Wrapping on the Walls

Three sign and print companies demonstrate vinyl’s versatility in creating unique interiors.
The renovated Old Chicago Main Post Office in Chicago received wallcoverings fabricated and installed by ER2 Image Group (Hanover Park, IL).

Office-building walls, school hallways and airport lobbies are just three common interiors in public spaces, prime locations all for branding of any kind. Three shops recently shared projects involving these three settings, ranging from the repurposed main post office for the Windy City, to a private university in Idaho, to the exclusive American Express Centurion Lounge in Charlotte’s airport.

FRANKING PRIVILEGE

The Old Chicago Main Post Office, a nine-story building on West Van Buren in downtown Chicago, is being renovated into offices for PepsiCo, Uber and others by architectural giant Gensler (Chicago). In an effort to retain a sense of the Art Deco building’s original purpose, designers created postal-themed wallcoverings for some of the hallways. Gensler awarded the honor to one of its graphics providers, ER2 Image Group (Hanover Park, IL) to deliver the project. Matt Blackmar, director of applied surfaces at ER2, has worked in the sign industry since he was a teenager, joining ER2 as a graphic designer before making the jump to his current position. His expertise in the field helped Gensler select ER2. 

Gensler provided the design for the project. The Old Post Office would be made over with several eye-catching displays, including a wall of postage stamps. “When projects of this magnitude kick off, we perform an extensive, interactive survey allowing the design team to dial in on the design intent,” Blackmar said. The black-and-white stamps appear multilayered on the wall and seem to pop out when you look at them. “For the postcard wall, the idea of dimension was mentioned, and we suggested using wood to emphasize the vintage look of the digital postcards,” he added. Three different thickness were used: ¼, 3/8 and ½ in.

The renovated Old Chicago Main Post Office in Chicago received wallcoverings fabricated and installed by ER2 Image Group (Hanover Park, IL).
The renovated Old Chicago Main Post Office in Chicago received wallcoverings fabricated and installed by ER2 Image Group (Hanover Park, IL).

To bring out the metallic elements on the stamps, ER2 used their HP Latex 3600 to print on Dreamscape Satara Steel, an eco-friendly vinyl product, which resulted in a more subtle, yet striking effect. The vinyl shines on the wall but does not appear flashy or over-the-top. Traveling through the office on the elevators will allow one to view the hints of metallic shine. ER2 also printed Dreamscape’s Satara Pearl (for the zip code wall) and Nolar Sailcloth (for the postcard wall). No laminates were required. The ongoing, phased installation has been handled by ER2 alone, led by Michal Mieczkowski. “For the postcard wall, we applied custom wallpaper and secured the wood prints over top. We were able to complete everything within a week’s time or so,” Blackmar said. Along with the vinyl, ER2 has installed multiple 3-in.-thick SEG frames, fabric prints and sound-absorbing acoustic tiles. The sizes range from 149 x 90 in. to 341 x 96 in. 

Blackmar said he values Dreamscape’s eco-friendly practices: “We are focused on sustainability and the possibility to incorporate materials that are friendly to the environment today and years to come.”

HALL BOUNCE-PASS

The start of a new school year (usually!) signifies a great beginning for students, parents and faculty alike. Every fall, schools are repainted and redecorated with the hopes of lasting until summer break. For Northwest Nazarene University (NNU; Nampa, ID), sprucing up their commons’ hall would require more effort than a fresh coat of paint. In fact, it would culminate a decade of planning, demolition and construction of the new NNU Conrad Commons, which features a spectacular hallway graphic.

The relationship between NNU and Advanced Sign (Meridian, ID) started in 2011. Kurt Celmer, business development manager for Advanced Sign, established their connection with a smaller project: After a visit to the university’s Marketing and Media Department and a request for a project, Advanced Sign was tasked with creating two small banners for the school’s Engineering Department to bring to a NASA educational exchange in Florida. When the time came to create the massive vinyl wallcovering for commons hallway, NNU knew they could rely on Advanced Sign.

