Make Home Your Own
Digital Print in the Home Decor Space
By Melissa Donovan
As we learn more about the innovation of digital output, it is important to realize the effect it continues to have on small businesses hoping to offer personalized, one-off products to customers. Particularly in the scope of textiles, a widespread community of craftsmen, sewers, designers, and printers are appearing.
Home décor is one sector experiencing a burst in interest. Specialty shops such as one-of-a-kind gift stores and eclectic Web sites are now run by entrepreneurial designers. They imagine a fabric pattern for a chair, wallcovering, tablecloth, napkin, or shower curtain and either print a limited run on an in house device or outsource to a provider versed in the art of textile printing. These runs are small, to cater to minimal orders and eliminate storage space; but are also able to be printed on demand if requests suddenly heighten.
Digital print expands the industry by welcoming new business owners and sharing knowledge, as the following print providers and retailers did with us below.
Astek Inc., of Van Nuys, CA, targets the Hollywood set with its wallpaper fabric printing. It’s done such high-profile work for the television show Extreme Makeover Home Edition and pop singer Rihanna’s CA property. Using four Durst Image Technology US LLC printers, Astek is able to handle quick turnarounds, which according to Aaron Kirsch, president/owner, Astek, sometimes means in one day. He relies on a design staff of ten to keep up with the demand for new, innovative wallcovering patterns. For media, much of it is natural materials, imported linens, and silks from Asia. Fisher Textiles Inc. is one of the company’s U.S. vendors and it also relies on Verseidag seemee US Inc. for fabrics with a gold and silver base.
While many of Hollywood’s starlets visit Astek to personalize their multi-million dollar homes, a chunk of its business also gravitates toward creating realistic interior set designs for feature films. For the recent Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer movie, Astek worked closely with the film’s art director to recreate several rooms in the Moody household. The entire project was a few thousand square feet of wallcovering material, with a quick turnaround. In Judy’s room, Fisher Textiles’ canvas media was used. Another project involved a television set, with Astek printing on silk imported from Asia for Good Christian Belles.
Whether it’s working directly with a client or through an outsourced designer acting as a middleman, Kirsch says they recognize the appeal in digitally printing fabric. This is true for a number of reasons, as digital caters to printing less square footage for a small area—such as an accent wall. It is cost-effective for television and film sets where the graphic isn’t permanent but must be high quality in appearance. It also allows the end user to place a “personal stamp” on a project because a short run is economically feasible. As Kirsch says, “digital really gives the customer exactly what they want in a quick timeframe.”
In 2005, Renee Pedro became a homeowner and the investment inspired her to start her own online retail business, Crash Pad Designs. “I believe coming home should make you smile and I wanted to fill my home with fun, interesting, and eco-friendly fabrics. When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to create my own line of mid-century inspired, eco-friendly fabrics,” explains Pedro, owner/designer, Crash Pad.
In her search for finding a printer to output her designs, Pedro came across Fabric on Demand and was one of the company’s first customers. Offering a Web-based storefront, the print provider specializes in digitally printed fabrics, with offices in Northern CA and printing and shipping facilities in Chester, NC. At its inception, the company targeted consumers such as quilters and home sewers. Today its customer base is split widely across a number of custom segments including home sewers and small- to medium-sized businesses such as Crash Pad.
Rysa Pitner, co-founder, Fabric on Demand, was shocked at how quickly the client base grew. Once the site went live in 2009, they had its first customer in less than 24 hours. The company relies on proprietary printing technology in its NC facility to create high-quality output. Popular fabrics used in the home décor space, according to Pitner, include polyesters for their durability and reproduction quality, cotton linen, box linen, micro suede, and cotton duck.
A primary benefit of digital print is that it is cleaner and safer compared to other technologies. Fabrics printed with water-based ink make Crash Pad’s many products—napkins, tea towels, placemats, and lighting fixtures—ideal for family-friendly spaces. “‘Green’ doesn’t have to be beige anymore thanks to the digital process,” shares Pedro.
While Pedro sews, designs, and constructs everything in house, she happily relies on Fabric on Demand for printing, adding that the services the company offers makes the custom design process much more effective for her business. Pitner agrees. “Digital provides consumers with the opportunity to take a blank canvas and customize their life. The spectrum is limitless.”
Recently, Crash Pad designed custom baby blankets for multiple customers. Pedro consulted with parents on themes and colors then had them printed. Samples were quickly created for the customers to approve the fabric before the entire blanket was printed and made. According to Pedro, digital also substantially reduces proofing time. With the baby blanket venture a success, Crash Pad will soon be branching out to retro shower curtains and wallpaper with the help of Fabric on Demand.
