“Somewhere, somehow, an idea is hanging out and waiting,” says Katie Deedy, the designer and creator of the Grow House Grow line of wallpapers, tiles, and fabrics. Like a master storyteller, Deedy crafts her collections of interior products around a central narrative thread. Her 2013 collection is an extension of her 2012 suite inspired by Far Rockaway, a thin strip of beach off the coast of Queens, near Coney Island in New York City.
Deedy’s “Rockaway obsession” began many years ago, fostered by her love of history and the romantic notion of once-loved places forgotten and left to decay. “It’s hard to pinpoint why the history of Far Rockaway is so alluring. Perhaps because it was once such a popular, fashionable destination, yet little remains of its opulent architecture,” she writes on her site.
When Deedy was younger, her mother, award-winning children’s-book author Carmen Agra Deedy, would take Katie and her sisters to a park where they would follow the train tracks to an abandoned train depot and a block of vacant turn-of-the-century homes. There, Carmen would weave stories for her daughters while they played. “I’m sure that has something to do with my love of old houses, how I perceive the past, and their importance in my work.”
One old house in particular informs all of Deedy’s designs. When she hits a creative wall, she stares at a literal one, imagining what her colorful, scrolling designs would look like snaking across its surface. She’s kept this image, above, of the staircase and hall of a home in Far Rockaway, on her desktop for the past two years. “When I make a pattern, I take a look at this photo and think about how it would look on the wall around the arched doorway and inside the alcove.”
Each of her narrative wallpapers starts with “something amazing” that sparks Deedy’s interest, like the Venus flytrap she had growing up, which led to her Naturalist Collection. She uses a mind-map method of word association to identify the motifs that she translates into patterns. Once the idea has taken hold, she sketches and visualizes the pattern until it looks like what she’s imagining in her head. The color ways come next; each design is printed in a light, dark, and neutral color way. The inks are hand-mixed by Deedy’s silkscreen printer, and a builder makes a screen for each color. Once the final color and pattern have been perfected and approved, they’re sent to her printer, about an hour away from where she lives in Brooklyn.
The designs burst with nature-inspired colors, amped up, and graphic prints. “The patterns I created for this line are meant to be elegant, quirky, and even a little fun,” Deedy says. Check out the full Far Rockaway here.
Taylor Combs is an assistant digital editor at Martha Stewart. She’s obsessed with neon and polka dots and loves cooking Mexican food at home. Follow her on Instagram @taylor2178.