Calico Wallpaper’s Dawn Collection Meditates on Color, Care, and Community

Seeking to give back during the pandemic, the Brooklyn wallpaper studio invites four global designers to reimagine their signature Aurora collection with proceeds going to charities of each collaborator’s choice.

Silhouette by Sabine Marcelis

When Hurricane Sandy wreaked unimaginable devastation on New York in late 2012, Rachel and Nick Cope had a front-row seat from their apartment in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Confined to their home for a week as they waited for the floodwaters to recede, the couple began brainstorming ways to stay creative—not a difficult task for Rachel, an artist and former art therapist at NYU Langone, and Nick, the owner of former design-build firm Dark Green. That experience “instilled the importance of creativity in times of crisis,” explains Nick, who, after countless hours spent experimenting with patterns and colors with Rachel, launched Calico Wallpaper from their living room. The studio quickly garnered an avid following within Brooklyn’s creative sphere as a go-to purveyor of refined wall coverings that elevate the medium into fine art thanks to striking visuals such as glowing gradients that reflect one’s aura and marbleized prints that evoke cosmic landscapes. 

One of Calico Wallpaper’s latest feats, Dawn, builds off of the studio’s early successes. Aurora, perhaps known as the studio’s signature collection, reflects on the endless variation in each day’s cycle of dawn and dusk through seamless gradients that glow like the distant horizon. “The magic of Aurora is in its simplicity,” explains Rachel, noting how it was originally inspired by “memories of horizons that Nick and I encountered in our lives, from Tulum and Tuscany to the vista from our studio in Red Hook.” Though Aurora’s 16 colorways feel timeless and even have a place in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection, the studio was reflecting on its roots right as the coronavirus pandemic caused immense grief and suffering last year as everyday life ground to a screeching halt.

Oblio by Dimore Studio

Aurora, it turns out, was born during those early Hurricane Sandy experiments. “Rachel and I were searching for a way to offer a sense of hope and optimism to as many in the design community as possible,” Nick says. So the duo invited a group of leading international designers to try their hand at making custom Aurora gradients. “While the project is very personal to us, we were excited to update the collection with new perspectives,” says Nick. “We feel like it remains fresh and has many more spaces to adorn.”

The caliber of talent they selected—Sabine Marcelis, Dimore Studio, Ini Archibong, and Neri & Hu—will make sure that becomes a reality. Reintroduced as Dawn, the four new colorways immerse interiors in washes of atmospheric colors while offering studies of the relationship between light, place, and mood. They also reflect each designer’s sensibilities and, according to Rachel, “an eye that’s so different than mine.” 

Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci of Milan’s Dimore Studio offer the deeply romantic Oblio, which conjures both the feelings of a smoke-filled ‘70s-era lounge and subtle nods to Asian lacquers and lanterns. Equally romantic, Sabine Marcelis dreamed up Silhouette, a vivid black-and-yellow ombre inspired by the sunset view from her studio and Rotterdam’s harbor industry. “A sunset represents the closing of a day and the first signs of hope of a new day arriving,” Marcelis says, “and this is a view which very much inspires our projects and something we miss dearly during this lockdown.” Neri & Hu’s Vermeer, meanwhile, drew lemony yellows and lapis lazuli from two paintings by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer to signify the hope of orderly life as well as temporary reprieve from times of uncertainty. 

Yemoja by Ini Archibong

Perhaps most personal is Ini Archibong’s colorway, Yemoja, which not only embodies his affinity for electric hues, but reflects an unconditional love for his young daughter. The Switzerland-based designer sought to crystallize a fleeting moment with her by the shore of Lake Neuchatel, opting for the name Yemoja in reference to a water spirit who’s a patron spirit and protector of women and children in the Yoruba tradition. “My daughter is my reminder of our responsibility to leave a tenable future for the children whose earliest memories will be of this pandemic,” Archibong says. “With that responsibility comes the hope that the future which they’ll create will be inspired by the first unified global effort to sustain human life on this planet, which we’re experiencing right now.” Yemoja’s subtle transition from cyan to magenta shades mimics the glimmering colors that distinguished his crystal glass Moirai Chandelier for Se; that alchemy loses none of its power when translated to wall coverings. 

Five percent of proceeds from Dawn will be donated to charities selected in partnership with the designers, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the UN Refugee Agency, among others. “This approach aligns with a broader goal in our organization to address challenges around the world, and the pandemic has only further illuminated how important it is to use one’s platform to effect change,” says Rachel. “The arrival of Dawn, particularly during a year when we spent most of our time at home, further articulates why we began designing wallpaper in the first place: to move art beyond the frame and incorporate its elements into everyday interior spaces.” 

Vermeer by Neri & Hu

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