The design was produced and prepared by the Assistant Athletic Director Craig Stensgaard. “He’s a pretty solid designer by his own right, so I would imagine this could have been his first and final design,” Celmer said. Advanced put their Roland VersaEXPRESS RF-640 large-format inkjet printer and VersaUV LEJ-640FT flatbed printer to work, using eco-solvent ink on this project. The shop went with 3M Envision Print Wrap LX480Cv3 conformable film, given the cinder-block surface, and 3M 8519 Scotchcal Luster Overlaminate, applied by their SEAL 62 Pro D thermal laminator.

Advanced Sign (Meridian, ID) produced and installed this vinyl project for Northwest Nazarene University.
Advanced Sign (Meridian, ID) produced and installed this vinyl project for Northwest Nazarene University.

The project was installed by a team of two with vinyl wrap experience. “It took them several hours – 3/4 of the day if I remember correctly – to match the panels up, attach the vinyl to the cinder block with the appropriate squeegees and wrap tools, then heat and mold the vinyl into the blocks and mortar,” Celmer said. “I think the only challenge for them was the door and the student athletes going in and out of the locker rooms in the hallway." The graphics depict Bible verses amid historical team photos in shades of gray, with full-color Nighthawks women’s basketball splashes to accent the space, and have spurred additional projects for Advanced Sign: multiple wraps for coaches’ offices and the coaches’ common area.

Looking to the future, Celmer predicts vinyl interior décor projects to remain “hands on,” but in a more efficient manner. “I know the advancement of flatbed printing is evolving every day,” he said. “I could ultimately see an articulating printer that could move around three dimensional shapes to print high-quality graphics.” 

REPRINTING THE REPRINT

When it comes to attempting perfection, mistakes and accidents are bound to happen. For Decor Print (Fort Mill, SC), printing the mural designed with fine artist Amanda Moody for American Express’ The Centurion Lounge at Charlotte (NC) Douglas International Airport was tough. The first print vanished. Commercial installers at the airport had misplaced the box. The second edition of the print was also plagued by misfortune. The curing temperature on the printer was set too low, and installers’ metal tools scratched the graphics. However, the third and final version was printed and installed flawlessly.

The design of the mural was commissioned after American Express found Moody through Instagram. “They wanted something that was nature-inspired,” Moody said, “something that would be peaceful to calm travelers.” The 370 x 135-in. mural features a whimsical display of ocean blues, gusts of white wind and splashes of dim orange. The piece is displayed across eight different panels. After crafting the piece on gesso cradled wood board with alcohol inks, Moody photographed the painting. The photos were then sent to Dee Dee Davis, owner of Decor Print. Davis employed Adobe Photoshop to enhance the blues to the classic American Express shade and then expanded the image. The shop printed the entire piece using its HP Latex 360 and HP Latex Inks. She chose Vescom Pearl Smooth (Type II) commercial wallpaper to bring out the shimmer that you see when walking by the mural, and “because it is heavier and easier to clean, meets flammability requirements, etc.,” Davis said. 

Decor Print (Fort Mill, SC) and fine artist Amanda Moody battled misfortune but wound up making this striking mural for American Express’ The Centurion Lounge at Charlotte (NC) Douglas International Airport.
Decor Print (Fort Mill, SC) and fine artist Amanda Moody battled misfortune but wound up making this striking mural for American Express’ The Centurion Lounge at Charlotte (NC) Douglas International Airport.

After the issues with the first two, the third print of the mural was finally ready for installation. Davis, Moody and commercial wallpaper installers took care of the project. With a regular upkeep of a soft cloth to dust, the project is expected to last around 10 years. “I love Amanda’s artwork and the lounge interior designers did a fantastic job with the furniture and finishes in the creation of the lounge,” Davis said. 

From exclusive fine art to public buildings and private schools, vinyl wallcoverings wrap up nicely.

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