In 1947 the Cooper Union received a sample book featuring the new wallpaper collection designed by Dorothy Liebes for United Wallpapers. The book contains eight different patterns with each shown in multiple colorways. The patterns are all based on the hand-loomed woven fabrics for which Liebes had become known. She introduced color and texture into her fabrics and incorporated unexpected materials such as rawhide, cellophane, bamboo strips and metal threads. While she is known for the beautiful colors and textures of her hand-loomed fabrics, she was also adept at translating these values into terms understood by industry, working directly with manufacturers, so fabrics in the style of her originals could be mass produced and enjoyed by all. She stated that her “…satisfaction comes from designing something aesthetically decent at a price people can afford.”i Liebes has been credited with inspiring the color revival in the post-war years. The war years were bleak ones indeed for the wallpaper market as manufacturer’s were not allowed to introduce new patterns as all the raw materials necessary for new print rollers, etc. were needed for the war effort. This meant the same patterns kept getting printed each year, so I’m sure Liebes’s wallpapers seemed very fresh and were much appreciated. All the designs in this book are plaids or stripes in the tradition of her woven fabrics, avoiding the traditional floral and medallion designs currently popular. All of the patterns are printed on paper embossed to look like textile weaves so at first glance they do appear to be woven. They are printed with highlights of metallic colors, simulating her use of metallic and synthetic threads in her loom woven fabrics. None of her patterns were designed to be used in specific rooms as each is subtle enough to be appropriate in any room. These were definitely designed to form the background of the room, with the subtle patterns and textures complementing the interior without overwhelming.
Dorothy Liebes was a native of Santa Rosa, CA and was educated at schools in both California and New York. She began her working life as a painter in California but her love of texture used along with color led her to take up weaving. She ended up with a studio on Lexington Avenue in New York City.
i The Washington Post, Sept. 23, 1972. “Dorothy W. Liebes, Famed Designer” by Sarah Booth Conroy, pg. C10.