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Poetry for the walls

Opulent walls covered with historic patterns and modern designs are making a design return. Personalised wallpaper and bespoke panels created by a Berlin-based company are plastering the walls of some of the most famous residences in the world.

Words Doro Bitz-Volkmer
Photography Felix Brüggemann, Welter Wandunikate

It’s all about emotions, according to Ulrich Welter. The house has been built, the clients are happy about its lines and angles, but something is still missing: an atmosphere. Creating the right atmosphere is Welter’s speciality. His company in Berlin-Schöneberg has specialised in creating unique wallpaper and panels for covering walls and ceilings. The palette of materials he uses includes delicate gold leaf, transparent glass beads, robust resin and lavish ornamentation on paper, both historic and ultramodern. Wall-coverings are the passepartout of life, says Welter.

Welter’s portfolio of customers includes renowned hotels such as the Adlon in Berlin, the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm, and the Negresco in Nice, as well as the haute couture labels Dior and Chanel. Welter and his team experimented for six years before finding the right wall-covering with a craquelé structure that now decorates the flagship stores of Chanel. Wall-coverings from the Welter company have repeatedly cast a special glow over the award ceremonies for the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the Emmys.

A trained advertising technician, Welter started building stage sets. He liked being able to create a variety of moods and illusions with the help of special technologies. However, it was very frustrating to have to destroy his meticulously created sets after they had served their purpose. Ultimately he realised he could instead create “stage sets for private life” — by covering walls and ceilings in houses and apartments with colours, patterns and structures that are completely individual and timelessly beautiful.

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Ulrich Welter creates “stage sets for private life” — by covering walls and ceilings with colours and patterns that are timelessly beautiful

One example of just how successful this plan has been is the story of a customer in Berlin who recently bought a house that Welter had decorated more than 20 years ago. In the course of the new homeowner’s repairs on the parquet floor, the wallpaper had been damaged. The customer asked that it be restored to its former condition. For Ulrich Welter, this was not a problem. Only rarely does he discard a design. However, he is also selective when he expands his product range, because it generally takes him several years to develop a new pattern. This kind of painstaking work obviously has its price. On average, handmade wallpaper costs between 150 and 400 euros per square metre, wall panels between 500 and 1,000 euros per square metre.

Ulrich Welter is often inspired by nature. He never goes on vacation without taking innumerable photos of unusual roots, soils, masonry, leaves and other structures. He also gets help from his three designers, two of whom are also trained craftsmen. “Everyone contributes his own ideas,” Welter explains. A good example of that is “Chameleon Beads”, a panel consisting of glass beads on an aluminium backing that changes its colours depending on where the observer is standing. This effect is ideal for the decoration of a hotel or a bar, and Welter has had it patented.

Ulrich Welter is often inspired by ­nature. He is constantly taking photos of unusual roots, soils, masonry, leaves and other structures

Do his international clients have different preferences according to the countries they come from? “The national differences aren’t as great as one might expect,” he says. In his experience, there are bigger differences between customers’ individual characters. “It’s a matter of personality,” Welter explains. Some customers already have clear ideas about how they want their walls to look. However, most customers require extensive discussions about colour, structure and materials before they can arrive at the optimal solution.

And what we will see tomorrow? “The trend is turning away from overly glittering designs. People are choosing bronze instead of gold and muddy colours instead of pink or turquoise,” says Welter. In his new project, the renovation of a luxury hotel in Berlin, his company can implement some of its new ideas. “The owner is bold enough not to be content with preserving it as a historical monument. Instead, he wants to reinterpret the basic structure of the building,” he says.

The choice of wall-coverings offers an intimate insight into a person’s character, says Ulrich Welter

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For a long time, a purist atmosphere and plain white walls were an absolute must among interior decorators, but today people say this aesthetic feels too cool. Once again, walls are being allowed to tell stories. That was impressively demonstrated at recent design trade fairs such as “Maison et Objet” in Paris. Traditional companies such as Cole & Son of London and the time-honoured Zuber company of Alsace are causing a sensation with their exotic landscapes and historic flower motifs, and the English company Little Green is producing interesting stripe designs and wallpaper with sophisticated textures.

De Gournay specialises in exquisite hand-painted reproductions of historic prints, particularly 18th-century chinoiserie and 19th-century French designs. The clients of the interior decoration expert Birgit Otte are also once again asking for wallpaper in their homes. Whether her clients choose classic stripes for an entryway or a pattern of birds of paradise in the living room, “Wallpaper upgrades rooms,” she says.

During times of crises and uncertainty, people increasingly feel the need to at least create a comfortable home for themselves. Wallpaper can inspire people to dream and give its observers a short break from daily life.

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