Business Entrepreneur SEEN Profiles

Detroit Wallpaper Co.

August 1, 2016

Covering your unique design challenges.

By Matt Totsky | Photography by Brett Mountain

Andi Kubacki and his business partner, Josh Young, are out to smash the design stereotypes and stigmas that come with wallpaper.

“People remember what used to cover the walls in their grandma’s house,” Kubacki says. “I’m here to tell you that our industry — and our company specifically — has moved past shiny foil wallpaper adorned with crushed velvet doilies.”

Kubacki and Young started Detroit Wallpaper Co. in Ferndale in 2004. And over the years, their business plan has continued to evolve.

“We started out doing wallpaper reproductions for stuff that’s long been out of print,” Kubacki says. “Our clients would come to us with a scrap of old wallpaper, and we’d use it to recreate the pattern or as inspiration for a new project. But then, the new projects started to take over.

“People are coming back to wallpaper in general,” he says. “Our first trade show was in the spring of 2013 and, a year later, it seemed like the script was flipped 180 degrees and people started to seek us out. We now have over 100 patterns available with a 156-color palette for customizing them.”

Detroit Wallpaper Co.’s products are graphic and illustrative

and come across more like modern art instead of something to slap on the bathroom wall or in a child’s nursery. This mentality has enabled Kubacki and his team to cater to a very art-driven crowd.

“This works great for us because we have no desire to compete with the large wallpaper manufacturers,” he says.

Kubacki is quick to point out that people are using wallpaper to color block on a feature wall, instead of covering all four walls.

“These are the types of challenges that get us excited,” he says. “Our products are now being used as more of an accent or punctuation as opposed to large, sprawling backgrounds that are responsible for setting the stage for an entire room.”

Kubacki is very hands-on and digitally does all of the design, drawing, editing and sourcing of ideas for his company’s products. Young is more front of the house and nurtures the solid business relationships the pair have developed over the years.

“Josh and I bounce ideas around about what needs to be in the collection and then I go off and create them,” Kubacki says. “I love the fact that I get to be artistic in my job because I started out my career as a mechanical engineer.”

The company also collaborates with established brands, artists and designers to bring their work to life in wallpaper form.

“One of our collections is based on the work Tyree Guyton has done at the Heidelberg Project,” Kubacki says. “Tyree didn’t design the actual patterns, but instead, we have an agreement with him to create designs that are representative of his work. This is an amazing way to collaborate with a significant artist and do some profit sharing as well.”

Some of the other brands Detroit Wallpaper Co. collaborates with on a regular basis include Pewabic Pottery, Mirth Studio and Victoria Larson. The company also offers a collection of high-quality rugs based on their wallpaper patterns.

Detroit Wallpaper Co. has also built a strong reputation with interior designers, not just locally, but all over the country and internationally.

“We’ve shipped stuff to Australia, Central America and Europe,” Kubacki says. “The Prince of Qatar has ordered our products. That’s pretty cool.”

Locally, Detroit Wallpaper Co. does a lot of corporate work for offices, hotels, casinos and museums.

“We approach these projects as if they were art installations,” Kubacki explains. “These ideas can be anything from cityscapes and vintage photos to old maps, collages and product placements.”

Although based in Ferndale, Kubacki and the entire team at Detroit Wallpaper Co. are proud to be a part of what they see as a strong emerging local art scene.

“Detroit is a center of creativity now and is getting a lot of national attention,” he says. “This has inspired creatives to move here from other cities like Brooklyn. They see this as a place where it’s easier to make a living, and it’s more affordable, too. There is a camaraderie here and everyone wants to see their peers succeed.”

It’s clear that this recent art movement has inspired Kubacki. “There is a spirt that together we can make this work, whether you’re a designer, furniture maker, textiles manufacturer or someone who works in a smith shop,” he says. “The ingenuity and creativity I’ve seen are amazing.

“Detroit is home to a lot of problem solvers. We take what we have to work with and then make it happen. It’s exciting to be a part of that.”  NS

Detroit Wallpaper Co.
530 Livernois St., Ferndale
(877) 544-1054

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