Michael Reynolds, Wallpaper’s US director, goes behind the scenes of the first issue

Michael Reynolds, Wallpaper’s US director, goes behind the scenes of the magazine’s first ever cover, a shoot involving a penthouse apartment, heavy furniture – and no elevator service. Reynolds’ recollections feature in the ‘25 Years of Wallpaper*’ series, published in our October 2021, 25th anniversary issue

Black and white cover of wallpaper magazine showing a man and woman on streets of new york
Wallpaper* issue 5
(Image credit: press)

I had just freshly embarked on a freelance career, after a seven-year stint entrenched in the arsenals of American Vogue, when from out of the blue I received a call from Tyler Brûlé, who had been sent my way via a mutual friend at Travel & Leisure. He asked if I would be game to create a set for the cover of a magazine prototype that he was in the midst of developing.

Being young, dumb, eager to please and clueless as to what it would entail – I said yes!!! Do I recall there even being a budget? If there was, it was probably next to nil. I remember renting a cheap, wreck of a cargo van that by today’s standards might only just be fit for drug smuggling – and not much else. Overly enthusiastic and completely uninsured, I feverishly made the rounds, pulling favours and plucking pieces from ‘this’ designer friend or ‘that’ design shop, manically chucking whatever spoils I could beg, steal or borrow into the back of said van. I even yanked a thick, hairy shag (flokati, that is) from my living room floor and brought it along for the ride.

I will never forget arriving on the morning of the shoot to the location on Lower Fifth Avenue, the penthouse apartment of former male model Walter Schupfer, only to learn that the elevator was broken and that everything would need to be schlepped up 14 flights of stairs. I was flying solo, sans assistant – therefore shock, panic and a change of underwear immediately ensued.

To this day, I have mentally and emotionally blocked out precisely how everything got up to the apartment. I’m guessing that it must have been an adrenaline-induced, all-hands-on-deck scenario with the rest of the team. Illegally parked below, I monitored my van like a hawk throughout the day, praying that it would not be ticketed, stolen, or seized by the FBI.

Cover of the first issue of Wallpaper magazine

Wallpaper* issue 1

(Image credit: press)

The cover shoot was a huge success, so much so that the image was eventually used again for the magazine’s launch issue. So nice, they used it twice! Had I been older and wiser at the time, I would have probably passed on the opportunity and in doing so robbed myself of a 25-year creative journey that I cherish as one of my greatest lifetime achievements.


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.