25 years of Wallpaper* magazine marked by team members past and present

Wallpaper* friends and family on 25 years of special memories, from having tea in a Richard Neutra house to shooting behind the scenes in the Vatican. These recollections feature in the ‘25 Years of Wallpaper*’ series, published in our October 2021, 25th anniversary issue

wallpaper magazine cover
Wallpaper* magazine issue 115
(Image credit: Wallpaper*)

Wallpaper* is celebrating its 25th anniversary! Here, as part of our ‘25 Years of Wallpaper*’ series, published in our October 2021, 25th anniversary issue, friends and family of the magazine share their special memories, from having tea in a Richard Neutra-designed house to interviewing Éric Cantona, shooting behind the scenes in the Vatican to being introduced to the iPhone by Jony Ive.

Sophie Lovell, contributing editor, Berlin/Germany, 2000 – present

magaizne spread of a building

Wallpaper* issue 88

(Image credit: Wallpaper*)

Hmm, special memories. There are quite a few really great ones from the days of being sent on location:

Skipping around on the edge of the northernmost tip of Norway, holding sticks with Peter Zumthor and crew as he sketched out the Steilneset witches’ memorial building, a project created together with Louise Bourgeois – it was the French artist’s last major work (W*115).

Having tea in a Richard Neutra house in Germany’s Taunus mountains (W*88), listening to the owner describing in detail how she and her husband commissioned it, and telling me how Neutra studied the phases of the moon and the topography to take into account how moonlight would enter the house.

Exploring Philip Rosenthal’s baroque mansion/shag pad in a remote corner of Bavaria (W*81), complete with secret doors and underground swimming pool. Back in the day, he held parties there with heads of state, Andy Warhol and Elizabeth Taylor and co (if walls could speak). His bedroom floor was made of real sand imported from the Sahara or somewhere similar. That night the photographer and I got raging drunk at the village festival (I have a vague memory of singing and possibly dancing on tables).

Talking to the visionary architect engineer Werner Sobek about his zero-energy House R128 (W*44), which was already ‘completely recyclable, emission-free and energy self-sufficient’ back in 2001. He is the one who first really opened my eyes to the idea that buildings needed to be built in such a way, without composite materials, so that they can be completely recycled.

Or spending a couple of hours on the phone with Jony Ive as he personally talked me through all the features of Apple’s new product, the iPhone.

Having one of the best meals of my life in a tiny restaurant founded by young designer Stefan Diez in Kyoto – or was it Osaka? – when he was barely out of college. I think Justin McGuirk was there too. The restaurant was so tiny we drank their entire sake supply.

Flying to New York to spend an incredible afternoon with James Turrell (W*139) in his Gramercy Park apartment was a particular highlight. We talked about flying (my dad was a pilot), astrophysics, Quaker furniture, his Roden Crater and so much more. I was completely smitten.

I feel so blessed that my job has allowed me not only to meet so many incredible, driven and visionary people, but also to spend hours and sometimes days talking to them. I have learned so much directly from some of the most important designers, architects and artists of the past 20 years and more. Also wonderful are the friendships that have grown out of these encounters. Not just with interviewees, but also great photographers such as Joël Tettamanti, Andreas Gehrke, David Willen, Thorsten Klapsch, Alexander Gnädinger and Toby Glanville.

Not to mention all the Wallpaper* editors past and present! Tim Clark, Vanita James, Suzanne Trocmé, Richard Hinzel, Richard Cook, Laura Houseley, John Weich, Henrietta Thompson, Christine Samuelian, Emma Moore, Emma O’Kelly, Alex Bagner, Albert Hill, Tony Chambers and Tyler Brûlé of course.

Retrospectively, so much of it was a bubble of its time: so white, so male, so Eurocentric, so decadent… But hey, that was the noughties and the 2010s, and Wallpaper* has been an absolute style beacon all the way through it. I’m so happy you are setting your mark with a powerfully inclusive and regenerative path.

Amy Serafin, long-term contributor; Paris editor, 2019 – present

There are few things more exciting than getting an email from my editors at Wallpaper*, asking if I might be available to interview Sophie Calle (W*259), or Tomás Saraceno (W*235), Jean Nouvel (W*235), or even Éric Cantona (W*222). Of course I would be available! These are just a few of the exceptional people that this magazine has given me the opportunity to sit down and talk with over the years. I love that Wallpaper* is just as willing to give precious space to lesser-known subjects – for example, the septuagenarian textile artist Simone Pheulpin (W*234), who sent me on my way with a box of homemade quiches for the train. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have been able to spend time with so many interesting people, and share their stories with our readers around the world.

