A classic motif with a cult reputation gives a modern-day moment to timeless design
It is one of the most famous motifs in town, if not the entire world—the Martinique Banana Leaf wallpaper, embellishing the Beverly Hills Hotel and so many fabulous interiors beyond. Perhaps you’ve seen it? A trick question. Of course you have—and seen it, and seen it. The statement-making design is as iconic as the rose-hued hotel it adorns, and likely has done more than anything else to propel its popularity, and that includes Elizabeth Taylor trysts in Bungalow 5.
It’s true that wallpaper has, in recent years, enjoyed something of a resurrection; no longer is it banished to the outdated kitchen at grandma’s house. Trends come and go, but the best designs refuse to be sidelined; they transcend their era and become timeless icons. None more so than Martinique, the graphic whose enormous leaves and fantastic thrust of color is so familiar, so ingrained in popular culture, it doesn’t take a degree in design—or any knowledge of it whatsoever—to identify it. We just do.
One has Don Loper to thank. A Hollywood renaissance man, Loper went from partnering Ginger Rogers in the film Lady in the Dark to decorating sets, creating costumes and designing clothes (an entire wardrobe for Lana Turner for an outrageous sum, according to period gossip). Loper eventually established a couture salon on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, but his most lasting treatment is the one he designed for the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1942, gracing the place with one of its signature draws.
Not to be mistaken as the bright-green Brazilliance by famed decorator Dorothy Draper—her print with clusters of sea grapes among its leaves—Martinique is more muted in tone but still channels a vibrant nirvana.
It’s back-dropped how many celebrity photos? From Marilyn Monroe to Margaux Hemingway. Martinique went bananas in the 1980s, when it made a splash at sexy hot spot Indochine in New York City and gussied up Blanche Devereaux’s boudoir on The Golden Girls.
Later, it played a supporting role as decor in the Oscar-nominated Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator.
It is a pattern that inspires fashion, has a field day on social media and commands space in every shelter magazine imaginable.
Remember heiress Nicky Hilton’s glam pad in InStyle? Hers is but one of many high-profile abodes featuring the palm print. Just visit Pinterest and see what you find there—start with the Nate Berkus project in Milan and move on.
Martinique makes one ponder the reason why any design endures, particularly in a fast-moving age like our own. Consider the name—Martinique. The way it plays, indulging a fantasy and creating a mood that feels much the same way. Fantasy is of course a big part of the appeal. Who doesn’t want for such an expressive exotica in their own life?
Though not all at once, and not all the time. But a powder room? Yes. A dashing closet, absolutely. And always the Beverly Hills Hotel, where it remains a haute tropic across time. dorchestercollection.com