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The unmistakable design and spirit of the Flavor Paper brand stem from a history that precedes the business itself. A man known only as Ted created his first wallpaper designs in the 1970s. Three decades later, Jon Sherman rescued Ted’s hand-screening equipment as it was on its way to the scrapyard, and opened up the first Flavor Lab in New Orleans in 2003.
“Ted’s original designs were actually very contemporary in pattern and scale—classic geometrics and florals that have survived centuries,” Sherman says. “We just refreshed the color palettes to give them a modern update.”
Sherman and his team did extensive research to understand the history of those original designs, uncovering artists and printmakers from around the world that Ted had taken ideas from. The Flavor Paper legacy, it would seem, is one of history reassembled.
Design elements in Flavor Paper’s 4-story, 15,800-square-foot headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. shed light on just how well the pieces are holding together.
Skylab Architecture spent seven months designing the original space, once a gas station, auto repair and parking garage built in 1931. The aging building was “an environmental mess,” Sherman recalls, filled with “graveyards of cars,” abandoned underground gas storage tanks and a hand-operated car lift in hazardous disrepair. The adapted building now includes a production floor, office space, a showroom and Sherman’s own dazzling penthouse apartment. It opened in 2010 to much fanfare, winning accolades from the A&D press and the hearts of designers worldwide.
On first glance, much of the space looks the same today as it did in 2010. Two re-engineered versions of Ted’s original screen printing tables operate on the ground floor; signature brushed aluminum display cases rotate in the showroom; and the vibrant Sakura wallpaper and Light Bright neon installation lights up the main stairwell.
But the company is growing, and as business evolves to match demand so does the space itself. The once-white production floor is now riddled with paint splatters, perhaps one day becoming worthy of a print itself. The team re-engineered one of the hand-screening tables with a counterweight, which now requires half the manpower to operate. Open storage layouts that Sherman thought “wouldn’t be filled for years” house countless yards of materials and digital printing machines that churn out new product around the clock.
“Particularly as our digital team is growing, our computing power has had to be increased,” he explains. “At first our office was just barren—like these three little laptops and nothing else. Now it’s full.”
The NYC team has grown from three to nine full-time employees. When asked what the company culture is like, a word and a long pause: “Casual,” Sherman says. That’s it.
“We’re kind of working and designing in our own way. The whole thing here is a rounded approach.” Roundness, it so happens, is the central motif of the Flavor Paper showroom, inspired by one of Ted’s original 1970s patterns called Cycloid.
Circles abound, from poured terrazzo inlays to the aligned curves of the couches and ceilings, which give the illusion of a pattern repeat. In the past three years, the space has gone from all clean-line and glitz to something a bit more homey and workable.
“Downstairs it’s all white and silver, like a lab, but up here it’s warmer, cozier, with pops of color in the products themselves,” says Sherman. “We want the products to shine, but if it’s too stark things really glare out at you.”