Garden Party Variety
Rosablue, based in Cheltenham, England, was founded eight years ago by Luca Menato and his partner Penelope. Both held experience in the creative sector, with Luca a marketing executive and Penelope a seamstress and product designer. The fabric design and giftware workshop also operates a limited short-run digital cotton printing and prototyping service for gift and homeware items referred to as The Fabric Press.
Using a Mimaki USA, Inc. printer in house, the company creates door stops, aprons, director chair slings, cushions, and shopping bags. All of the design, manufacture, and retail promotion is done by the Menatos and their small staff. “If you can do it yourself, digital is a unique way to put your stamp on personal spaces. Commercially, the costs are still a little too high unless you are a well known creative brand and can charge premium prices, but the opportunity to realize your ideas is a little miracle,” advises Luca Menato.
This past Summer, Rosablue was privately contracted with amending six previous patterns to a particular color palette for director chair slings used at a garden party. Using the Mimaki digital printer, the Menatos consulted with the client, provided online previews, and printed and manufactured within three weeks. Without digital, Luca Menato is adamant the project would have been costly and taken months of project management.
Located in Cape Town, South Africa, Imaterial Textile Printers CC celebrates 25 years in serving the textile industry. The company specializes in printing fabric for both the fashion and home décor markets using both screen and digital printing devices. For digital, it relies on printers from DuPont. Remo Gorlei, managing director, Imaterial, explains that digital offers more flexibility, excellent quality, and fast turnaround. For textiles whose main end use is household materials, the shop prints on both cotton and linen.
With a rich history in partnerships, the company recently teamed up with a ceramic design and manufacture company also located in South Africa. In conjunction with a trade showroom that plays host to high-end furnishing fabrics and wallcoverings, the ceramic company hopes to venture into its own range of local fabric designs. Imaterial was able to create small runs using the DuPont digital presses at a fraction of the cost.
A sample couch was recently nominated for The Most Beautiful Object in South Africa 2011 award, annually presented by Design Indaba. Imaterial’s position in the industry allowed them to leverage their knowledge and help a business partner segue into a new venture. The ceramic company is scheduled to produce 40 exclusive couches for resale.
Susan Sotkovsky and her husband Mark began Tole Tray LLC in 2008 as an online business. The Barnegat, NJ-based company is named after Sotkovsky’s collection of metal trays, coated in matte black and painted with intricate illustrations, popular in the 1700s, which are displayed as pieces of art.
Renovating a 1905 Victorian home in 2005, the Sotkovskys knew they wanted to keep the design aesthetic of the house’s one bathroom intact. This meant a beautiful shower curtain and matching window valance. After searching dozens of stores, Sotkovsky found a shower curtain, but no window valance. Her husband then found two placemats that matched the shower curtain and instead of continuing a fruitless search, they folded them over a curtain rod and created an instant window valance. After the experience, Sotkovsky realized there had to be a better way to decorate a bathroom.
“I wanted to do unique, bold designs inspired by vintage patterns in the bathroom and make decorating easier by offering matching window valances to complete the overall look. Many consumers may not have the thousands of dollars to totally renovate a bathroom from scratch, but if they had an inspiring shower curtain with a matching window valance, along with a fresh coat of paint, new towels, and a few unique accessories, they can create a space that’s all their own,” explains Sotkovsky.
With her revelation in mind, she researched digital fabric printing. Intrigued by the process, she contacted Screen Trans Development Corp. of Moonachie, NJ. The Sotkovskys were given a tour of the facility, a full run down of digital and its benefits, and took home fabric samples as considerations for both the shower curtains and window valances. They were sold.
Screen Trans utilizes a Mimaki JV4 wide format printer and the textiles used for the shower curtains are poly poplin and the valances polyester. “The fabric is quite durable, yet it has a satin feel to it, the colors print beautifully, and our completed products are machine washable,” adds Sotkovsky. The shower curtains are printed in wide format, with no seams, at 72x72 inches and matching window valances at 58x15 inches.
Speaking to the benefits of digital print, Sotkovsky agrees with her peers regarding its quick turnaround and print on demand capabilities and has only great hopes for its future especially in the home décor space.
“Currently the mindset with digital printing is producing custom work or a short run for fabric samples and prototypes. I would love to see digital fabric printing as a mainstay in manufacturing home décor products in the U.S. because we can produce a variety of beautifully designed products that people would be proud to purchase. By doing so, hopefully the cost of manufacturing a digitally printed product would somewhat decrease and become more affordable,” she concludes.
Your Room, Your Imagination
Many of the businesses profiled here began as the average consumer, searching for a home décor item that couldn’t be found. When they became frustrated, instead of succumbing to what was available, they made it. Thanks to digital and the print shops employing these printers, ideas become reality in the form of one-of-a-kind window curtains, placemats, tablecloths, chairs, wallpaper, and even shower curtains. Each company has a distinct story to share and together they weave a similar tale of quick turnaround, high-quality products they promote to customers.
Nov2011, Digital Output