Defining, Promoting and Selling Custom Décor Printing

How do you define décor? More importantly, how do your customers define décor? Broadly speaking, décor can be defined as any image used to enhance a particular environment.

For our purposes, however, there are two basic ways to define décor that resonate with end-user buyers: high-volume, open-edition art printing and custom imaging designed to decorate. To further narrow the field, and attack the proverbial “low-hanging fruit,” we’ll focus on lower-volume, higher-profit custom décor.

Custom Décor Sells

“It’s good, profitable business,” says Bill Barley, owner of Bill Barley & Associates, Lexington, S.C. That “good, profitable business” to which Barley refers is custom wall murals printed on a variety of materials for home and office décor.

Wall murals and custom wallpaper are among the most obvious examples of custom décor treatments, but décor takes on many forms and can be printed on just about anything that’s inkjet-receptive. Moreover, the ability to produce décor with the tools already at your disposal means that opportunities abound to expand your current market and increase profits.

Don’t fall into the trap that décor is a cheap framed paper art print or a low-quality canvas gallery wrap. This type of work is obviously out there, but this is about offering a print service your customers may not know you can provide.

Over the past few years, more homeowners and businesses have been finding that their local print shop provides a unique service, one they can’t get elsewhere. Instead of buying generic artwork to decorate their spaces, why not print customized pieces that reflect their personality, their environment and the architecture of their building?

Take Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub in Ruidoso, N.M. Though Ruidoso is a worldwide destination resort town in southeastern New Mexico due west of Roswell, Irish accents are few and far between.

That all changed when the pub opened in Ruidoso in the summer of 2011 with décor that channels a traditional Irish village. The new pub was designed by Thomas Farrell of Ireland, who is also a co-owner with Shari Smith of Ruidoso.

Laura Reynolds, owner of Print Write Now in Ruidoso, N.M., knew she had an unusual and exciting large-format printing project ahead of her when she was approached by someone with a thick Irish brogue about contributing her expertise to the decoration of a new Irish pub and restaurant.

The design team wanted to replicate hand-painted panels with a distinctly Irish flair to be applied to the ceilings of the gaming area in the pub.

Reynolds printed 18, 40 in. x 40 in. panels on LexJet Water-Resistant Polypropylene with her Canon printer, which was applied with wallpaper paste to the ceilings.

“They are incredible craftsmen. The interior is nothing but high quality throughout. I was so impressed with how quickly they did the installation and smoothed it out so that there weren’t any wrinkles. They’re very good at what they do, and with the help of what we do well, we were able to make this happen within 24 hours,” says Reynolds.

The project, and the word of mouth its sure to generate in both Ruidoso and across the Pond, should bode well for Print Write Now and its ability to handle just about any type of printing and graphic design job from small format to large format.

Here again, Reynolds used materials and equipment readily available in her shop. She had many material choices, since there are printable wallpaper materials of varying textures, repositionable fabrics and vinyls galore. It boiled down to a collaborative choice between her and her clients based on the look and feel they were after for these particular pieces.

And that’s what expanding into custom décor is all about: collaboration between you and the client. More importantly, it’s about letting them know your capabilities so you can fulfill any printed decorative need they may have.

Andy Wredberg, owner of AW Artworks in Sun Prairie, Wis., has found that samples sell, particularly those samples that show a spectrum of work, from day-to-day banner and signage work to décor. Clients that walk into AW Artworks’ studio are greeted with a visual feast of inkjet-printed canvas, photo paper and wall murals that opens up a realm of possibilities for custom, decorative art. AW Artworks also maintains an active social media network that features the company’s latest studio art projects.

Wredberg’s most recent studio sample was a large 80″ x 72″ wall mural that he applied using Photo Tex Repositionable Fabric. Wredberg posted the project on Facebook and almost immediately received four inquiries, two of which immediately led to sales.

“What I posted on my Facebook page is that this type of wall mural is perfect for doing something as permanent or temporary as you want for a home or business. If you live in a rental, for instance, and you want to do something that you can easily take down, this is an excellent way to do it instead of using wallpaper,” explains Wredberg.

Once again, it has less to do with the material used and more to do with the final display, which can be the ubiquitous wall mural, a canvas wrap, a framed print, floor graphics, window graphics and practically any other application surface.

Inkjet media manufacturers have been busily developing a wider range of choices in material bases, adhesive strengths and finishes. This, in fact, may be the most underreported advance in the wide format print market as printer speed and functionality, along with improved ink sets, have received the lion’s share of the attention.

The attention on printers is certainly well-deserved, but the bigger story is the convergence of technological advances in both printers and inkjet media that have allowed print shops to break into the wider world of décor. It’s no longer about the technical limitations of printers and media, but about getting back to the basics: sales.