Beautiful Imperfections

Image features a detail of wood grain wallpaper from the Scrapwood Collection by Piet Hein Eek. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.

Created by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek, the Scrapwood collection of wallpapers copy the surfaces he creates on his handmade furniture made of found wood. Digitally printed, each of the patterns perfectly captures the grain and texture of various found wood surfaces. It is nearly impossible to distinguish the printed papers from actual wood.

These designs are a unique take on faux bois papers, which historically have copied rare and exotic woods. Antique papers were also frequently embellished with simulated gilt bronze mounts or elaborately carved or decorated woods. In the 20th century, wallpapers began copying more familiar woods such as oak, walnut, and pine. These were usually produced as a cheaper alternative to decorating with actual wood. The Scrapwood collection of wallpapers reproduces discarded scraps of wood, complete with nail holes, paint, scrapes, and other visible signs of use and abuse. There is nothing fancy about the selection or arrangement of the pieces, but there is a beauty in the honesty of the scarred wood panels. The rolls are 30-feet long and do not repeat.

Eek created his first furniture made of scrap wood in 1990 as an exam project while studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven, Netherlands. He established his own studio in 1992 and built his business around the reuse of old materials, preferring the look of old wood to new. Eek’s creation of the Scrapwood furniture range was a reaction against the consumer demand for flawless, mass-produced furniture. Eek wanted to show that objects created with obvious imperfections could be both attractive and functional. He did this by reversing modern production methods; he began by using discarded, abundant materials and simple production methods, and invested as much labor as possible into the creative process to make unique pieces of furniture. To Eek, discarded, scarred wood has its own inherent beauty and his wallpapers build on this aesthetic by simply putting planks to paper.

Greg Herringshaw is the Assistant Curator for the Wallcoverings Department at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum