Gracie Studio Wallpaper - Style Statement Profile

Gracie Studio Interview with Mike Gracie, President I understand that Gracie was established in New York in 1898 by Charles R. Gracie, and is still a family run business. Could you tell us a little about the legacy of your family business and how you came to be the current President?

Charles R. Gracie was my great-grandfather. His atelier performed custom carving and gilding for New York’s carriage trade. To build his staff, he traveled to Italy, recruiting highly skilled workers. His clients included Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, and Diamond Jim Brady. My great-grandfather was a true salesman and energetic entrepreneur. His particular interest was Asian art, and he became a noteworthy collector of antique Chinese blue and white porcelain miniatures, an interest he shared and discussed with Herbert Hoover. His sons, James and Douglas (my grandfather) joined the company after serving in World War II. They diversified and expanded the company, opening a full-fledged art studio in Manhattan. My father, Brian, succeeded them in the 1970’s and brought the company into yet another successful area by focusing on fine Asian antiques. I have been with the company for about 12 years and my dad promoted me to President last year. He remains with the company full time as Chairman and we work together and travel together regularly.
"Old Pop Gracie", Charles Gracie is in the middle with the hat You are known for your exquisite hand painted wallpapers. Are they still manufactured in Mainland China?

Yes, our wallpapers are still handpainted in mainland China. This goes all the way back to my great-grandfather’s era. He sourced a lot of antiques, fabrics and accessories through agents in Beijing, and around 1927 he was contacted by a Beijing handpainted wallpaper studio. He established a relationship with that studio, and continued working with them until the communist revolution in 1949. After that, the studio relocated to Taiwan, and then Hong Kong. Finally in the mid-80’s the studio returned to mainland China. At a time when the quality of Chinese goods is in question, I’m proud that Gracie’s China studio provides a great example of luxurious, handmade products created by artists who have handed down the craft for generations. You have quite an impressive list of Interior Designers that have used your products over the decades and some are what I would call “Interior Design Icons” - Rose Cummings, Dorothy Draper, Elsie de Wolfe, Billy Baldwin, William Haines, and Michael Taylor. Are there any stories about these Icons that you could share with us? Yes, we actually still work with Dorothy Draper’s firm which is still in existence. McMillen, which was established in 1923, is another long-standing firm which Gracie still works with.

Elsie de Wolfe invoice (left) from 1938, McMillen invoice (right) from 1939 Click on image to enlarge

William Haines had a Gracie paper which he ordered regularly for his Hollywood clients, and we have recently re-introduced it. It’s a stunning handpainted design with ivory-colored flowers and birds on a handmade silver leaf background [SY-234]

You shared with me that you restored an antique wallpaper for a design project for Michael S. Smith. What is involved in the restoration process of your antique wallpapers?

It depends on the level of work required. Some areas may require touch-up or adhering sections of design which have lifted off the backing. However, in the case of many antique papers, a complete remounting is required. This involves meticulously soaking the wallpaper and removing just the top layer of design before re-applying it to a modern acid-free backing paper. We usually also produce additions to antique wallpapers so that they can fit into the client’s space. Our artists are very talented at reproducing the style, coloration and level of antiquing to match the originals. What is your most popular wallpaper design? Generally speaking, our wallpapers on antiqued silver backgrounds are currently the best sellers. These papers provide a real impact with the silver ground, but the design tones are subtle and antiqued so that they appeal to a modern sense of color.

Interior Design by Greg Jordan Are there any new wallpaper designs in the planning process? We are actually re-designing much of our line of handpainted papers. This is a work in progress so I can’t be too specific. However, over the years, the quality of the work done by our studio has steadily improved. At the same time, we have kept many designs in existence for decades without alteration. Our intention is to take many of those designs and enhance them by applying the current high level of artistic talent and detail. Another exciting development is our new line of metallic and silk papers. The metallics are made of hand-applied metal leaf, and I don’t know of any product like it. We are also producing the silk papers in our studio. We were having trouble sourcing good quality silk papers, and we also wanted to be able to offer them in custom colors. We worked closely with our China studio for a year or so and came up with a product that I’m really happy with. Do you see a renewed popularity in the use of your papers by Interior Designers?

