Jaima Brown Emmert looks pensively over thick-rimmed, cat-eye glasses as she points to a panel push-pinned to a linen-clad wall behind her. “Should I do this one in pink, too?” she muses. Visiting Jaima’s studio is like getting a sneak peek into the artist-cum-wallpaper-designer’s exuberant mind.
She’s adamant that wallpapers can do more than elevate a space; they tell a story. Looking at the serene Heron Mural, which debuted this month with Jaima’s new Anthology Mural Collection, you get a sense of what it’s like to walk around her home’s backyard lake, smelling the gardenia bush as you count turtles bobbing and wading birds fishing nearby. “You take a white wall in a room, add one of my murals, and you will truly feel different,” she says. “It’s like the colors and patterns reach your soul.”
Working at the 12-foot-long table in her studio, located in a private apartment near her home, Jaima paints and styles patterns to the tune of classical music. She pulls inspiration from drawers of vintage wallpapers and textiles collected from a lifetime of traveling the world. She may reinterpret elegant chinoiserie with birds found along the Gulf, sourcing the colors of Florida’s sunsets for backgrounds that pop. The wallpaper designer printed the Heron sample from her industrial printer to visualize how the birds play with the floral motif. Next to the mural, she’s tacked pieces of other pink and blue designs she’s created over the decades, each swatch revealing Jaima’s knack for quirky designs.
The Canadian artist, who studied fine art and history at Ontario’s University of Guelph, found her path to the industry through a chance encounter. A friend she met at a silk-screening class invited her to tour Toronto’s storied Sunworthy wallpaper factory, which has operated under many monikers since the late 1800s. Jaima was captivated by the highly skilled artisans mixing colors and painting designs by hand. “I was hooked,” she recalls. The following year, she scored a job as a print designer at Sunworthy, where she created the Magnolia Lane collection, blending Italian motifs with painterly depictions of the fragrant flowers. An instant success, the typography-adorned wallcovering sold 2 million rolls throughout Canada and Europe. She later burnished her credentials as the design director for Chicago’s S. A. Maxwell & Co., one of the oldest wallpaper companies in the United States.
Now, after 20 years working for herself, Jaima expresses total creative freedom through her company, Daisy Bennett—named after her late black lab, who often snoozed on piles of vintage wallpapers while Jaima worked in her studio. She draws from her family’s English heritage and extensive travels to bring a worldly flair to trending designs. A trip to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show in England inspired her former Chelsea Lane collection’s bold floral and whimsical butterfly motifs. Once she decides on a composition, the design is scanned into an electronic image and modified so that the pattern seamlessly repeats for a painted-on effect. She then hangs a sample in her studio before the wallcovering goes into production. “I’m neurotic about making sure everything flows right,” she says. “I treat all designs like art to have a balanced composition.”
Where Jaima’s studio offers a look into her creative process, her nearby lakefront abode acts as a showroom for the cheerful designs. In the foyer, birds flit through lemon trees on an iridescent, silver-blue grasscloth mural, which wraps down the hallway to her breakfast nook. There, Jaima outfitted the chandelier’s lampshades with a coordinating blue-spotted print from her collection. Each room features a vibrant covering from her career, including an energizing, undulating blue abstract pattern that mimics a kaleidoscope’s morphed effect. Her most recent endeavor is printing her designs on fabrics to make matching bedding, pillows and the occasional recovered accent chair.
Beyond branching into furnishings and decor, Jaima is excited about her latest line of murals, which banks on innovative digital processes for textured designs printed on grasscloth, ultra-thin cork and burnished metal paper that resembles gold and silver leafing. “New designs are always a gamble, but sometimes I have a real gut feeling,” she says.
Photography by Anna Nguyen