After 13 years of designing wallpapers, our Universal + H&W collection was an opportunity to learn something new, as it marks the first time we’ve dipped our toes into the waters of licensed products. More than a year in the making—interrupted by a global pandemic—this collection is our interpretation of classic Universal films, reimagined and elevated for interiors in which we would want to live. To mark the launch of this long-awaited project, we chatted with H&W co-founders, Aimee Lagos and Christiana Coop, to pull back the curtain on bringing these movie-inspired patterns to life.
What criteria were you considering when selecting the films for this collection?
AL: We wanted to choose things that would really resonate with people, but also had a visual language that we could translate into patterns. Each of these films are so beloved (especially with people our age) and they all have these iconic moments that we envisioned working beautifully as a pattern.
Why did you select these films in particular to translate into wallpaper?
AL: Our goal with this licensed collection was to make it feel beautiful and artful—things that aren’t often associated with licensed products, which can lean a bit childish and logo heavy. We almost wanted the licensed aspect to feel like a surprise hidden within these beautiful patterns.
CC: Jaws was such a revolutionary movie at the time that it came out and it has a large, devoted following to this day. It has such classic visuals—the shark fin, the barrels, the surf—that we thought it would make for a very eye-catching wallpaper. When it came to E.T., we immediately knew the iconic bike ride through the forest and across the moon would be the foundation for this pattern. The subtle spaceship was added in later and was the perfect finishing touch. Given all the classic scenes and vignettes in Back to the Future, a toile felt like the perfect direction for this pattern and we’re thrilled with how this design brings the film to life in a new, unexpected way.
Films can be deeply tied to our memories or elicit strong feelings. Do you have any personal ties to these three films?
AL: Oh yes! E.T. was an absolute childhood favorite of mine. I remember sobbing in the theater when E.T. almost died. And it’s a movie that I couldn’t wait to show my boys when they were young. I saw Jaws for the first time in middle school. The town Christiana and I grew up in had an Olympic-sized indoor pool and they would have movie nights where they’d project a movie on one of the big walls. I remember watching it while floating in a huge pool and being completely terrified. I’m pretty sure this is where my intense shark phobia began. But, out of all the films, Back to the Future was such a huge part of my late childhood. Christiana and I just adored that movie. We loved it all—the fashion, the skateboarding, the soundtrack, and, of course, Michael J. Fox. We both immediately got denim jackets and skateboards after watching it. It was really one of the pop culture moments that I remember the most clearly from my youth.
CC: I also remember having to leave the theater to catch my breath when they found E.T. in the river! I was so scared he was going to die, but then the ending was so joyful with just a touch of heartbreak. For our generation, I can’t imagine any of these films not invoking childhood memories.
As you create new collections, what are some of the questions you ask yourselves?
AL: We’ve been doing this for 13 years now, so we’ve gotten better at asking ourselves the more functional questions, such as: Who will buy this? How will this pattern be used? What gap in our assortment does this fill? What will we learn from this process? Ultimately, however, it always comes back to, “Do we love this?”
CC: We also want to enjoy the experience and discover new things, so we choose artists and brands that will be fun and interesting to work with and from whom we think we can learn.
Tell us a bit about the process for creating this collection.
AL: Our first step was coming up with the concept for each pattern. Both Jaws and E.T. came from a desire to create a beautiful wallpaper that had movie references sprinkled in as fun discovery moments. For those two films, the scenes to focus on were a little more obvious—the waves and ominous fin for Jaws and the famous bike ride across the night sky from E.T. Back to the Future was a little harder because there wasn’t one moment that lent itself to a particular visual. Instead, we chose the most iconic moments and created a narrative toile that showcased all of them.
CC: We were probably more involved in the actual concept development for these than we typically are—we did our research and sent direction, images, etc. in a detailed brief to each designer. From there, the patterns developed pretty quickly. There isn’t much difference between the initial sketches and the final art because each artist just got what we were looking for and ran with it, creating their own artistic interpretations that we then tweaked to finalize. Creating colorways was the last step, and it’s always the most fun—it really brings the patterns to life!
How did you select the designers for each of these patterns?
AL: We had just finished a collection with Lisel Jane Ashlock, and we thought her style would be perfect for the idea we had for the Jaws-inspired pattern. She was very enthusiastic about it when we mentioned it to her, and we love her artistry, so it was a no-brainer. Annie Brady had reached out to us earlier about working together, and we really loved her illustration style, particularly on one of her toile patterns. So when this new collection came up, we immediately thought of her for Back to the Future. Lastly, Josie Shenoy is another artist with whom we had wanted to work for quite some time. Bringing her on board for our E.T. pattern felt like the right fit at the right time—and we were right!
Were there any surprises or unexpected issues that arose during the process?
CC: Only that it took so long. We love this collection so much and were really hoping to launch it last summer, but as we encountered the early effects of the pandemic (which affected our ability to do a photoshoot, our production schedule, etc.) we decided to postpone the launch until this summer. As such, these patterns have been brewing for quite some time and the fact that we still love them as much as we did when we first started working on this collection is a good sign! I’ve already been “quality controlling” a shower curtain in my own bathroom and it’s an A++ from me.
In what types of spaces do you envision these patterns being used?
AL: These patterns have a lot of versatility. Amity Sunset is just made for a bathroom or powder room (and not only because we are offering it in shower curtains as well!). I think that it would be a sophisticated but fun addition to those spaces. Be Good feels the most appropriate for a nursery or child’s room—it’s just so sweet and dreamy. And Hill Valley Toile seems like it could be in a media room or even an office—it’s a rare Hygge & West pattern that we think will appeal primarily to men.
CC: And why not a dining room? That would be the ultimate dinner party conversation-starter!
How does wallpaper—especially ones with patterns that have such nostalgia connected with them—change the way you experience a space?
AL: I think that it taps into the same emotion that drives hanging a movie poster—it’s just that desire to have a nod to something you love as part of your décor. Wallpaper in particular creates such an immersive experience. And as with a lot of décor, it tells something about you to people who visit your home.
CC: I also imagine they’ll bring an immediate smile and rush of memories to anyone that encounters these patterns who saw these movies for the first time all those years ago.