Esquire Feature on Flavor Paper Featuring Elvi and Marilyn Installs

August 28, 2015

Not Your Grandmother's Wallpaper

August 2015 web article about FP! Learn a bit about our history, and see some great install shots of our newest Andy Warhol x Flavor Paper designs. Be sure to check out the full collection, and read the full article.

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Not Your Grandmother's Wallpaper

Jill Krasny · Esquire · August 28, 2015

From a beleaguered New Orleans warehouse to rock stars’ homes, Flavor Paper is taking its gutsy designs nationwide.

With glowing mentions in the likes of Elle Decor, you might think Flavor Paper, a wallpaper outfit based in Brooklyn and known for its jaw-dropping graphic designs, was charmed from the outset. But running the 12-year-old business wasn’t always easy.

It all started in 2003, when Jon Sherman, the founder and creative director, was working in private equity and real estate development. Through a friend, he learned of a man in Oregon who wanted to get rid of his wallpaper equipment, all of which dated back to the ’70s. Sherman’s interest piqued, he got in touch with the man and asked if he could take the machines. “Sure,” the man said, “but you’ve got 24 hours to get it out of here.”

In less than two days, Sherman moved an 8,000-pound table and 300 silkscreen machines from the Pacific Northwest to New Orleans, where he was living at the time. “I didn’t know a single person who thought about using wallpaper in my age bracket,” he tells Esquire. “My mom and grandmother had it, but none of my friends did.” Still, trying his hand at wallpaper seemed a natural fit since Sherman harbored ambitions of launching his own small business one day.

With little experience and no idea how to print on a flat surface, much less with water-based material, which is more eco-friendly than solvent-based material, Sherman enlisted the help of four workers and borrowed $100,000 to get the business off the ground. “We had to bring every aspect in-house to make it right,” he says. That meant “painting, construction work, everything.”

The first week, the warehouse flooded and Sherman had to move the silkscreen machines three feet above ground. “Then we learned they were useless to us anyway,” he says, laughing. Some time later, in the middle of the night, a heater caught on fire. Without a fire detector, Sherman only learned of the damage because the smoke was so thick it set off motion detectors. “The police showed up, they called the fire department, and then they called me,” Sherman says. “We’re gluttons for punishment, basically. I’m kind of a stubborn guy, and it seemed like we were onto something interesting.”

Made to Order

Sherman’s concept of customizable wallpaper appealed to artist types, including none other than Lenny Kravitz. As Flavor Paper’s first client, Kravitz, who was referred to the company by the same friend who’d put Sherman in touch with the man in Oregon, decked out his New Orleans home with the Highway 66 line, based on woven Navajo textiles.

“It’s really from the gut. We don’t do trend research,” Sherman says of Flavor Paper’s designs, which come in full-wall murals and easily removable “EZ Papes,” using hand-screen and digital printing. The prints, which run the gamut from retro kitsch to optical illusion, are hardly the stuff of the old days. “We try to avoid the trends,” he says. If anything, Flavor Paper goes against them. (Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys worked on one design that features Brooklyn iconography including the Notorious B.I.G. printed as a toile.)

“I was super-naive and knew nothing about the industry or what the rules were, how you’re supposed to look at the color palettes and follow interior trends,” Sherman explains. “We’d do a couple bold prints and everyone reacted to the bold side rather than the tame side.”

“It’s really from the gut. We don’t do trend research,” Sherman says.

The use of eco-friendly materials, such as recyclable clay-coated papers, PVC-free mylars with a layer of metal and polyester, and digital patterns with latex or non-woven fabrics, also helped the company build up its client base. After doing a custom installation for Cadillac in 2011, where several members of the Andy Warhol Foundation were in attendance, the organization reached out to do a collaboration of its own.

The resulting Andy Warhol x Flavor Paper collection, out now, features a sampling of the pop legend’s striking imagery, from his flower prints to the Marilyn Monroe reversal paintings—one of the most enduring images of the actress. Available in various color combinations, the large-scale prints epitomize what the company does best: customizable design with a futuristic bent.

“Every impression is unique,” says Sherman, who in 2009 relocated his company to the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. “Nobody will ever have the same thing, so you’re literally getting a work of art.” For a company he says is “pretty much funding itself” and that he hopes to keep small by producing everything in-house, that’s no small feat. “We seem to be followed by natural disasters and trials and tribulations, but we’re not giving up,” Sherman says. And customers can continue to dream of a bathroom covered in Marilyn’s lips.

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