Although the taste for wallpaper in general seems to ebb and flow a bit, I think there’s always been a good market for our exclusive, handpainted products. Although particular designs may fall out of favor, Gracie has done a good job of keeping up with trends in color and style. I have recently done a post on the linking of your wallpaper with the Fashion Industry. What are your views on this?

Yes, we were all excited to see that! We have been actively interested in working with the fashion industry for several years and the fashion industry has reciprocated. As you know, our papers have been used as backgrounds on several fashion shoots. We have also produced handpainted wallpaper and custom furniture for the homes of a number of fashion designers and models. Also, for a current project we are handpainting fabrics to be used as the material for women’s couture.


  1. Very interesting interview, Patricia! I learned a lot - you did a great job. I had no idea about the origins of Gracie. Fascinating. It's so rare that a business can continue to be run by members of the original founder's family for so long. An amazing legacy.

  2. Patricia,
    How exciting! What a great interview. The companies history is fascinating and it is so nice to see that it is still firmly in the grasp of the family. I love the old invoices, what treasures. The William Haines silver pattern is so gorgeous - I'm in love.
    Kudos for the great interview,

  3. Hi Anne
    So true, it is amazing and rare to have a family run business for over a century and still going strong.

  4. Hi Jackie
    I was so excited when I saw those old Purchase Orders. And what a huge order Elsie de Wolfe placed. She must have been papering a castle.

  5. Wow, great interview indeed! I didn't know anything about the history of this company, nor their famous clientele! Very interesting.

  6. So interesting to learn a little more about this legendary company. These panels are so beautiful and I am happy to witness a new surge in popularity via the fashion industry. Great interview Patricia!

  7. Hi Suzy
    Yes they do indeed have some very famous and legendary clientele.

  8. Hi BA
    The fashion element is very interesting and so forward thinking of this Company. It's called diversification.

  9. What a beautiful post! I loved the pictures of the artists painting the wallpaper. I always read 'hand painted', but somehow I never envisioned artists actually painting the wallpaper. They are truly works of art!

    My grandmother has hand painted wallpaper in her home, and says it was the one of the most expensive decorative items in the house (and she has a house filled with priceless antiques). I am going to call her and check whether it is Gracie wallpaper.

  10. Hi Things that Inspire
    Please let me know if it is Gracie wallpaper that your grandmother has.

  11. How very feminine it all is! I think these days, handmade is the ultimate luxury.

  12. Hi Maryam
    Good point... I agree that handmade is luxury and hopefully not going to be lost.

  13. Wow, how facinating! I just love their wallcoverings and it was great to hear the background on this great company. Thanks for sharing Patricia!



    Looove this blog; mind if I add you to my blogroll?

  15. Hi Kate
    Fascinating yes!! Thanks for your comment.

  16. Hi Design for Mankind
    Not at all, you are added to mine!
    Thanks for dropping by.

  17. All this post and story are FASCINATING .I love so much this kind of wallpaper as Zuber in France . It gives to a room a find of classic chic ambiance

  18. Fantastic interview, and so interesting! I adore that paper that Billy Haines used- very Hollywood- but tasteful Hollywood :)

  19. This was terrific - thanks for taking the time to do it and post it.

  20. Patricia,

    Kudos on a great interview!

  21. What a great and interesting interview!! Great job Patricia!

  22. Hi Melanie
    Yes I agree - these papers do add a classic, chic elegance to a room.

  23. Hi Peak
    I was so interested to learn that this was the paper that Billy Haines had used so frequently in the decoration in the homes of his Hollywood clients.

  24. Thanks
    Mrs. B, Stylecourt & All the Best
    for your comments.

  25. What a fabulous interview! I loved learning more about what goes on behind the scenes at Gracie!

  26. What a learning experience. I especially enjoyed reading the history of the company. I love the silver paper that was recently reintroduced, it's almost contemporary in feel. I hope you plan to do more interviews in the future, your questions led the discussion on just the perfect road.


  27. Hi HC
    Wow that is a compliment coming from you the gal from NYC who is there in the midst of it all.

  28. Hi Joni
    You're right about the contemporary feel of the William Haines silver wallpaper. I'm glad you liked the interview.


Patricia Gray | Interior Design Blog™

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