If you want to know what’s really going on in interiors, talk to someone who works in a store. They are the front line workers of the design scene. An example is Paul Moneypenny. Fans of the BBC TV series Interior Design Masters starring Alan Carr will remember him as the cheeky boy from Belfast who made it through to the semi-final of the second series.
Elfasters know him as the director of Nobletts of North Street, one of Europe’s largest independent wallpaper retailers. His wallpaper capsule collection – The Paul Moneypenny Collection, made in collaboration with Arthouse – was released in December 2021.
For Moneypenny, creativity begins in the workshop. “Everything I know was learned on the job,” he says. “I work with manufacturers, representatives and customers. I hear what they ask: what color, what pattern and what scale. I am very lucky.
“A lot of designers who work for big wallpaper brands don’t have that luxury. They are locked in a small studio and do not have the inspiration to deal directly with the client.
Moneypenny has always had a passion for wallpaper. “I have worked with him every day for ten years. I used to put the rolls on the shelves and dream that my name would one day be on a label, but I never dreamed of having my own collection.
In 2021, Moneypenny appeared on Masters in Interior Designa program where budding interior designers compete by transforming ordinary spaces.
“I was the only Irish candidate,” he says. “I threw myself into the deep end, commuting between Belfast and London every week. We have traveled all over England to carry out different projects. It was all very unknown.
“Most of my stress wasn’t decorating because I’m very hands-on. It was the stress of trying to buy everything in the program in days, from another country, in the middle of the lockdown.
“The best thing about it all was spending time with people who were passionate about design.”
Its six wallpapers have a strong emphasis on floral and botanical motifs, some with replicated wood paneling. “It’s totally out there,” he admits.
“I’m pretty maximalist and I wouldn’t put my name on anything that doesn’t represent my personality. There are several colors – between 6 and 9 – in each of them. This makes them flexible. You are not tied to any particular color.
In the Crown Jewels wallpaper, he superimposed a Jacobean pattern over a chunky stripe. “It adds another dimension,” he says.
“There are so many Jacobean designs on a flat background. I wanted my first collection to be something special. I love House of Hackney but didn’t want to copy them. I wanted it to be my own thing and I wanted it to be affordable.
The collection is widely available from stockists including Littlewoods Ireland, where it sells for £28.99 for a ten meter roll.
One of the most personal wallpapers, Stately Bouquet, is a resplendent floral design in the style of the Dutch masters. Look closely and you will see two butterflies, a ladybug and a caterpillar.
“It’s kind of like my story,” Moneypenny says. “A caterpillar’s journey to become a butterfly. And the flowers in this design come from my parents’ garden. But to anyone else, it’s just a decorative detail.
With this success behind him, he is often asked when he will move to London. But Moneypenny isn’t going anywhere. “It’s the store my parents used to push me in a pram when they were buying wallpaper,” he says. “It’s not like a grocery store. People are thrilled to change space in their home. It’s a treat for them.
“It’s nice to be a part of that and guide them to get the best version of the space they have. I like dealing with people. When you love what you do, it’s always easy to come to work.
In the United Kingdom, another Irish wallpaper designer is experiencing the success of its first collection. Carol Maxwell is originally from Co Wexford but has lived in London for 20 years. “I have a background in textile design,” she says.
“But the wallpaper ideas were always there in the back of my head. I remember one Christmas morning when I was about five years old. I woke up very early and was lying in bed waiting for it’s time to get up.
“There was a rosebud wallpaper in my room and I followed the pattern until it hooked me. You can kind of get into a pattern. It stimulates the imagination.”
The ability to connect with a pattern in this way, she now thinks, is what separates people who like the wallpaper from those who don’t.
Maxwell’s design company, Max Made Me Do It (MMM) was conceived while she was on maternity leave with her first son, Max. It started with prints for children’s rooms and grew organically into textiles. “We had a wildly successful year in 2020,” she says.
This allowed the company to grow to such an extent that it was able to design and produce a wallpaper collection – Outside-In – with matching velvet cushions. The designs, as their name suggests, are flowers and plants with a strong outgoing character, but there are dinosaurs in sight.
Maxwell will soon be releasing a series of Dino print wallpapers, featuring carefully drawn dinosaurs on subtle backgrounds. They are designed for children’s rooms but have nothing childish about them. “It’s hard to find beautiful dinosaur wallpapers,” she says.
“A lot of the drawings are very cartoonish. Mine are detailed. It’s something a child won’t outgrow too quickly and adults love them too. Its wallpapers cost £85 (€102) for a ten meter roll, although prices depend on the width of the pattern repeat. If you’re shopping from Ireland, the easiest way to buy is to arrange a custom order via the MMM website.
The question remains, what to do with your lovely wallpaper once you bring it home. According to Fixr.com’s annual trend survey, wallpaper is having a moment in the bathroom. This space received an overwhelming 88% of votes as “the most popular place to add wallpaper in 2022”.
Basically, this is a low risk area for experimental design. The bathrooms are small and no one stays there very long. You won’t need a lot of wallpaper to decorate the whole room, and you probably won’t get bored with the pattern. As there is no shower, condensation will not be a problem. No sweating. Next year, the dining room.
To see wonderwallfashions.com, maxmademedoit.com, fixr.com