Pivoting Toward Custom Design

We've taken our year and a half in business to better understand what our customers are looking for...and decided to focus on custom design.  Unique pieces that are only available in your home, designed for your space. 

In particular, we love how easy it is for us to produce unique home decor quickly with modern technology.  Despite the technological advances that allow us to create one product at a time for our customers, our biggest challenge so far has been sourcing the highest quality materials.  We know our customers have a high standard and a preference for natural fibers.  Fortunately, we look forward to several manufacturers coming on line in the next year that will offer more natural fiber options available for on-demand home decor.  Cheers to the year ahead!

February 11, 2020 by Allison Gable

Historic Geometric Pattern Design

We recently came across a great article courtesy of Veranda magazine on the history of geometric patterns.  It features a timeline that begins with the triangular forms found in the ancient Egyptian Pyramids and continues with the triangles, squares and rectangles of ancient Greek art and architecture.  It jumps ahead over several centuries (totally ignoring what was happening in Islamic art and the Persian empire--yikes!) to the Italian Renaissance and the drawings of Leonardo DaVinci that highlight the natural order of form in nature.  Fast forward again to early American architecture (inspired by Greek architecture) and the shapes and symmetry inherent in Georgian and Federal styles. 

While there are several major gaps in the last thousand years of art and design, they do a better job of catching up in the 20th century.  The Art Deco movement is known for geometric forms used in furniture, lighting, architecture, and decorative arts design.  Simultaneously in the art world, the geometric forms of Neoplasticism (Mondrian), Cubism, the De Stijl and Bauhaus movement happening in Europe strongly reflect geometry as a basis for pattern, uniformity and innovative combinations of color and form.

Man has always been drawn to repetition of form.  There is something inherently appealing about patterns.  As a avid fan of all things decorative arts, I cannot believe that this timeline left off the whole history of Islamic art including its influence on the Moors of southern Spain (ahem, the Alhambra)!  But I am happy to see a featured article on what was is so universally appealing and again relevant in geometric pattern design.

July 05, 2019 by Allison Gable

The Masonic Temple

Today was the very first time I have been inside Detroit's own Masonic Temple. I've lived in Detroit now for almost nine years and I have never had the occasion to visit.  What a gem.  The ornamental design is spectacular.  No surface exists without careful attention to detail and lots of hand painted embellishment. And the building is huge--1037 rooms.  Started in 1920 and finished in 1926, the heyday of Freemasonry in the United States, it is the largest structure of its kind in the world.  It hosts three theaters (one was never completed), a Shrine building, the Chapel, eight lodge rooms, a 17,500 square foot drill hall, two ballrooms, office space, a cafeteria, dining rooms, a barber shop, 16 bowling lanes, and more.  I saw just a fraction of this, but I've shared a few images from the Crystal ballroom on our Instagram @studio_motif. 

For a 3D virtual tour, visit the Masonic website here.

With everything that has been lost in Detroit's decline, I am so glad this building is still standing and in relatively good shape.

March 27, 2019 by Allison Gable

Patterns in Nature

A good deal of the patterns you'll see here at Studio MOTIF Co. take inspiration from nature.  Organic references have traditionally been a large part of the textile, wallpaper and interior design industry.  We live and work indoors, but we play outdoors.  In fact, countless studies show our well being is connected with our exposure to nature and sunlight.  Living in Detroit, I can say with first hand experience that it is not always possible to spend a great deal of time outside (Dec-March).  We tend to hibernate inside during these months.  Which is why bringing organic elements from plants, trees, flowers, and more into the interior is so appealing.