Tilly Macalister-Smith, digital director, 2019-2020; contributing editor, 2020 – present

You make a magazine for the audience, and so it’s always rewarding when you get feedback from your readers. During the pandemic – partially due to distribution disruption, and partially a desire to make our content as democratically available as possible and share some positive features – we made our print magazine available to download, for free, from the website for the first time in its 25-year history. The feedback was so exciting, especially during a time which was so challenging for many. One reader from a remote part of British Columbia emailed to say she had been a fan of the magazine for many years, although was not always able to afford the print issue, but she was so grateful to have access to the magazine digitally as it was bringing her so much joy. It shows that even in a digital format, the power of ‘print’ still strongly resonates, as a means of connection, communication and information.

Nick Vinson, contributing editor (Milan, Special Projects, Quality Maniac-at-Large) 2003 – present

Behind every great feature in Wallpaper*, there is a designer, architect, artist, maker, hotelier or entrepreneur with a story to tell. It’s meeting those great talents that makes contributing to the magazine such a thrill.

Yoko Choy, China editor, 2018 – present

It was November 2000 (W*33) when I first discovered Wallpaper* – I was still a design student at university, and a few of us in the class would chip in for the magazine as our monthly intake of inspiration. Eleven years later, I got my first commission to write an article on (the then up-and-coming) André Fu for Wallpaper.com and since then, we have captured many more great voices and moments from China and beyond. Wallpaper* has been my mentor and style advisor for the past two decades – showing me the world and offering me the opportunity to learn from and grow with the best in the industry and, more importantly, proving that design exists to connect people and cultures, and that we can build a better future collectively. Thank you, Team W*onder, and I look forward to the next 25 years of adventure with you all!

Emma O’Kelly, on the team since 1997 with roles including: contributing editor, intelligence 1998 – 2000; house editor, 2006 – 2007; contributing editor, 2020 – present

wallpaper magazine cover

Wallpaper* issue 21

(Image credit: Wallpaper*)

I joined the team as news editor in issue 4, when we were all young and shooting from the hip. But at our first party at Salone del Mobile in 1998, David Byrne came over and said how much he loved the magazine. We came at things sideways, and readers liked it. ‘That’s very Wallpaper*’ soon became a way to describe something that was cool.

High points for me included pointing the lens onto forgotten brutalist architecture in Lagos (W*21); shooting behind the scenes at the Vatican (W*223); and pacing around Jardins in search of São Paulo’s beating heart (W*26).

In print, less was always more; behind the scenes though, more was more – a carousel of first-class foreign trips, fabulous photoshoots, awards and accolades. Two things I’ve learned? Never eat canapés at parties for fear of being caught on camera; and Korean Air staff know how to rock a neck scarf.

Melina Keays, entertaining editor/director, 1996 – present

I never saw it coming – my Wallpaper* life. One day in 1996, Tyler Brûlé simply told me that he was launching a magazine and I was the (then) food editor. I said ‘OK’. I had no idea what it meant, or would mean. None of us did. Back then, most of our small team had little experience in magazines, but with the bravery and brilliance of naivety, and the coming together of a collection of hugely talented people, we threw ourselves in, and somehow presided over the start of a global brand.

Oh the thrill of it! We travelled the world, seeing fantastic places and meeting extraordinary people, curating it all for the magazine through the exacting Wallpaper* prism – and we did it all with joy and humour. On one memorable occasion, Edward Peacock (then chief correspondent) and I were being shown around a hotel in Marrakech. Somehow I fell into one of the courtyard fountains. I fished myself out with dignity, and, unperturbed, our smiling host continued to show us around the rooms, while I dripped fountain water onto the carpets. No one mentioned any of this, and the tour continued splendidly – only later did Edward and I collapse into helpless laughter.

Fountain incidents aside, we have navigated our way through analogue (at the beginning we shot only on film – I remember shaking the polaroids); the blooming of the internet; the embrace of the online world; and a pandemic – all the while maintaining the integrity and rigorously high standards of the brand. Twenty-five years later, Wallpaper* has become part of my identity (I cannot write the word without automatically adding the asterisk), and having experienced high points too numerous, exciting, beautiful, hilariously funny, and even weird, to expand on here, the creative journey continues. We have criss-crossed the globe – fuelled by a heady brew of cocktails, canapés, champagne and manic energy, and there have been fabulous parties along the way, but we have always worked hard, with real passion and belief in the brand – as that is the only way to do it.

