Koi, the ornamental carp so long associated with Japan are heavily on my mind these days and you’ll see why in an upcoming post quite soon. In honor of their variety and beauty, I can’t help but highlight one of the most extraordinary wallpapers out there, Fishes by de Gournay. Everywhere you turn, de Gournay’s Chinoiserie wallpaper is being used to stunning effect (some great blog round-ups here and here as well as here on the de Gournay site), but lately the liquid movement of Fishes has really captured my attention.

Early projects like this powder room by Katie Ridder highlight how dramatic and daring it is in small spaces. In fact most of the examples I came across were powder rooms, as always the perfect place to cut loose with design.

Katie Ridder fish bathroom via KR

A key to each of these bathroom photo shots is the reflection of the paper in the mirror.

de gournay fishes

This lighter colorway – Blue Pearl design colours on tarnished silver gilded paper – seems to be the most popular – although as it is custom painted it can be ordered in any color under the sun.

‘Fishes’ design in Blue Pearl design colours on Tarnished silver gilded paper de gournay

Stefan at Architect Design recently featured this powder room which used panels and a large mirror to envelop the viewer as if they were under water themselves.

de Gournay fish via architect design

Sarah Story‘s Gramercy Park study has also been featured everywhere and its small dimensions make it a perfect place for this wallpaper, much like the powder rooms above. There are a few versions of this space out on the web including this one with antique desk and klismos chair…

Sarah Story de gournay fish gramercyPark

…and this very different version with white Parsons desk and modern Eames chair. I find it fascinating how light and photography affect our perception of this paper. It’s mutable, like any given day at the ocean.


Larger scale examples include this staircase hallway with its crystal ship chandelier.

de gournay fish ship chandelier via everything leb

Further down the stairs the fish seem to be racing upstream.

degournay Fishes’ design in Blue Pearl design colours on Custom Silver gilded paper.

Because the design could be overwhelming this is a paper that is wonderful for using along a single wall as in this kitchen by Jeffrey Alan Marks & Ross Cassidy. I find its placement here quite witty.

Jeffrey Alan Marks & Ross Cassidy de-gournay-fish-wallpaper_ElleDecor

And in this dining room, the silver leafing goes all around, but the fish are constrained to one wall.

Fishes’ design in Blue Pearl design colours on Real Silver gilded paper with pearlescent antiquing de gournay

I’m not sure if this is actually de Gournay paper in this design by Wendy Schwartz – it is only listed as being hand painted on red silk – which leads me to believe it may be. I did want to include it as the dramatic orangey-red colorway is quite a change from all the silvery greys. And doesn’t that fixture remind you of a mod version of a netted glass fishing float?

Wendy Schwartz koi wallpaper Rue 3-4 12

de Gournay have recently expanded their Japanese and Korean collection, adding ‘Abstract Pines’, ‘Kiso Mountain’, ‘Cranes’ and ‘Matsumisha Waves’. I’m looking forward to seeing them used.

de gournay new japanese korean designs

Another option, if you can’t take the price tag nor the commitment to wallpaper, would be to buy an antique or vintage Japanese byobu (screen), perhaps something like this one. I’ve featured it before here, and the photo has never ever done it justice (the harsh fluorescents at the Heiwajima antique fair are very unfriendly), but it was truly beautiful.

pale byobu from heiwajima

More on some other special carp to come soon…

Image credits: 1. Katie Ridder via Everything LEB, 2-3, 7-8, 10 & 12 via de Gournay, 4. via Architect Design, 5. via Sara Story Design, 6. Sara Story in Elle Decor, November 2011, 9. Jeffrey Alan Marks via Elle Decor, 11. Wendy Schwartz via Rue Magazine, February 2012, 13. me.