Wallpaper has made a major comeback in recent years. It’s easy to understand why. Wallpaper is a touch that can truly transform a room. One of the most interesting brands to make a debut in this space is Housewife Essentials.
Founded by serial entrepreneur and author, Molly Borman, the brand recently launched a line of super chic wallpaper inspired by vintage Chanel jackets. With a dozen different designs available in both standard and peel and stick, the line has great appeal to both homeowners and renters alike. It instantly transforms walls into couture. These designs are ideal for bedrooms, bathrooms, home offices, and children’s rooms.
I recently spoke with Borman to learn how she came up with such a unique idea, the challenges of launching during the pandemic, as well as the logistics of the wallpaper business.
Amanda Lauren: Housewife Essentials is a brilliant name. How did you come up with it?
Molly Borman: I started the line with my sister, Hannah Crane and from the beginning, we knew our name was Housewife Essentials, but as we were going through the branding process, we thought the name might be a little too sassy to be taken seriously as we enter a new industry with pretty established players.
To compete with other luxury brands, we temporarily switched our name to Portrait of a Lady, which felt higher end for about five minutes. After going back and forth, we decided we loved the irony that comes with the moniker Housewife Essentials, because at the end of the day, there is humor in dressing your home, especially your highest-traffic spaces, in its Sunday best. While our goal is to be taken seriously in the industry, we are still kitschy at heart.
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Lauren: How did you get the idea to turn vintage Chanel jackets into wallpaper?
Borman: I love building companies and going the direct-to-consumer route. I absolutely ate that up in its heyday, around 2014— peak Glossier time and learned so much from not just watching those generation-defining brands, but building them myself.
I started a company called Just Nips, which is a direct-to-consumer nipple accessory for women who want to look “cold” if you will, but also, it turned into one of the biggest breast cancer brands in the space. While building, I realized my favorite part about the journey was just the way you can speak to your customers with branded language, most obviously through social media. Having a direct line to our most passionate consumers was how we were able to cross over from gag gift to medical accessory so seamlessly.
I spend a lot of time studying the consumer landscape, and what makes the female consumer tick these days. I focused there for a few years to the point where I wrote a book about it, aptly titled the Instagram Iceberg. The book was published in April 2020, a super scary time in the beginning of the pandemic, but all that time spent at home led us to Housewife Essentials today.
Sadly, we lost several family members that year, including my mom’s mom who had such an incredible presence. She was always dressed up and had an iconic collection of Chanel jackets she’d wear all the time. We had so many memories of her that were tied to these incredible patterns that we wanted to turn them into something else, and here we are with wallpaper that is reminiscent of haute couture. Our original pattern, a gorgeous purple tweed is named the Ingrid, for my grandma.
With that, I am endlessly inspired by interiors. A few years back, I was lucky enough to spend time in Michelle Gerson’s home in New York where I learned the importance of impeccable design. I have studied her work and just knew one day I would enter the industry.
Lauren: What have been some of the challenges of your business?
Borman: I was so eager when we started, I sent out 100 sample packs right off the bat. We definitely got a fair amount of interest from our Instagram. Then people said, “You didn’t send me the sample, you sent me a photograph of the sample.”
When we were in the research and design phase, we found that the colors and appearance of texture stand out best on non-woven papers, as opposed to textured grasscloth or linen. It was a no-brainer when it came to what type of coverings to use because the non-wovens looked simply the best. But I realized quickly we needed to communicate this better and explain that even though these look like fabric, they are in fact paper wall coverings.
Lauren: What’s the advantage of using traditional paper?
Borman: Paper is wipeable. Most of our clients tell us they want these for their bathroom, the kid’s room, or playrooms. Those are all very dirty rooms. Wipeable is key.
Lauren: Housewife Essentials offers both peel and stick wallpaper, which is great for renters or anyone who wants to switch the wallpaper out at some point, as well as regular wallpaper. But is there any difference aesthetically between the two?
Borman: The difference between the two is not detectable to the eye. They are pretty similar, but if you use a magnifying glass, you can tell there’s a slight difference in color and detail, with the premium standard paper using our true colors. But if you are just living your life in your room, the papers are interchangeable, which is really nice. It was very important to me to offer peel and stick because I was a renter up until a few months ago.
The only other difference with our peel and stick is with the panels themselves. There’s a little bit of a bleed. So when you are doing it yourself, you then can line it up perfectly. And then take off that extra edge, which is really nice, because most people are doing peel and stick themselves, so we wanted to be extra helpful.
Lauren: Any design ideas or ways you think Housewife Essentials wallpaper looks best?
Borman: We’ve seen clients use our peel and stick for like one accent wall behind a bed, and I’m a big fan of that look, but I’m pretty extra when it comes to my tastes and believe once you start, you might as well do the whole room. Our wallpaper installer even did the vents in my son’s room, which actually is my favorite part of his whole room.
Lauren: What’s next for Housewife Essentials?
Borman: We’re doing it all. We have an Oracle Deck that tells you your future, meant to be played with a girlfriend, and a lot of wine that’s launching shortly.
We are simultaneously getting into textiles— curtains, drapes, fabric. Everyone wants these patterns. We’re covering vanity chairs for a client who said she just wanted the chair, but halfway through, as expected, she went for the whole room covered in matching wallpaper.
Obviously, we’re expanding into other Housewife Essentials, like candles, hats, and tableware. Think—a stunning melamine line for summer that looks way more expensive than it. I would love to do a couture cannabis line one day because naturally, modern housewives need to chill out in style.
The biggest future leap we are taking is that we are going straight to the Metaverse and turning our designs into NFTs. The reason for this is twofold. One, we want to continue honoring these one-of-a-kind heirloom pieces, with NFTs being the perfect medium to explore. Two, your Metaverse home should absolutely be decked in couture, too.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.