Wallpaper

“Cherry Forever”, the first commercially available scented wallpaper, evokes nostalgia and whimsy through its scratch-and-sniff surface. Drawing upon the traditions of wallpaper designers like William Morris, “Cherry Forever” imbues the history of bringing nature into the home with the sensibilities of the pop art movement through common-object motifs and saturated color pallets. Provoking a new kind of engagement with both adults and children by drawing them to the perimeters of the room and requiring them to tactilely interact with the surface, the wallpaper invites people to approach the intimacy of domestic spaces in a new way.

In 2007, a hair stylist named Micheal Angelo developed the first commercially available scented wallpaper. Having designed the paper, Angelo sold his design to the Brooklyn-based company Flavor Paper, who are known for their large-scale and hand-done screen printing. This design was originally produced in the red cherry-on-green foil (a vibrant choice of complementary colors) but  is now available in a variety of color ways and scents, in addition to the other patterns of scented bananas and citrus fruits that the company makes. The wallpaper “Cherry Forever” became viral pretty quickly, and showed up in news coverage, fashion magazines, blogs, and even in the permanent collections of art museums. While the pattern undoubtedly has a heavy element of kitsch, it also clearly draws on the tradition of many preceding aesthetic movements. It is clearly inspired by pop art’s style of rendering subjects into flat, bold, “stamp-like” motifs through the pattern’s focus on a common-object, use of flat washes of color within a limited pallet, and following a very simple repeat. Another close tie that the wallpaper has to the pop art movement is its bold celebration of an everyday object that is emphasized through repetition and vibrancy of color, rather than its attention to more nuanced placements and styles of drawing that are seen in previous decades such as the naturalist movement.

The attention to bringing natural subject matter within the walls of the home was a great focus of the naturalists, and wallpaper designers like William Morris implemented an avid use of repeating imagery to emphasize the beauty of nature. Often considered the “father of arts and crafts,” Morris was well known throughout the nineteenth century for his complex floral wallpapers that mimic the dense compositions of a garden path or ivy-covered wall. Through subject, “Cherry Forever” harkens back to the work of Morris, but departs from his tradition in the distinctly un-natural presentation of the cherries. We could even say that the focus of the fruit traces back to the longstanding tradition of natural and floral imagery that has long dominated the wallpaper market, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek way. While the goal of these more ‘naturalistic’ wallpapers can be assumed to incorporate elements of nature within the home, create an element of escapism, or even to bring in elements of idealized ‘natural beauty,’ “Cherry Forever” exists in a place that is clearly not reality. Here, the fruits float in mid-air, have been hyper-saturated with pigments and scented oil—a clear cultural shift from the popularity of Morris’ designs. While Morris catered to a wide audience of patrons who favored wallpapers with a more realistic color pallet and a more organic composition, “Cherry Forever” caters to an audience of members driven by kitsch who are seeking for interior decoration that further remove them from a realistic reading of the natural world. With the novelty of the scratch and sniff surface, and the synthetic cherry scent, “Cherry Forever” is more referential of air fresheners and scented diffusers than it is of a garden. But why would someone cover their home in artificially scented cherries, and how does the functionality of the scratch and sniff surface alter the behavior of their time at home?

Most fundamentally, Angelo seems to be striving for a strong sense of nostalgia. This comes out through the sexual connotations of cherries—with their dichotomy of innocence and common use in pop culture. This is especially evident in the presentation of the fruit itself—with the iconic silhouette of the pair of two cherries together (like every Smackers tube of lipgloss throughout the 1990’s), the color, and the scent. This also becomes apparent when thinking about who would be purchasing the wallpaper and where it would be placed. There would also be a great difference if it was placed along the hallway or on a ceiling. Because of the way scratch and sniff works, the design of the wallpaper encourages a physical interaction with the viewer wherever it will be placed—and not in a way that we typically think about interaction with wallpaper. The use of a scratch and sniff paper would require access to the wall, something that the arrangement of furniture would need to accommodate, and also a somewhat regular rotation of the lay-out, so as not to exhaust the scented oils from one spot on the wallpaper. “Cherry Forever” also requires the attention of its user in a more often way that most wallpapers, which essentially fade into the background once they are put up. Quickly looking back to the natural origins of the image, it is important to touch on the way that this particular paper deals with the inherit ephemerality of the paper. This is done both in preserving the look and smell of fruit, but also in combatting the way that the smell might fade over time, directly impacting the way that the wallpaper is interacted with. The qualities of the paper itself (peeling over time, damage though weather changes, mass production of image) are some of the main reasons why wallpaper has such a negative connotation amongst other categories of the decorative arts.

Although wallpaper is usually associated with spaces of domesticity, it is important to consider the impact of this wallpaper in places outside of the home, like a classroom, daycare, or pediatricians office, where a high volume of people would be able to interact with it on a regular basis. Upon looking at the paper, I initially assumed it was marked for children and was surprised to see that the motifs had been installed in somber-looking settings. That being said, there is an undeniable novelty to the wallpaper. Especially as a 27”x54” sheet retails at $75 dollars, it becomes a high price to pay for a thing that originated as a canonical imitation of high art.

The origin of wallpaper is cited by a few sources that I found to be designed to imitate tapestries and other more expensive versions of decorative arts. Not only was it emphasized as almost a method of escapism by bringing beautiful and potentially financially out-of-reach imagery into the home, wallpaper also holds the connotation of the “fakeness,” and being unable to separate from the association of an imitation. It speaks to another cultural shift then, that a method that was designed to be produced more cheaply and commercially (allowing more people access to the product) is now epitomized through a bespoke ‘hand screened’ paper that has taken it back to a market of more high-end clientele through the process of innovation and marketing.

https://www.flavorpaper.com/wallpaper/patterns/handscreened/cherry-forever

https://michael-angelo-j6gx.squarespace.com/michaelangelo

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/04/the-deception-of-wallpaper/476295/

https://www.cooperhewitt.org/2013/06/24/scratch-and-sniff-wallpaper/