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Perfection in Paper

Jorge Arango

The Chinaphiles at Gracie, established in 1898, have reinvented the firm for a more youthful, discriminating clientele. Known for its ravishing array of 17th- to 19th-century Chinese antiques and ever-expanding luxury collections of new, reproduction, and historic hand-painted wallpapers, the company has unveiled new line of papers called the 500 Series. Taking its cue from Gracie’s mid-century archives, the 500 Series offers simpler motifs and flatter backgrounds for a more informal lifestyle, but the papers are still completely hand painted. The series is less costly, too—from about $700 to $950 per 3-foot-by-10-foot panel. But Gracie remains the go-to company for custom hand-painted papers the intricacy and painstaking craftsmanship of which are unrivaled in the industry. At the highest end are historic papers, such as 70 running feet of a circa-1760 mural depicting tea cultivation that was saved from a Park Avenue remodel (approximately $200,000). There are also new reproductions of authentic antique Chinese papers (about $3,000 per panel). Like all their papers, they’re backed with rice paper, but the painting is done on a second, superthin layer of rice paper that develops attractive cracking. The backgrounds are painted first, then the complex scene. Finally, it is glazed and hand rubbed “to roughen it up,” says 41-year-old president Mike Gracie, the founder’s great-grandson. A midrange line of “funky silhouettes”—also modern designs set against deeply saturated, slightly mod color backgrounds—will set you back about $1,100 a panel.

Also, after a 15-year hiatus from New York’s designer trade D&D Building, Gracie has returned and is putting the finishing touches on a new 3,800-square-foot showroom. (212.924.6816, www.graciestudio.com)

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