Wallpaper artist Alix Soubiran’s L.A. home
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Wall-to-wall surprises: Wallpaper artist Alix Soubiran’s L.A. home

By Emily Young

Parisian-born artist Alix Soubiran could live quite happily without a stick of furniture. “A chair can be wonderful, but walls are what you see all the time,” she says. “To me, walls that create a story or a mood are the starting point.” Soubiran’s own wallpaper designs transformed a ramshackle 1923 duplex in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles into the charming home she shares with husband Joe Mauceri, a film and TV director and writer, and their infant daughter, Monica Moonshine. Pictured here: the dining room, where Soubiran’s playful side comes out. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
When the couple bought their duplex in 2008, it had a ceiling with holes, walls that weren’t plumb and a kitchen burdened with an ill-placed toilet and Jacuzzi. Extensive remodeling made the plan more livable, but wallpaper is what gives rooms their homey Franco-California appeal.

Inside the front door, they wallpapered a broad arch in a cheerful print called Birds and Flowers. Abstracted flora and fauna in teal, green and brown frame the living room, where the walls are painted cream. “I didn’t want wallpaper everywhere because the house needs to breathe,” Soubiran says. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Soubiran cradles her daughter in the living room, where a glittering ball reflects points of light across the floor and walls. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Afternoon light streams through French doors into the dining room. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

The dining room sports Enchanted Gipsy, a geometric pattern with a touch of the Orient. Printed on gold paper, the wallpaper glows behind the light of a pair of sconces and, Soubiran says, “has a kind of mystery that melts into the room.”

 (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
The dining room pattern, in detail. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Soubiran’s fascination with walls dates to her childhood home in Paris, where her parents commissioned a mural depicting the discovery of the Americas. “My sister and I asked the muralist to put us in the mural, and he did,” she says. “We were two little girls holding hands on these tropical shores with a little monkey beside us.”

Visits with her grandfather, noted French author Andre Soubiran, also made a lasting impression. “He had the Zuber wallpaper called the Views of Brazil,” she says, referring to a 19th century scenic wallpaper printed with woodblocks. “We would steal peeks at it behind the books he had stacked to the ceiling. It was magic seeing an exterior on the interior.” (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
The muted blue stripes of a Soubiran pattern called French Room set a quiet ambience in the master bedroom. Soubiran first painted the design on the walls of a home in Florida. “It was influenced by the interiors I’ve read about in books like ‘Madam Bovary’ and in poems by Baudelaire,” she says. “I wanted something luminous, soft and restful.”

Soubiran paints her designs by hand, then scans them into a computer. She and Mauceri then can adjust colors and scale in minutes. The designs are then manufactured by Astek Inc., a Van Nuys business that produces digitally printed wallpapers, and Advanced Screen Graphics in Commerce, which uses the more traditional screen-printing process. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
A peaked ceiling lent itself to this whimsical wallpaper treatment.  (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
The cockatoo, painted by a window. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
What’s next? “I’d like to create a big panoramic wallpaper in the tradition of Zuber and Dufour,” she says. Until then, she will focus on new patterns and new applications. “I want to wallpaper the closets because I like surprises like that,” she says. “No one else will see it, but I will. They’ll be like little jewelry boxes.” (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
The hallway to the bedroom. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
The hallway ceiling pattern, in detail. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Soubiran’s second wallpaper collection is just for kids, but don’t expect anything cute and cloying in predictable pastels and primary colors. Her children’s wallpapers are gender-neutral fantasies loaded with intricate details. Sea Ballet is an underwater world teeming with coral, eels and jellyfish; Major Tom is a kite-flying astronaut amid spaceships, satellites and stars; Circus Circus is a unicycle-riding fox, a dancing poodle and a juggling cat; and Tree Party is a festive rendering of bears, raccoons, woodpeckers and other forest denizens. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Soubiran’s second-floor unit, which previous owners rented out, is now her art studio. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Samples of work lie around the studio. Her Princes & Crows collection of wallpapers cost $135 or $185 a roll, depending on size. When it came to naming her company, Soubiran took a cue from industry leaders. “Every successful wallpaper company seems to have a double name like Farrow & Ball and Osborn & Little,” she says. “So I chose Princes & Crows. It was the name of an art show I did in New York in 2007.” (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Soubiran outside the home, which provides few hints of the wall-to-wall surprises inside.

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California design scene: Our home and garden blog, L.A. at Home (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
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