For many designers working in the traditional wing of the decorative arts, artistic interpretation is unwelcome. But for veteran textile designer Dennis Lee, Interior Design ’78, true design doesn’t just copy the past; it reinvents it.
Lee owns Tyler Hall, a 14-year-old boutique company in Hell’s Kitchen that produces whimsical traditional wallpapers and fabrics to the trade—all designed by hand— under its own label, as well as licensed work for renowned top-shelf brands. Among the firm’s clients are noted designers Mario Buatta, David Easton, and Matthew Patrick Smyth, Interior Design ’80.
For each collection, Lee draws inspiration from a single locale. “I act as a new set of eyes examining a period of history or cultural capital,” he says. In the pattern Summertime, for his Vieux Carré collection, inspired by the American South, he deftly mixes eras and motifs synonymous with the region. Figures in dress of different periods cavort and lounge in idealized settings, painting “a romantic memoir” rather than an exact historical reproduction.
“If I’m going to install wallpaper in my home, I don’t want anything dark,” Lee says. “I like things that are lighter and a little frothier.”
While his designs are fanciful interpretations, Lee’s colorways are historically grounded, which makes them not just accurate, but commercially viable.
“I aim to please myself when it comes to designs. But for colors, I have to think about the customer,” Lee says. “I’m not a beige person, but believe me, I make sure to include it as an option.”