New wallpaper designs commingle with classic Madeleine Weinrib pieces

  Exotic hypnotic: Weinrib at work

Madeline Weinrib always possessed an appreciation of the decorative arts but did not immediately see it as her calling. Instead of following in the footsteps of her grandfather, ABC Carpet & Home founder Max Weinrib, she studied fine art in Paris and embarked on a successful career as a painter. Her Chelsea gallery considered it a conflict when she made an eventual foray into rug design and urged her to make a choice. “It did not come easily to make this decision,” she says. “But it felt very liberating.”

She gradually expanded her range to include textiles, accessories, and wallpaper and established Madeline Weinrib Atelier, but her approach remains steadfastly artistic. She tends to describe her method with reference to various artists—Claes Oldenburg’s sense of irony or the American abstract expressionists’ use of scale, for example—and aims for a cohesive body of work, similar to that in her gallery shows.

This November, new work by Weinrib can be seen in the Neue Galerie catalogue and at the annual International Fine Print Dealers Association fair at the Park Avenue Armory. “It’s an amazing space, a New York treasure,” she says of the Armory, for which she designed limited-edition wallpaper. The pattern is inspired by Moroccan embroidery, blown out and rendered in rich blue and white. “I’ve always loved the blue that Matisse found in Morocco, so it was my chance to really dive into it,” she says.

The design, painted and printed by hand at the US-based Studio Printworks, lends the paper the sense of “soul” that resonates through all her artisan-created works. For the Neue Galerie, she designed a kimono in hand-woven ikat, inspired by an image by Viennese photographer Madame d’Ora. “No one knows what color that original fabric is,” says Weinrib, who designed it in red as well as in black and white, to evoke the photograph.

Weinrib’s commitment to dialogue gives each of her designs a particular energy. This approach has her working with artisans in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Turkey, Morocco, and Central Asia, as well as undertaking a range of local collaborations, including a carpet for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a rug and pillows for Neue Galerie, textiles for Soledad Twombly, upholstery at Sebastian + Barquet Gallery, home accessories for Barneys, and a wonderfully playful mistletoe rug for the nonprofit Art in General, “one you stand on, rather than one you go under—a conceptual, ironic twist that is very important in contemporary art and design,” says Weinrib.

Weinrib’s process involves modernizing traditional forms by enlarging motifs and simplifying the color palette and detail. The result may appear straightforward but the process can take years, as she works with the artisans to reinterpret their traditions. “For them it’s their sense of beauty, so changing it is a step-by-step process and a dialogue, back and forth.”

Although Weinrib has profound respect for traditional forms, she recognizes that success lies in her ability to reinterpret them for a Western, contemporary context. “I do think it’s very important for a designer to represent her own period,” she says. “I’d like to think that a thousand years from now someone could look at my work and identify the period it’s made in.” Madeline Weinrib Atelier, ABC Carpet & Home, 888 Broadway, 6th Fl., 212-473- 3000, ext. 3780

Like what you're reading? Get it delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up now for our newsletters >>