A white-walled room is safe. Rarely does one enter an all-white space and cluck in disapproval, or smile politely and murmur, “Interesting…if you like that sort of thing.” The same could be said of becoming a lawyer: the career equivalent to choosing white paint for your walls is solid, practical, dependable—though perhaps not the most exotic choice in the world. Christiana Coop had grown painfully bored of white walls, both literally and metaphorically. She had graduated from law school and worked in the industry for five years, failing to find an area that excited her. “I tried various areas of the law at my firm—intellectual property, antitrust, employment law—hoping to find something that might interest me. Nothing did.”
Fatefully, it was the hunt for a bold wallpaper to enliven a friend’s headboard that inspired a career shift. She and the friend, Aimee Lagos (a fellow lawyer), fell hard for a particular pattern by Danish wallpaper company Ferm Living, only to find out Ferm didn’t have a U.S. distributor. The pair jumped at the chance to have a more colorful career and proposed themselves as the brand’s stateside distributor. Like Dorothy stepping into Oz, things quickly became Technicolor. And her parents? “I think the wallpaper angle was a bit of a surprise,” she confesses. “But my family and friends all knew I was pretty miserable, so I think they were happy to see me do anything new rather than continue along a path that wasn’t working.”
Today Coop and Lagos oversee their own vivid empire, Hygge & West—a company that creates and distributes dozens of wallpapers and fabrics in hundreds of exhilarating patterns and colors. Coop’s own 500-square-foot home in San Francisco is something of a laboratory for her creations: the apartment sports everything from graphic black-on-white hash marks (the entry) to gold pineapples (the bath), each of which tricks the eye into making the space seem more sizable.
Coop moved into the sunny one-bedroom in 2012, and after painting all the walls and ceilings white (a neutral, consistent base is necessary if you’re about to go big on pattern, she advises), she swiftly began wrapping the rooms in personality. But restraint is golden when you have more than a hundred styles at your disposal. “I wanted to keep my color palette limited so I could use a wide variety of pattern and change them out easily, which I tend to do. I installed mostly gold, black, and white patterns to create flow.” Because the apartment is small, making the rooms feel cohesive was a must.
Another trick is knowing when to stop. “With small spaces I prefer doing only one wall in a room, or even partial walls,” explains Coop, who covered a surface in her kitchen with the gothic black-on-black Garden in Noir by designer Karla Pruitt, while papering the back of an adjacent open cabinet in Rifle Paper Co.’s Queen Anne in ebony and gold. Her bathroom sports the boldest pattern, also by Rifle Paper Co.—a grid of the aforementioned gold pineapples encircled by flowers. Coop cut it off at the chair rail, letting the upper wall be a neutral palette cleanser to the fruitiness below.
The only room that got the full-on treatment was the bedroom. “I originally did it as an accent wall, but I just fell in love with that paper [Diamante in black and gold by Laundry Studio] and couldn’t stop,” recalls Coop. The resulting space is a luxe cocoon featuring a mirrored headboard, inky bedding dotted with the constellations, and a prized Ingo Maurer Birdie chandelier. With no white walls to speak of here, her bold art collection seems to jump off their surroundings: a large panel of pink, skull-size roses, an eerie portrait of black-eyed faces, and a vibrant painting of a blue sky all seem to have both nothing and everything to do with the intricate gold lines behind them.
“Back when I was still practicing law, I tended toward the minimal side of things—I would stick to new and contemporary furniture and accessories. But over time, it’s completely morphed—now I love to mix vintage with modern and antiques,” says Coop. “And of course, no flat surface is safe from my wallpaper cravings.”