Designer to Know: Nottene

Designer to Know: Nottene

By Dwell
Textile designer Kim Hall and printmaker Justin Hardison create whimsical wallpapers and other prints inspired by their childhood memories.

Wallpaper has the ability to inspire countless daydreams. For textile designer Kim Hall, a weeping willow pattern in her childhood playroom became the backdrop for her dollhouse. Printmaker Justin Hardison, meanwhile, remembers finding new shapes in the wallpaper he stared at during time-outs as a kid.

Today, the husband-and-wife duo behind Philadelphia studio Nottene (pronounced "Nuh-ten-uh") draws from those memories in the warm, hand-drawn patterns that adorn their wallpaper and textiles. 

Hall’s childhood wallpaper directly inspired a verdant print called "Gentle Trees," while "Homes" features vernacular buildings observed on the couple’s travels. The studio’s most recent collection was born out of a residency at Delaware’s Winterthur Museum, where Hall and Hardison studied the intricate folk illustrations (or fraktur) of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

"Birds at the Pond" by Nottene

The "Towns" print by Nottene features a hand-drawn assemblage of homes and buildings from various locations—including Stockholm, Trømso, Denver, Maine, and Paris.

Nottene’s resulting line of hand screen-printed papers features whimsical illustrations and vibrant colors. It’s the kind of wallpaper that looks like it’s inhabited a room forever and will remain for years to come. "We’re not interested in something you can put up and quickly take down," Hall says. "We want it to seep itself into your memories."

"Dreamland" by Nottene

Learn why both Hall and Hardison view their childhood teachers as heroes in our Q&A below.

Hometowns: 

Colorado —Hardison

Massachusetts —Hall

Describe what you make in 140 characters. We make wallpaper, fabric, and patterned objects for the home.

The Dottie wallpaper print was created during Hall's and Hardison's residency at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware.

What's the last thing you designed? A Spiritual Wonder Clock.

Do you have a daily creative ritual? Neither of us seem to have one.

How do you procrastinate? Religiously.

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? We already design everyday objects, but what we really think needs redesigning are the institutional systems around us. It feels like positive change could come out of the demonstrations and protests that are happening during the COVID-19 quarantine period, but we need to redesign our institutional systems in order for that change become real and active in the world.

"Brushes" wallpaper by Nottene

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? We both keep coming back to teachers we've had throughout the years that became part of who we are—specifically teachers in elementary and high school—the under-sung and often under-appreciated. Thank you Ms. Klepadlo, Mr. Pekkala, Mr. Stebbins, Miss Waite, Ms. Morris, Ms. Harrigan, Ms. Hirokawa, and so many more.

What skill would you most like to learn? We are magpies and are drawn into new things all the time. We just interviewed some of our fellow Look Book exhibitors—which made us want a felting machine and a 3D glass printer.

What is your most treasured possession? We fall in love with strange found objects all the time, yet it usually doesn't take too long for a new treasure to take the place of the old. I'm not sure what that says about us exactly, but there you go.

The duo also designs lampshades in various shapes and sizes.

Here, their screen printed fabric covers the seat of a bench.

Decorative tiles by Nottene

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? We have both talked about early childhood memories of wallpaper and how they cemented our interest in designing images for walls.

What contemporary design trend do you despise? White walls!

Finish this statement: All design should... know better.

What’s in your dream house? A chest freezer.

Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? What was it? Hobbies? We've simply been working overtime to keep the ship afloat.

How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? We hope it will help people slow down, not just in the design world, but in everyday life. Having time to think and consider would be such a wonderful change in American life.

How can the design world be more inclusive? We are asking that question in all the choices we make these days. What are the action steps we have the power to take? Every designer and publication and leader needs to contemplate where they can make change. I don't think the answer will be the same for all of us, but all together our actions can create comprehensive change.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? That we're good with our hands.

You can learn more about Nottene by visiting their website or Instagram. 

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