When the Westin Hotel in New Orleans sought a wall installation to feature in their new lobby, designer Dina Evans of Moncur Design Associates Inc. reached out to us.
While they had a general idea for the design, they wanted to work with us to invent something unique, just for them. “They came to us looking for a circular pattern,” Design Assistant Melina Bartolomei explains. “Dina provided us with photos of coiled, concentric material as inspiration,” says Submaterial founder David Hamlin. “We responded with photos of some design options in the form of concentric circles of wool felt. During this exchange of images Dina noted the notched appearance of an unreleased wallcovering pattern, and we decided to explore it for her project.”
Being a completely custom job, we didn’t have any experience to draw on for building it. “We had never done this before, so determining how to execute it was a good challenge,” says Panel Studio Team Leader James Gannaway. At first, as we practiced configuring sections, we hand-notched each piece, which was slow work and we worried about time. That’s when James and his team recognized room for improvement. Why not quit hand-cutting the notches and just use differing heights of felt? They ended up using four heights, a stroke of genius that expedited the process substantially.
Since this 8’ x 22’ installation was too large to ship whole, our team determined a way to construct the pattern such that it could ship in pieces and then be seamlessly assembled on site. The result of all this design and engineering was six interlocking MDF-backed panels that can be installed in one day, providing a flawless felt wall with hypnotic dimensionality.
Over 175 pounds of felt later, and our solution-minded teams have achieved one of our most striking designs to date.
We are honored to collaborate with so many talented people through our industry partner, FilzFelt. Should you be interested in this installation or a similar project, please contact FilzFelt for further information.
Challenges are part of custom design, and a work element our teams embrace. When Submaterial’s East Coast Territory Manager, Catherine Pelletier, received a call from Daher Interior Design, just such a challenge surfaced. Daher’s designer, Virginia Seherr-Thoss, was working with a Bostonian couple seeking a fireplace surround for their weekend beach house. “Virginia saw a walnut panel on our website,” says Catherine, “and had the idea of using it on the entire fireplace as a focal point.”
The freestanding monumental fireplace was a rectangular column; our panels would wrap entirely around the sizable 10’ wide x 14’ tall x 2’ deep column, meeting a multi-angled, peaked ceiling. Not a problem. But there was one catch: the homeowners wanted it in time for their wedding, weeks away. Turnaround had to be quick. The scale of this project exceeded our previous experience, so we’d learn as we proceeded. “We’ve made panels like this before, but they were a lot smaller,” says Sheldon Allen, Wood Shop Team Lead.
First, we sourced the walnut. The job called for hundreds of pieces of wood, so we needed a substantial amount of quality walnut, fast! Hardwood long-grain we sourced locally. But those end-grain pieces needed to be larger than local sources could muster. So, we cast further afield. Thankfully, we found a massive walnut log in Colorado. Felled in Texas, rumor has it that Teddy Roosevelt was once photographed in front of that tree. “So, we got this huge tree,” says Sheldon. “We weren’t set up for dealing with something that size, but we borrowed a chainsaw from one of our employees and we did the mill work here.”
Because our crew wouldn’t be onsite to install the wrap it was critical that the panels not only fit together seamlessly but could be trimmed onsite by the client’s contractor for a perfect fit. We built it in long, thin, tongue-and-groove strips with mitered corner pieces. Everything arrived and was installed in time for the big event, and the results are absolutely stunning, if we do say so ourselves.
In Brooklyn, NY, there’s a condominium complex at 325 Kent, right across from the Domino Sugar Factory. The building is shaped like a square donut, a description their leasing office plays up in their own marketing. Within that building is a new Submaterial wall covering that we had a lot of fun creating and installing.
Leeser Architecture contacted us seeking a customized, full-scale wall covering based on our Odessa T-variant design, a sandwiched felt, tabbed in a random pattern. “It’s systematized randomness,” says Emily Howe, Director of Studio Operations. “It’s a variation of a wood panel design that we do.” Instead of wood, Leeser chose wool felt on a cork backing, excellent materials for abating noise in a shared space. We volleyed a few rounds of samples to our client before settling on the final layout and color. Then it was time to produce it.
First our team masterminded a way to produce an unsystematic pattern that could be made in quantity and safely shipped. “The design is supposed to look random but had to be reproducible on a large scale,” says Cristine Posner, Production Manager. Then, they designed two versions of a 6’ long by 18” wide tile that allowed the pieces to adjoin seamlessly during installation. The final puzzle piece was shipping the whole lot intelligently. “We designed the systematic random pattern so the tiles could be nested, face to face, for shipping, without the tabs butting up against one another. That was an interesting constraint,” says Cristine. “It was six crates of relatively heavy but delicate material.”
Our team of four traveled to NY to oversee the installation and to add the final tabs. “Our product went in the top floor, which has a community room, lounge space, and a gym,” says Cristine. “The building is shaped like a donut,” she laughs. “There’s a hole in it,” Emily agrees. Working in pairs they finished it in four days. The views, they tell us, were amazing.
The Submaterial design panel collection has evolved over many years. We’ve explored many forms and techniques, focusing on hand-work and the vibrant interplay of color and pattern.
Our studio has always emphasized natural materials such as wool felt, cork, leather, metal and wood. With great skill and craftsmanship we produce durable, one-of-a-kind wall panels that enhance any environment.
If interested in a custom Submaterial Panel, please contact us.
FilzFelt, one of our biggest suppliers of wool felt, directed the global Gensler architecture and design planning firm directly to us for a project. Gensler, in the midst of working on a Bank of America building in Jersey City, New Jersey, was looking for some intriguing, themed installations for five different floors.
After an initial exploration, marrying our products to their ideas, they chose two different designs- a modified version of our Odessa and the Diade.
For the Odessa design, Production Manager Cristine Posner explains, “they wanted a gradient of the Odessa and Odessa T-variant products.” While Odessa installation would only consist of five 40” x 40” panels, the look and feel of the pattern was very detailed and required a bit of creative arrangement. A structured, kinetic fade was in order, and it took some work to make it look right. “One of the things we went back and forth on was how they wanted the gradient to look. Basically, they asked for an Odessa in the center (100% coverage), with 25% fade on the second panel, and 50% fade on the outside panels,” says Cristine. “So, we talked to them about how they wanted that to work.” The end result was a visually dynamic pattern that imparts a sense of movement. It’s very cool.
For the Diade design, our client chose five of the six available panel designs, and then the panels were grouped in sets of three. The client saw the Diade on our website and knew it fit their motif; a simple but impeccable match. Color selection of both designs consisted of sending them a few rounds of digital mockups of different hues, both for the base and for the tabs. Once we outlined the colors and layouts, they gave us creative license to execute the final design. We aligned the panels side by side to make sure the patterns were visually weighted properly and looked even. Then, we carefully crated them, bid them a bon voyage, and off they went to New Jersey.
Submaterial has been exploring screen concepts for many years, adapting all manner of hardware systems and panel materials such as leather, wool felt and hand-finished metals. Creating rich, dimensional surfaces out of many small parts is something of a focus for our studio, and there is an endlessly attractive quality to the linear drape and gorgeous detail of a screen.