Alice Rawsthorn, contributor since 1996; guest editor, 2020

A favourite memory from the first year of Wallpaper* was the arrival of a bunch of photos taken by a group of friends in Sydney who had taken to staging parties inspired by different Wallpaper* shoots. They had reproduced the locations, the food, the clothes and everything else, even the models’ poses and expressions. It summed up the spirit that has defined Wallpaper* ever since: sharing a love of design, architecture, fashion and other aspects of visual culture by taking them seriously, without losing a sense of fun. Happy 25th birthday!

Daven Wu, contributing editor, Singapore/Singapore editor, 2007 – present

wallpaper magazine cover

Wallpaper* magazine issue 132

(Image credit: Wallpaper*)

Wallpaper* has been such a huge part of my life, and it’s shocking to think that I wrote my first article for it in 1999. Twenty-two years, but the years telescope into snapshots. My first lunch with the then architecture editor, Clare Dowdy, at Brettenham House, the magazine’s first global HQ. Various assignments in Venice (W*132), Shanghai (W*229), Seoul (W*140), Porto (W*243), Bagac (W*219)… Late nights in the office, catching interviews in different time zones. But what lingers most in the memory are the people. You can look where you will, but you won’t find a more talented, dedicated, driven, yet fun-loving group of writers, editors, designers, and producers – every single one of them at the top of their game. It’s been an absolute privilege to work with them, to be surrounded by the best in class.

Marco Sammicheli, Milan editor/contributing editor 2019 – present

The relationship between Wallpaper* and Milan is historical. Designers, companies, exhibitions have been presented to the world with a unique attention, full of details. My personal memory goes back to the days when Wallpaper* was arranging extraordinary parties during Milan Design Week, and as a design student and freelance journalist I tried hard to sneak in and feel the atmosphere. Being part of the team years afterwards was an incredible experience. Buon anniversario Wallpaper*!

Fiona Dent, publishing director 2006 – 2007

Happy 25th anniversary to a global icon! It seems only yesterday that I was celebrating the tenth-anniversary milestone (W*92) with Wallpaper’s unique team. At nearly 500 pages, that issue was more sculpture than magazine, housed in a collectors’ box. My favourite story of that issue embodied everything I love about Wallpaper*. Over many months and navigating the trickiest of schedules, the partnerships of the world’s most famous fashion designers and their architects were documented. From Giorgio Armani and Tadao Ando to Karl Lagerfeld and Zaha Hadid, this story was an international, cross-disciplinary celebration of the power of encounters between diverse people and perspectives. Exactly the enduring quality which always keeps me coming back.

Jonathan Bell, on the team since 1999 with roles including: editorial assistant, 1999 – 2000; architecture editor, 2009 – 2012; transport & technology editor, 2019 – present

Perhaps my ongoing aversion to Salone del Mobile can be explained by how I arrived at Wallpaper*. In need of a career change (at the tender age of 25), I sent in a letter promising a smattering of architectural knowledge and 60 wpm. Luckily for me, the editorial team was in Milan en masse and issue 13 was on the presses. Could I run the reception desk and sort out the post? Before long, my role expanded. Could I fact-check a piece? Write the contributors’ page? Do some research for a feature writer (remember that?)? Give Tyler some architectural talking points for a radio interview? The late, great Annabel Tollman once casually passed me an invite to a car launch, inadvertently setting another path in motion. The world of design might have changed beyond all recognition, but the consistent, comradely brilliance of the Wallpaper* team has made charting it an ongoing pleasure.

Andrew Black, executive manager and publishing director, 2004 – 2007

Perhaps this is ageing myself but I clearly remember the day the first issue of Wallpaper* arrived on my desk. It was one of those moments in life when you know you’re looking at something completely new, something that defies the status quo. Since its auspicious start, Wallpaper* always punched above its weight in every way – making it a beacon for exceptional talent. So in reminiscing about my wonderful tenure there, what stands out most from the editors, designers, sales execs, and interns, was how exceptional the collective team were, and still are.


A version of this article appears in the October 2021, 25th Anniversary Issue of Wallpaper* (W*270), on newsstands now and available to subscribers – 12 digital issues for $12/£12/€12.

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.