Bespoke Wallpaper Factory at 216 Pacific. Worth a visit. Bring the kids... but no touching.
Photo by Boone Speed
If you’ve walked by the mysterious black building with neon lights and accents on Pacific Street, between Court and Smith, and viewed up into the fanciful designs tucked here and there, or down into the glass-picture viewing hole in the sidewalk, you’ve probably wondered, what is this place?
Perhaps you peeped into the floor-to-ceiling windows to see the very long machine tables inside, and thought, what are they making?
This is Flavor Paper, the hand-screened, custom-making wallpaper design firm of Jon Sherman, a renaissance man who relocated his operation here from New Orleans back in May 2010.
Walking into Flavor Paper is a thrill, a museum-like visual tour. Take either the stairway or the elevator to the second-floor lobby, where large racks display Flavor Paper’s designs, and curving cream couches are straight from an architectural digest. The bathroom itself is a work of art, with silver toilets and fixtures, and a wall papered with a white, black and purple flower design.
Sherman invites people to visit.
“Wallpaper takes seeing to experience,” Sherman says. Flavor Paper has 52 standard patterns.The custom-designed wall papers are shipped all over the world.
When I go to interview Sherman, he’s preparing for a fire drill that will take place the next morning, right around the time he’ll have a full shop of models, designers and film crew members milling about.
All in a day’s work for Flavor Paper, a small firm of six that’s made bespoke, house-designed wallpaper for celebrities including John Legend, Dave Navarro, Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Courtney Cox, and companies including the W Hotels, Nike, Microsoft, eBay, Google, Bergdoff Goodman, Steven Madden, and the list goes on. Flavor Paper’s wall art is bold, employing crazy colors and metallics, and features designs that are sometimes out there—“Sharp Descent,” features knives and sharp objects seeming to float down the paper (a design that’s covering a high-powered female attorney’s bedroom in San Francisco); another features a battle between a squid and a whale.
Prices start at $450 for a 10-foot-by-10-foot wall. Colors can be interchanged for no extra charge, all the printing is done at the Pacific Street location, the dyes are PVC-free, and scraps go to local schools.
“We keep it as clean and green as we can,” Sherman says.
Flavor Paper designed a scratch and sniff wall covering, Cherry Forever, that’s displayed in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt museum, along with the firm’s City Park design, which features a large fire hydrant, rats, pigeons and parking meters, designed by Williamsburg artist Dan Funderburgh.
Jon Sherman and his dog look out their glass living room wall.
Recently, Flavor Paper launched a digital and fabric design and printing arm, greatly increasing the amount of choice for customers. One nice digital print I noticed looks like a color-work, blurry bright green-and-cream up close. Step back, and you see that it’s a picture of trees.
Aside from the papers, the building itself is a work of art.
Mirrors are a common theme throughout, as are periscopes—look into one mirrored ceiling and see what’s happening three blocks away; look into another and see the Manhattan skyline. There are a couple of private apartments in the building, including Sherman’s spectacular bachelor pad, which he was kind enough to lead me through.
The design guru’s abode blew me away… the bedroom features thick fake-fur in beige covering the wall and floors. Other rooms feature gold and silver walls and ceilings, lots of mirrors and vinyl, and closets and storage that magically open and close into flat surfaces. The living room has a wall-size window that, when Sherman pushes a button, slowly opens the room to the outdoors.
Sherman is a jack of many trades, and tried out several careers across the United States, in San Francisco and Chicago, as a paralegal, a DJ and a chef, before landing on custom-made wallpaper. Turns out he was buying and selling companies and doing real estate equity in Miami when he decided to re-do one of the properties he was involved with, and caught the interior design bug.
His client/friend tipped him off to a wallpaper company that had gone out of business in Oregon and was dumping its machine and supplies. The Oregon firm’s caretaker gave Sherman 24 hours to retrieve the stuff before it went to the dump.
Sherman flew out the next day, bought the equipment, loaded it onto a truck and drove it out to New Orleans.
It was a whim, of sorts. “We never knew if we’d make a sheet of wallpaper,” Sherman said.
That was 2003. Now he’s the sole owner of a wall design powerhouse.
“It’s my dream-nightmare, depending on what day of the week you ask me,” Sherman says. He works at least 15 hours a day, seven days a week, he says.
Flavor Paper was on the cutting edge of a wall design movement. When the company started back in 2004, it was one of three custom wall-paper firms working in the design realm, Sherman says. Now, there are 72 such companies.
“We helped with that,” Sherman says. “We didn’t know any of the rules, so we broke them all.”
Flavor Paper has survived a series of disasters. In addition to Hurricane Katrina, the former New Orleans firm has seen a train wreck, a flood and a fire.
Sherman’s first client was Lenny Kravitz, back in 2004. Flavor Paper designed covering’s for the musician’s house (Now, Kravitz designs for Flavor Paper). When the paper was on the table, ready to print, the night before Sherman’s birthday, the factory room caught on fire, and burned to the ground. The place was hosed down, and Sherman lost his heater (in paper-printing, Sherman says, the heater, which slowly dries the paint onto the paper, is “the brains of the operation.” He also calls his heater, “my nemesis.”)
When Katrina hit, miraculously, Flavor Paper, located in the Ninth Ward, was not destroyed. There was about an inch of water in the factory, Sherman said, while 300 yards away, the water was 25 feet deep. Both his home and the factory were on hills.
By that time, most of Sherman’s clients were in New York. He started looking at buildings in South Brooklyn. He needed a large space for the wall-paper machines. After back-and-forth with a location on Atlantic, Sherman pounced on 216 Pacific, which had a garage and beer distributor on the bottom floor.
Right now, the design factory is closed on weekends, but Sherman says he may open longer hours so South Brooklynites can come take a peek.
“More and more people are figuring out that we’re here,” Sherman says. “We like that.”