What Are Wall Tattoos? Find Out In This Cool New York City Rental!
It’s been a long time since the tattoo made the shift from edgy outlier statement to ubiquitous accessory. Though designer Colette van den Thillart can’t take credit for inventing the “tattooed wall,” she uses it to great effect — alongside other decorating techniques — in her New York City pied-à-terre. She was inspired by a visit to Santo Sospir, the French Riviera villa with walls that were famously inscribed with scenes from Greek mythology by artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau (who called the house a “tattooed villa”).
Colette asked New York artist Kenneth Widener to paint Cocteau-style “tattoos” to complement an eclectic 1,000-square-foot apartment already packed with artwork. Much like inked skin, these works turn an ordinary surface into an outlet for artistic expression. One crucial difference, especially in Colette’s Chelsea rental: a tattooed wall can be easily eradicated when it’s time for a change.
“To me, spaces are autobiographical,” says Colette. “With all of my clients, I want the space to say something about them and, with personal spaces, I want them to say something about us and our family.”
Scroll down to step inside the designer’s artful residence.
Every piece of art on the living room gallery wall has a personal connection, including the photo of a falling man taken by Colette and printed on acrylic. “It feels like we’re surrounded by friends,” she says, “which is a great way to feel when you’re away from home.”
“The home is decorated with things I love,” says Colette. These include a sinuous chaise by Vladimir Kagan and a bone-shaped table from Souda.
Trips to the city’s celebrated Strand bookstore are favorite family outings — the apartment reaps the benefits.
“Screens are an amazing way to deal with nasty, aggressive corners,” says Colette, who often considers corners of a room first, then works in from there. Of this custom screen, she says: “The space needed something moody and celestial.”
“I was trying to strike a balance of making it really personal but also serene,” says Colette of the principal bedroom. “I wanted to do all of this layering but also keep things minimal and clean.”
A wall “tattoo” inspired by Modigliani adds character to the principal bedroom. “I put the sexy Italian woman on my husband’s side and the hand of creativity on my side,” says Colette with a laugh. “They mean something to us in decorative ways, but they also make me smile. It doesn’t take itself very seriously, which, to me, is one of the most important things.”
“I created this whole tattoo story in my mind, so I had fun finding things that worked into that narrative,” says Colette. She opted for a geometric pattern on a wall in the guest bedroom and complemented it with an angular headboard and lamps in a graphic Cubist fish motif.