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Swanky Walls

Wallcoverings Breathe New Life into an Iconic Gem

By Kim Crowley

Digital print produces more than retail point of purchase, custom applications for other industries, such as fashion, decor, and movie production are also possible.

“We are trying to educate the design and commercial world that there are endless applications in digital. Over the years we have been able to bring a more affordable solution to those interested in wallcoverings,” says Aaron Kirsch, president, Astek Inc. Wallcoverings are a growing application in the large format digital print segment.

Van Nuys, CA-based Astek is a 20-employee company that deals in custom designs and prints catering to the creative and commercial industry along with feature film and TV. Their work is featured in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA, InStyle magazine, many television shows including Mad Men and Desperate Housewives, and films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Astek’s most recent work includes interiors for a boutique hotel.

Leading the Pack
Astek is currently one of the nation’s leading specialty wallcovering providers. “We are unique in this market niche because we offer customers innovative wallpaper options. Our company is tailored to fit our customers’ needs. In recent years we focused our efforts and expanded into custom printing within the entertainment industry, retail chains, commercial companies, and top design firms,” explains Kirsch.

While they also produce projects on material such as Plexiglas sheets for backlit displays, 50 percent of the printing business is digital wallcoverings.

Since its start in 1980, Astek continues to expand its design capabilities and advance printing abilities with eco-friendly UV digital printers. Astek also distributes many wallpaper brands including Asian Naturals and Marburg wallcoverings.

The company’s expertise helps make custom wallcoverings an affordable option for customers and a profitable one for Astek. A diverse group of customers use original artwork to produce truly unique wallcoverings with digital print. “We work with artists, designers, corporations—individuals who want their own personal stamp on interiors,” states Kirsch.

Swanky Space
Astek recently completed high-style wallcoverings for the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, CA. Built in 1939, the hotel was designed by William E. Forster in the Art Deco style of streamline moderne. A late branch of the Art Deco design palette, this architectural style emphasizes curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements. Newly equipped with modern amenities, the hotel reopened in June 2009, when Tehmina Adaya took over the property from her late father.

Michelle Hodan, director of PR/marketing, Hotel Shangri-La, says “the hotel is an iconic gem. We respected the original architecture and updated it with grace and forward vision. We feel the result proves timeless.”

Part of the Hotel Shangri-La’s renovation included custom, digitally printed wallcoverings. Standard consumer wallpaper could not accomplish the hotel staff’s initial vision.

“We wanted to purpose it as art as opposed to wallpaper. Each wall is individually measured so each piece is unique and original. The wallpaper is the art,” explains Hodan. The wallcoverings adorn multiple areas throughout the hotel including the suites, lobby, restaurant, and penthouse bar.

DCA Style, based in Venice, CA, designed the wallpaper. The company is a new co-venture founded by artists Delia Cabral and Cynthia Wylie, which offers sophisticated and fresh interior dŽcor products such as wallpaper, tile, paint, and textiles.

Cabral is responsible for designing mylar murals in the hotel’s suites with a theme of vintage menswear fabrics, including an Italian pinstripe in the lobby, a houndstooth pattern for the restaurant, and a plaid for the bar. She is also responsible for the installation.

Digital printing made this custom application much more cost effective for the customer. “This allowed the hotel to use exclusive images and art that would have been cost prohibitive had we gone the traditional way of commissioning an artist to paint a full scale mural,” shares Cabral. Although, a mural painting is displayed in the old Art Deco Hollywood style by Alejandro Gehry and incorporates key people from the history of the hotel as well as cultural icons.

The goal was to create something “using vintage, one of a kind materials that comply to Santa Monica’s stringent code requirements. We are very happy with the look and feel of the wallcoverings,” Cabral adds.

Hip and Healthy
Adaya revamped the historic hotel with eco-friendliness top of mind. Hotel Shangri-La is outfitted with reduced energy fixtures such as double-layered windows and compact fluorescent lighting, recycled bath product packaging, natural non-toxic cleaners, and a solar-heated pool.

The UV printing technology used by Astek to create the wallcoverings is another environmentally friendly initiative contributing to the hotel management’s “green” vision.

Astek prints projects like this one on either a Rho 320R roll-to-roll, Rho 800 flatbed, or Rho 600 Pictor flatbed UV inkjet printer from Durst Image Technology US LLC. The printers utilize Durst’s Quadro Array printhead technology and an environmentally friendly UV ink set.

“With the Durst printers, we offer a true eco-friendly product with zero volatile organic compounds,” says Kirsch. The printers allow Astek to produce custom murals, wallpaper, backlit projects, and other work up to 120 inches wide on almost any substrate.

The Hotel Shangri-La wallcoverings are digitally printed on a range of different material—from commercial grade wallcovering substrates to foils, adding to the high-end property’s swanky interior scapes. Astek’s media of choice for printing wallcoverings is DreamScape. “We love DreamScape for their consistency and quality,” says Kirsch.

Any wallcovering—digitally printed or consumer interior grade—is subject to extra wear and tear in a retail- or hospitality-type venue. The hotel is pleased with how the currently installed wallcoverings are holding up, despite the environment. “The wallcoverings need constant maintenance, however, they are manageable considering the traffic,” notes Hodan.

Walls with Style
Astek was responsible for bringing another DCA Style project to life. A bold, hip living room features a modern 69 Leg Table by Andrew Riiska set off by a blue, digitally printed wallcovering called Aqua Blossom, designed by Cynthia Wylie.

Wiley describes her designs as “organic without being flowery, bold without being busy, orderly without being boring, fresh, and fully flowered out.” She adds, “I spent a lot of time on these designs. But when I saw them on the walls, I realized I created something pleasing.”

Establishments like Hotel Shangri-La and artisans from DCA Style are prime customers for the kind of unique, creative wallcoverings that Astek is able to digitally print. "Digital wallpaper enables us to recreate a design under tight deadlines and quickly make adjustments to match the designer’s vision perfectly. It provides a lot of flexibility at a lower cost," notes Jeremy Azzari, Webmaster/designer, Astek.  

Jan2010, Digital Output

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