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The Secret to Retro Wallpaper

Posted by Nicole Yeardley

Influenced by art and design from the 1950’s and 1970’s, we speak to illustrator, Greg Mably on the secrets to his retro wallpaper collection for Wallsauce.com.

Based in Toronto, Greg Mably is an award-winning illustrator recognised for his contributions to publications such as Forbes and The New York Times. Although Greg found his passion at art school, art college left him feeling lost. He went on to explore entry-level jobs, when during that period, he discovered contemporary illustration. Greg chose to give art school another chance which coincided with the launch of the first Mac computer.  This enabled him to get on board early with the new media.

Greg Mably describes his graphic style as “rooted in a mid-20th-century modernist aesthetic” and sources his inspiration from posters and graphic identities of pop art, colour field painting and minimalist art – to name a few.

“I continue to be influenced every day,” says Greg. “Sometimes it’s a fleeting visual on TV or a passing truck. Other disciplines such as film or music can also have an influence. It might be a feel or a mood, or a way a composition is structured. I have an extensive art book collection, and nowadays I scour the internet for interesting and obscure artists and designers. Some influences come and go and some stay fixed.”


Retro Wallpaper by Greg Mably

Greg Mably's collection of retro wallpaper features variations of composition, geometry and sometimes, but not always, the strategy of ‘less is more’. The colour palette is far from muted.  

“While I do have some favourite colours, my colour sense is more about the colour relationships within the palette rather than any individual colour,” continued Greg. “I’ve tried to develop a style that allows me to move between a range of themes and subject matter as well as abstract and representational art.”


Although a difficult decision, Greg told us about his favourite retro wallpaper within the collection. The series, titled ‘Angles’, represents the breakthrough in his work where he took it into an abstract direction using colour and design from his illustrative work. It was also the first time he used large colour fields.

Greg’s series titled ‘Flow’ also came up in conversation.

“There’s a series titled ‘Flow’ with some different colour variations. They’d look good accompanied by some 70s era furniture.”


Amongst the retro prints are abstract animal designs. Greg said:

“I think my colour is more about energising a space than calming it, but there are a few that are calmer.  The images of animals would be good in a child’s room or nursery or perhaps lighten up a hospital or dentist's office. Any space that might need to be made less intimidating.”


Another eye-catching retro print is titled ‘Warbler’. This retro wallpaper features the Yellow Throated Warbler, the bird whose appearance marks the emergence of spring in parts of the United States.  However, this print has a much more subdued colour palette.  Greg explained:

“It was for the back page of Audubon magazine where an artist is assigned to illustrate one of John James Audubon’s birds of America in a contemporary way. More than being a likeness of the bird, it  is also expected to relate thematically in some other way. The colour palette I employed is intended to allude to early spring in that it’s mostly grey with a small burst of colour.”


It is an absolute pleasure to have collaborated with such a dynamic illustrator. View the full range of Greg Mably’s retro wallpapers and let us know which one takes you back to the mid-20th century.


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