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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Innovations Peels Back a Layer on Its Wallcoverings

NEW YORK—If you look closely, inspiration is ripe for the picking. For designers at Innovations in Wallcoverings Inc., a creator of wallcoverings and textiles, New York City serves as both workplace and muse. The Williamsburg Bridge, which links the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, provided the creative stimulus for the company’s newest collection—Watercolor. Elsewhere, landmark skyscrapers that for a century or more have dotted the city’s distinguished skyline influenced the firm’s architecture-inspired collection. 

“It all comes back to the name of the company—Innovations. We’re always looking for ways to innovate and inspire the industry, whether it’s with new materials, new patterns, or new ideas,” said Michael Freedman, VP of contract sales and design at Innovations in Wallcoverings Inc. “As artists, we want those statement pieces, the Watercolors, the Rangolis, that are feature walls and art in a space. We are doing these large-scale patterns, and at the same time, we have to be practical too. We are doing product that is very quiet and useful in corridors and guestrooms. The overall design aesthetic has the same kind of feeling, whether you’re tying it in through color or texture.”

In a Q&A with Hotel Business Design, Freedman pulls back the proverbial curtain on two wallcovering designs and shares the story behind each collection.

What is the origin story for the Watercolor and architecture-inspired collections?

This one is interesting because the original artwork for Watercolor started off with a photograph of the Williamsburg Bridge, coming across the Williamsburg Bridge, at night, blurred. There was a lot of verticality. It took on a life of its own; when we looked at the original photograph, it looked painterly. We started off with the idea of architecture because of the bridge itself, but it became about art. We talk about process and how there’s a starting point. We started with the idea of architecture, then we moved into art, and then we came back to architecture.

Tell me about the original inspiration and how you worked that into the design.

With Watercolor, it was a whole process, but sometimes the inspiration and design can be more direct. The Labyrinth pattern [from this summer’s architecture collection] is really very specific. It’s meant to look like the top of the Chrysler Building, which we see every day. So, yeah.

How were collections created? How did you come up with the vision for the design?

New York is a very architectural city and you’re constantly being inspired by the grid of the city, the parks and how buildings interact with each other. The city has a special language that makes you look … even something as seemingly simple as concrete can be the jumping off point for a design, how it breathes and bleeds.

Are there any particular physical benefits in terms of wear and tear or longevity?

In the architecture collection, yes, there are several new Type II vinyls. Ultimately, if durability is your primary concern, vinyl is the best option. Although, we are working on alternatives.

In both collections, there’s a pronounced painterly effect and I see it as a way to make an impact in a space very quickly. What are some ways a designer can use either in a space?

We’re seeing designers create truly unique, site-specific spaces, and wallcoverings can help do that, quickly and affordably. Large-scale patterns like Watercolor make great accents where everything else in the room, including other wallcoverings, relates back to it. Those coordinating products, the quiet ones, are part of the story we’re trying to tell too. Watercolor especially has some beautiful neutrals.

You can control how people flow through a space if you use color right … or if you use textures right. When you use different colors in different areas, people have a visually interesting way to understand it. Color drives how you think, and there’s psychology behind it. It’s important to not only think about the textures that go into a room, but also how you coordinate those textures with color in order to make it meaningful and helpful for people.

What can we look forward to in the future from Innovations in terms of products for hospitality use?

We’re always looking for things that are different: a different substrate to print on, a different weaving technique, a different material—like pressed leaves, which you’ll see this fall. We’re also thinking big murals for more tailored, site-specific work.