6sqft’s series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and off-beat workspaces of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we take a tour of the Cobble Hill studio of colorful wallpaper company Flavor Paper. Want to see your business featured here? Get in touch!
Nestled among the charming streets and quaint rowhouses of Cobble Hill is the headquarters of a wallpaper company that’s taken the art to a completely new level. Flavor Paper was founded in 2003 in New Orleans before moving to Brooklyn nine years ago. What started out as an attempt to salvage old equipment from a hand-screened wallpaper company on the Oregon coast has morphed into an internationally recognized brand–known for its bright colors, bold patterns, and plain-old fun aesthetic–with over 156 designs and collaborations with the likes of Lenny Kravitz and the Andy Warhol Foundation.
6sqft recently toured what the company calls their “Flavor Lair” (it houses their production facilities, offices and showroom) and chatted with founder Jon Sherman about what sets Flavor Paper apart from other wallpaper manufacturers, why he calls Brooklyn home, and the backstory on some of the most popular designs. We also got a sneak peak into Jon’s personal home, a sexy abode located above the Skylab Architecture-designed Lair.
A print of “Ted,” the founder of the original Oregon wallpaper company
How did you get involved in the wallpaper industry?
Complete accident! I found out about a company [in Oregon] being burned to the ground, so I rescued the equipment and taught myself how to make wallpaper.
The rooftop skylights
The rooftop space and its views over the neighborhood
Flavor Paper started out in New Orleans. What brought you to Brooklyn and specifically Cobble Hill?
Ninety percent of our business was coming out of NYC, and we needed more of a sales presence, but couldn’t find a venue that would present the paper as we wanted it shown. We also have most of our material suppliers in the Tristate area, so it helped cut costs and reduce our carbon footprint significantly. I planned on renovating a building and living in it as well, so I wanted a nice neighborhood with great access to all parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. This area was the best choice, and I found a great building after looking at more than 120 all over the city.
From the street, passersby can see right into the print studio
A wallpaper installation in the sidewalk outside the entrance
The entryway periscope, which goes up five floors to the roof
Walking up to the building is an experience in itself, with the sidewalk cutout, bright sign, and neon periscope in the lobby. Was it important for you to have a dynamic street presence?
Flavor Paper is all about the experience, so we wanted our space to reflect that. New Yorkers all walked with their heads down before cell phones took over, so I thought it would be clever to put our only true display in the sidewalk. We also tried to incorporate pattern into as much as we could, so the neon sculpture is based off our Sakura wallpaper with a major scale change, and we have a lot of wallpaper on ceilings so they can be seen from the street. The periscope aspect was just because we could, and it resulted from a late night brainstorming session on the roof (with lots of sake) during early construction.
All the screens are kept in the print studio
48-foot-long vacuum tables hold down the paper; the ceiling mirrors let employees see how the layers are going down
The e-Mac is still used for ink formulas
What does a typical day in the office look like for you and your team?
We are constantly printing, so a majority of our staff is making wallpaper all day every day. The office is generally keeping up with raw material supply, processing orders, and general business development. That said, we always have some crazy project or interesting client coming through and turning our worlds upside down though for the better.
The building was originally a 1920s auto shop/garage with a car-sized elevator
The showroom’s plan was inspired by Philip Johnson’s Glass House, where the architect had an underground art bunker with massive swivels to display the pieces.
The Last Supper collection from Andy Warhol
How would you say Flavor Paper differs from other wallpaper companies?
First, we print everything in-house, which most do not. This allows us full creative and quality control and for very quick turnarounds. We also think very differently than most about design and partner with interesting collaborators so our offerings are quite unique. We have worked with musicians (Lenny Kravitz, Mike D.), graphic designers (Milton Glaser), artists (Wayne White), and interior designers (Ghislaine Viñas). We are also all water-based and only use domestic materials.
The current digital production space
You’re soon relocating your digital production facility to Industry City. Why did you choose this location and how do you see it advancing the company?
We liked Industry City because it has a creative hub atmosphere to it, but also has restaurants and the other necessities you want to keep employees content. We wanted a community vibe that also offered industrial space with a loading dock, and Industry City tries to promote that blend. With 27-foot-long 10,000-pound printers we needed a ground-floor space built for industry usage, but also with a storefront for retail shoppers and designers that is on a level similar to our Pacific Street facility.
One of the bathrooms
A print of Paul McCarthy’s Chocolate Santa with Butt Plug
Twelve Cadillacs was the first Andy Warhol print Flavor Paper did. It was featured in a show about the artist at the Montclair Art Museum.
Flavor Paper is known for its bright colors and patterns. What advice would you give someone who’s not accustomed to this type of style?
Bright colors and fun patterns make people happy, so if you want to head in that direction with your life we highly recommend giving it a whirl! That said, we also print everything in house, so you can make things as muted and tame as you’d like.
A DJ booth in Jon’s home; almost everything in the space is completely custom
Mock-crock pleather walls look up to the skylights from the apartment
Currently, Jon is using a temporary fireplace cover made of wallpaper
How would you say the aesthetic of your personal space compares to that of the business?
Similar, but with a bit more sexiness – if can see past my son Cosimo’s toys that is.
What are some of the pros and cons of living and working in the same building?
Pros- I get to pop in and see my son several times a day and run up and help if it is needed. I can also pop back down and finish up a project at night without any hassles.
Cons – When I take a personal day I’m still surrounded by employees and work and get caught up. I can go back to work too easily since it’s right there and lures you back.
Do you have an all-time favorite wallpaper?
The Brooklyn Toile, a collaboration with Beastie Boy Mike D (Michael Diamond)–it was featured in his Cobble Hill townhouse
Any exciting projects coming up you can fill us in on?
We have a Wayne White exhibition we will be part of at the Joshua Liner Gallery opening in early September, which will be amazing. Our New Orleans Toile with Alexa Pulitzer is nearly complete and really captures the essence of Nola rather than touristy crap that has always been the focus of any design coming out of there.
- Studio Visits: Inside Interior Designer Ghislaine Viñas’ Colorful, Playful Tribeca Loft
- Studio Visits: Artist Nancy Pantirer Shows Us Around Her Imaginative Tribeca Loft
- Studio Visits: Inside Prop Stylist Courtney Dawley’s Quirky, Colorful Greenpoint Workspace
Photos by Erin Kestenbaum for 6sqft
Neighborhoods : Cobble Hill