensed collection of fabric and wallpaper. We really hit it off and it was a great experience to help bring her designs to life.
“I moved to Los Angeles to work for Kelly as creative director of her home furnishings lines. It was a time of incredible growth for her as a brand and as a company. Eventually, I was overseeing the design and development of Kelly’s rugs, dinnerware, decorative accessories and bedding. Through Kelly I was exposed to a lot of new styles and designers. She has an incredible eye and limitless curiosity. It was great to be on the periphery of her interior design projects and see how they came together from sketch to finished property. There also was a lot of overlap. We would design bedding, which was used in the hotels, or we would rescale a design from a rug to use on a tea cup. It was very fluid and very inspiring.”
Can you talk about your own design business — and the launch of your first wallpaper collection in 2018 — including the challenges and rewards?
“One of the most rewarding things was seeing my first design being printed at the screen printer in LA. It really was thrilling and I don’t think I will ever grow tired of it. It is a great feeling of accomplishment, because it’s a very long process from design idea to final production. And then to see my wallpapers hung in someone’s home is beyond exciting. From it to go from something flat to having a physical presence in space is wild and gratifying.”
Please share a bit about your moving back to New York from California and the effect it has had on your design work.
“I’m in the midst of finishing up my second wallpaper collection, and I think being back in NYC has influenced the color palette of my work more than anything. The patterns were already in the works (or at least in my mind or sketchbook) while I was still living in LA, but the quality of light really is different. Being in a climate that is sunny and warm almost every day definitely influenced me to use very saturated and bright colors. Being in NYC has led to me rediscovering more muted, somewhat chalkier colors.”
And finally, tell us a bit about your new “Muses” wallpaper collection — its inspirations, creation and what you hope it will bring to the world of design.
“I named my second collection ‘The Muses Collection’ because I’m paying homage to my design muses — both actual design figures such as Dorothy Draper and Tony Duquette, but also things that give me inspiration while I’m working such as jazz music. My five new designs are evocative of Art Nouveau, chinoiserie and ornamental decoration. And the color palette is deeper and richer.
“The collection is all screen-printed by hand, which is important to me. I love the quality of the ink and the way each color slightly overlaps and is absorbed into the paper. I want to help to keep this artistic tradition and trade alive, as well as add to its legacy. I hope people will be inspired to use my papers to create a mood and bring joy into their spaces. Color is such an amazing way to change up a room and I couldn’t live without it.”
The Muses Collection will be sold exclusively through Harbinger in Los Angeles, Supply Showroom in Austin, Texas, The Grand Tour in Palm Beach, Florida; and, coming soon, Spruce in New Orleans. For more, visit cristinabuckley.com.