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Pattern Players: Julia Rothman

Posted on August 17, 2015 by Melissa Andersen

We’re starting a brand new series here on the blog to highlight, and learn from, some of the wonderful and talented people we are lucky enough to work with. To kick off the series, we could think of no one better to interview than the lovely Julia Rothman, a Brooklyn-based illustrator known for her whimsical designs and bold patterns.

Original Daydream in Christiana's apartment and Daydream (Blush) now

Julia’s Daydream wallpaper is not only a Hygge & West bestseller, it’s also one of the reasons we started our company. Years ago, we worked with Julia to create a pattern to test out on a new custom wallpaper website. Though the site never launched, we loved her design so much that we decided to make it accessible to everyone as wallpaper rolls. When Hygge & West was born just a short time later, Daydream was one of our very first products. Needless to say, we have a special place in our hearts for Julia and her inimitable style, and with the launch of her brand new H&W fabric and wallpaper collection, we decided it was the perfect time to catch up with our old friend.

H&W: We've just launched your newest wallpaper collection, which includes Serengeti, Foret, and Dog Park. What inspired these designs?

Serengeti (Ebony)

JULIA: I made Serengeti after a trip to Uganda. When I got home, I really wanted to make some designs based on my trip that were safari themed. Even though we didn’t see cheetahs, I love their graceful bodies and patterning. I wound up drawing a whole bunch of them and putting them under Acacia trees. 


Foret (Midnight)

Foret was inspired by Chintz designs from the 1600s. I love the simple way animals were drawn and arranged in these old wall hangings. While the classic designs had borders and more symmetrical systems, I let that part go and made a crazy jumble of flora and fauna. I love the colorways with gold in them. They make this design feel even fancier and over-the-top!

Dog Park (Gray)

Christiana and Aimee asked me to make a dog design because they wanted to do a project to help some of their local animal rescue centers. I have a Wheaten terrier, Rudy, who is my best friend, so naturally this was a pattern I couldn’t wait to work on. We drew Rudy and all of Christiana and Aimee’s dogs into the wallpaper amongst some of the recognizable funny breeds. I am so thrilled that we will be donating all of the profits!

H&W: How has your design style evolved since we last collaborated in 2008?

JULIA: I’m not sure it’s evolved too much actually. I see similarities between Nethercote and Foret – both are intricately detailed line work. And Serengeti reminds me a bit of Daydream, but at a smaller scale. Maybe the new designs are a bit more sophisticated. Dog Park is the biggest departure because I stylized the dogs differently than I normally would, making them more simple and playful. I have been trying to loosen my line in my drawings and replace it with shapes of color. There is a little bit of that style shift poking through in these designs. 

Daydream (Green)

H&W: Your Daydream pattern was one of the reasons we started H&W, so it's only appropriate that we launch our first fabric collection with you (including Daydream, Foret, and Serengeti). How do you think people experience pattern differently on fabric versus wallpaper?

Serengeti (Orange)

JULIA: Fabric is such a different medium. It bends and folds. It can have so much movement! The fabric will be used for smaller things than walls – pillows, chairs, maybe some bags. It will be interesting to see how the designs work in these restrained spaces, wrapping over a form. I think the patterns will serve a different function, adding just a bit of decoration to an area, a pop, instead of something so striking and overpowering like an entire wall. 

H&W: Each pattern in your new collection represents the animal kingdom in a whimsical way, from wild cats to domestic dogs. Why do you think it's important to bring a touch of nature into the home?

Serengeti (Shadow)

JULIA: There was a recent study that I read about in the newspaper that said just a short walk in nature restores the part of your brain that produces stress and anxiety. While I grew up in New York City and still adore it, I do think everyone needs some natural surroundings to feel a sense of calm. I don’t think I had that specifically in mind while creating these designs though. I just wanted to make something that would be universally appreciated and would be beautiful. But maybe they will serve as some sort of reminder to appreciate the outdoors even when inside your home. 

Foret (Cornflower)

H&W: Another thing your patterns have in common is a sense of movement; each element both stands alone and interacts with its surrounding environment. Why is that feeling of animation and interaction important to you?

JULIA: Thanks! When I am designing a pattern I make each element separately and perfect the shape before I collage everything together. I am ultimately trying to make a design that doesn’t have a focus, or one particular element that stands out more than another. In this way your eyes can get lost in the design. That’s probably creating the sense of movement you describe.

Dog Park (Blue)

H&W: What's your favorite place to add pattern at home, either with fabulous wallpaper or beautiful fabric?

JULIA: I am in a rental apartment, but for sure, when I finally commit to buying a place, it will be covered in wallpaper. I integrate pattern into almost every part of my home, from my bedding to my dishes. There’s always a colorful tea towel hanging off my stove and my closet is filled with prints. I do love when someone does something surprising with pattern, like wallpapers the inside of a closet, or lines their drawers with patterned paper. 

Julia's workspace and adorable studiomate, Rudy

H&W: It seems like we all have some kind of wallpaper memory, whether it's one we cherish or would rather forget. What's yours?

JULIA: We didn’t have much wallpaper in my home growing up. There was a simple floral in our downstairs bathroom and a horrid 70s pink and gray design in the hall leading to the basement, but I didn’t ever think about them. My best memories of wallpaper are of visiting fancy hotels when I was a kid. My friends and I used to try to sneak in to places like The Plaza just to use their bathroom or take funny pictures in front of fancy backdrops, many wallpapered. 

Julia's tools of the trade

H&W: Lastly, the question no H&W interview would be complete without: ‘hygge’ loosely translates to 'cozy' in Danish, but what does it mean to you? How do you find a sense of hygge in your busy day-to-day life?

JULIA: I have a new morning ritual thanks to my Finnish boyfriend, which involves making a real breakfast. I used to just eat as I worked in the morning or skip breakfast altogether. Now, every day we cook or create something healthy and often beautiful to eat. We set a table and always have something fresh to compliment the meal, whether it’s a mix of berries or cherry tomatoes with freshly ground pepper. We listen to the radio while we eat, read the news, and sneak Rudy snacks under the table. Sometimes breakfast lasts an hour or longer, but I think that’s okay, even when I am on deadline. This new ritual has created such a peaceful start to my workday.  

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