Studio Visit: Flat Vernacular


Brooklyn wallpaper studio Flat Vernacular has garnered serious attention for its classic wallpaper patterns. On closer inspection, they reveal thousands of hand-applied children’s stickers in zany forms – including pretzels, sharks and donuts, to name a few. Its use of vibrant colours and original application techniques makes it one of the most exciting decorative outfits to hit the wall-covering scene. Our content partner Stylus visited the studio in Brooklyn.

Flat Vernacular

Flat Vernacular is the brainchild of painter and printmaker Payton Turner and sculptor and embroiderer Brian Kaspr. The couple met in art school at The Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. They founded Flat Vernacular in 2010, making hand-printed and hand-stickered wallpaper from their Brooklyn studio.

Each wallpaper design begins as an intricately hand-drawn sketch or watercolour painting, and is then produced using one of two distinct techniques: either by silk-screen printing, or by applying purchased children’s stickers by hand.

For the sticker wallpaper application, each design is uniquely customised for the client, and each sticker is individually hand-applied by Payton to create a sophisticated motif. The juxtaposition of these children’s stickers with elegant motifs is thrilling to see up close. Due to the intensive labour involved, each stickered roll takes approximately 40 hours to create, and costs between $1,000 to $2,000 (£631 to £1,262).

Flat Vernacular

Shortly after starting Flat Vernacular, Payton and Brian decided to expand beyond the time-consuming and expensive hand-stickered wallpapers into printed wallpapers, in part to be more accessible to a broader range of customers. For the printed wallpapers, Flat Vernacular uses a modern update of the traditional silk-screening process, and Brian notes that they try to use the computer as little as possible.

'The biggest difference between our papers and digitally produced mass-market wallpapers is the quality and charm. Hand-printed paper catches the light in a totally different way, and the paper has a much deeper, more saturated colour. We’re proud to continue the long tradition of printmaking, and we think it’s really important to strive for innovation in materials and subject matter, rather than technique. The advancements in materials, inks, and powders are what’s really exciting,' says Brian Kaspr.

Flat Vernacular
In creating their printed wallpapers, Brian and Payton do use the computer to generate clear plastic positives for each colour of every new design. The positives are then used to burn screens and, in turn, create stencils for the application of the ink to the paper. This process is painstakingly repeated as each colour of ink is individually applied, taking several hours to complete. Flat Vernacular most often prints on a coated paper, but also prints on cotton, Mylar, vinyl, and metal foils.

The couple draw inspiration from traditional French and English wallpapers, and Brian notes that he has also been influenced by Spanish wallpaper house Tres Tintas. For their vibrant, and often neon-toned colour palette, Brian takes inspiration from a variety of sources, and mentions his admiration for British design firm Kapitza. Payton spent a semester in Paris and says: “The decorative arts are accorded such a high level of respect there, and that got me thinking about a career after school.”
'We’re really trying to change the offerings available in wallpaper, and change people’s perceptions of how wallpaper can change a space and act as art on your walls. We hope to change any pre-conceived notions of wallpaper as staid and reserved for old ladies. It’s interesting and fun, and we hope that what we make sings to somebody. It’s exciting, and scary, to think that we’re contributing to a part of the contemporary dialogue of American design,' says Brian.
Flat Vernacular
In 2012, Flat Vernacular is expanding into working with restaurants and hotels to create customised wallpaper, as well as moving into textiles and paper goods. Recently, the studio created personalised wallpaper for the newly opened restaurant Alison 18 in New York City.

Payton and Brian’s foray into paper is a natural evolution, and began with the design for their own wedding invitations in Autumn 2011. While Flat Vernacular’s wallpaper is not specifically geared towards children, it is certainly kid-friendly, and Flat Vernacular has partnered with New York-based kids line Kico Kids to sell its signature printed pattern, Too Much Stuff.

Brian adds: 'We’re evolving with the most obvious steps, like textiles, but we’re interested in where else we can put pattern. Can we put it on a bicycle? We’re interested in exploring its uses and pushing its boundaries even more. Stickers are just a starting point for us, a first step.'
This story was produced by Decorex Content Partner