Meet the Maker: Designer Emily Isabella on Her Flora- and Fauna-Filled Collection
When we think of playful pattern, we immediately think of our friend and H&W wallpaper designer, Emily Isabella. Emily is a designer and illustrator based in New York's Hudson Valley, just north of New York City. Her colorful, whimsical, and unmistakable style celebrates the little joys in life and was very much informed by her dreamy rural upbringing. Seen on wallpaper, fabrics, books, home goods, and more, Emily's cheerful outlook is wonderfully contagious.
When we approached Emily about creating a collection for us, we knew that she would make magic - and she totally has! From her fantastical Circus to her sweet Strawberries, her playful Sketchbook Floral to her folksy Otomi (a H&W longtime bestseller!), Emily's patterns add a mega dose of happiness to any space they're in.
Hygge & West: Flora and fauna seem to play a big role in your designs. What is it about the natural world that inspires you?
Emily Isabella: I grew up on 40 acres in rural Wisconsin. Half of it is forest and the other half is a wildflower prairie. My parents encouraged us to explore nature on our own and let it guide us. I'm sure that growing up in this environment fueled my love of plants and the relationship they have with animals. I love the Albert Einstein quote, "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." It's true!
H&W: What was the inspiration behind your designs and colorways for your Hygge & West patterns? How do you envision them being used?
EI: The inspiration for my H&W wallpaper is quite varied. In designing wallpaper, I usually think about my audience first and then I backtrack to try to figure out what niche I could fill for them. An important thing to think about when designing wallpaper is that you want the design to be broad enough to appeal to a variety of different markets and spaces. The same goes for the colors. Color choice in wallpaper is so important in reaching different markets. The design transforms itself depending on the balance and distribution of color. For example, my Otomi print looks wonderfully calming in the taupe color (perfect for a nursery) but bold and wild in the red (perfect to spice up a restaurant accent wall).
H&W: Your designs and color palette have a very distinct look that's unmistakably you. How were they informed or shaped, and who do you think is the person that they speak to most?
EI: I have a very clear idea of who I am and what I like and I do my best to stay true to myself in my work and personal life. This manifests itself in the way I dress, the colors I choose for my home, and the way I choose to live. Inspiration for my work comes directly from my experiences. It's a pretty simple equation of producing work that appeals to myself and in turn, I think I attract people who have similar tastes. I think those people likes things that are feminine yet classic, soft but with a bit of a wonky edge. They are spirited, playful, and and aren't afraid to take risks.
H&W: We're all obviously big pattern lovers, whether it's on our walls or in our wardrobes. What are your tips and tricks for using pattern successfully both in your art and in your everyday life?
EI: I love when patterns successfully mix. It makes such a bold and confident statement. Have you ever noticed the way Matisse mixes patterns in his paintings? He uses so many patterns and colors but they are always grounded with splashes of neutrals and black and white.
H&W: You talk about delighting in the every day - how do you think your work embodies that mentality and how do you practice it in your everyday life?
EI: I think it's important to appreciate small moments. We live in a tough world with a lot of sludge to sift through and I find strength in taking time to indulge in ordinary tasks and find significance in the mundane.
H&W: 'Hygge' is the Danish concept of coziness. Where and how do you find hygge in your life?
EI: My life has been very cozy for the past two years. My husband and I (and cat) live and work in 200 square feet! Our home is basically one cozy nook (some days it's a little too cozy) but I love coming in from a brisk walk to our tiny little space.
Emily's illustration of her studio
H&W: What are the things that you think every home needs to be cozy?
EI: Color can dictate the coziness of a house. Calming colors make for a cozy mood. I also think having objects of purpose and meaning help to elevate the coziness factor of your home. A home that is lived in and personal will immediately feel more inviting.
H&W: If you could live in any other time or place - real or fictional, past or present - when and where would it be and why?
EI: I would have loved to live in small town America during the '30s and '40s. I think of that era as a difficult time for our country but full of determination and camaraderie. I'm sure I romanticize it but I think it would be an inspiring time to live in, especially for women. But mainly, I dream about what it was like to go out dancing back then and the style of that era is definitely up my alley. I love a good pair of high waisted trousers...