November 11, 2015
Koroseal partners with big-name designers to add glamorous style to a once-prosaic interior product segment.
Extruded polymer might not sound like the perfect tool for interior-design elegance and seductiveness. But a unique and long-running set of partnerships with artists and designers have created a continuing success for Ohio-based Koroseal Interior Products, making it a go-to wall covering source for the hospitality industry.
The company’s first “designer” products were launched in the 1990s, after our own founding partner Art Libera introduced San Francisco mural artists Mark Evans and Charley Brown to the company. Mark and Charley were making their own wallcovering products elsewhere using Koroseal’s ground materials. About the same time, Koroseal added designs from Chicago-based Maya Romanoff, famous for its own hand-painted surfacing materials, and marketed both lines under a new label, Koroseal Studios.
“We thought there might be a way we could take a completely different point of view from the design industry,” recalls Sally Curtis, now vice president of design and development for Koroseal. “To be honest, we originally thought it was going to be a very niche-y and very boutique-y business. We thought we’d get a ton of interest, but we’d just sell a few yards of it.”
Koroseal, a private company, doesn’t disclose financial results, but Sally allows that it’s become a major part of the business – “especially when hospitality is rocking,” she says, as it is currently amid a wave of new hotel and resort construction and renovation around the world. The company’s full roster includes a number of Design Commerce Agency clients and manufacturing partners.
Evans & Brown remains a mainstay for Koroseal, with textures and treatments that “were completely new when they came on the scene.” Their “Treasure” design (shown in extreme close-up above) came about while pounding nail brads into a board, and sells extremely well. “Tiburon Shagreen,” derived from a manta ray skin they sent to Ohio, became another strong seller, along with Tiburon Ray, which offers a smoother version of the same type of texture.
More recent additions to the collection by Los Angeles designer Tracey Reinberg are based on digital designs – “textures that previously existed nowhere but a designer’s imagination,” Sally says. “They don’t look like anything else out there.”
The Koroseal line-up also includes designers Roger Thomas, Sondra Alexander and the late Anya Larkin. Alpha Workshops, the New York non-profit that trains HIV-positive individuals for design-industry roles, has also contributed designs to the collection.
Sally says the company has been choosy over the years about adding new designers to the roster. “I’m usually looking for a designer with a specific point of view, so if one of our designers is already hitting a category, I’m not looking to add anything to compete with that.”
Once identified, some of the designs are not easy to translate to the medium. “Often the idea is right and the scale is wrong.” Or, if the scale is right, the manufacturing can be challenging. “My job is to explore the artists’ work and see their point of view, and then go back to the plant floor and sometimes push them to do things a little bit differently,” Sally says. “I have to sell it in and convince the team to make it happen on the floor, to get the right inks and the systems in place, and to convince the technical people the plant won’t blow up if we do something different.”
So far, the only thing blowing up is sales.