The appeal of designing with natural forms, aside from their inherent beauty, is the underlying order they represent.  I recently read a great article from Smithsonian Magazine about the science behind nature's patterns.  It highlights the order found in nature is distinctly different from the kind of repeating pattern found in textiles and wallpaper. "Many patterns that we see in nature aren't quite like that [repeating]. We sense that there is something regular or at least not random about them, but that doesn't mean that all the elements are identical. I think a very familiar example of that would be the zebra's stripes. Everyone can recognize that as a pattern, but no stripe is like any other stripe."  In other words, the patterns in nature are a form a disorderly order.  Irregularity but repetition.  I was intrigued.  But what about snowflakes?  They seem to offer great symmetry, and they come in an infinite variety.  There is absolutely an underlying order to them that comes from nature, but we can't yet fully explain it:  "Yet even now it is a bit of a mystery why every arm of the snowflake can be pretty much identical. It is almost as though one arm can communicate with the others to make sure they grow in a special way."

To be sure, there are mathematical formulas that can explain many of the patterns in nature, but not all.  Our effort to use patterns in nature in our designs is merely a referential nod to the awe of nature.   We are comforted by the order in pattern, by natural elements, and by natural colors which can range from the grey blue of the ocean on a stormy day to the hot pink of a tropical flower.  We all respond to these elements on some level.  But the mystery of natural patterns, we hope, will stay a part of the natural world and continue to inspire us.


March 14, 2019 by Tira Hightower


As we continue to grow and develop the Studio MOTIF Co. brand, we have been reflecting a lot of differentiation.  How our products can stand out and be unique from everything on the market.  Having been to recent tradeshow and spending several days looking for similar products, I can say there is not much like our design on the market. 

Specifically, we have chosen to focus on geometric pattern design and bold use of color.  Further, we absolutely take inspiration from place, culture, art history, and architecture.  But we have recently been pondering....with our next collections should we move more toward art historical context or veer more toward abstract design.  Some patterns you immediately associate with a culture, and others are more subtle, a gently nod or reference to a style or place.  We will continue to debate this for the weeks ahead.

With our focus on bold color, some of our wallpaper lends itself to commercial applications.  However, we have also made a distinct effort to design wallpaper for residential application--quieter, lower contrast and simpler for every day.  

What do you like the most?  What do you want that you don't currently see here at Studio MOTIF Co.?  Let us know!

March 12, 2019 by Tira Hightower

Client Centered Design

One of my favorite parts of design is meeting with clients for the first time and learning about the culture and history of a work place, restaurant, private club or other interior environment.  The story of a brand and the architecture of a space are the critical components of understanding where to go next with a project.  And research.  A floorplan and a field visit in particular, are critical to understanding how people move through space and utilize it.

Oftentimes, clients don't know exactly where they want to go with the design and it is important initially to keep the variety of options open.  I like to present three fundamentally different design paths to pursue and learn from listening to the client how much or little risk they want to take in a project.   Within these parameters, I like to explore further avenues of design.  The critical element of client centered design is listening, of course. 

While custom design is invariably hard work, it is also incredibly rewarding to reach the culminating final design iteration and see a project come to life.  Particularly with environmental graphics, the results are literally larger than life.   Nothing is better than when a client is thrilled with the outcome of a design project.  And nothing is better than when a space goes from drab and plain to colorful, functional (wayfinding/signage), branded, and inspiring with graphics.

March 04, 2019 by Tira Hightower

Common Wallpaper Related Terms

On the journey to better understanding wallpaper applications, here are a few useful terms courtesy of CommercialWallDecor.com 

Pattern and Dye Lots

Every roll of wallcovering identifies the pattern that was applied and the dye lot used during production. The pattern number shows what design and color were used, while the dye lot specifies the batch in which the roll was produced. This is important because typically you want to use the same dye lot for a complete room. Minor discrepancies in color occur between the different dye lots, and can affect the way a room looks when multiple dye lots are used. The pattern number can be used to easily identify what pattern to request if you need additional wallcovering.

Prior to beginning the application of the wallcovering, all of the rolls should be checked to make sure the same pattern number and dye lot are on each roll. The information should be recorded and stored for later use in case it becomes necessary to order additional wallcovering.

Once the process begins, three strips should be applied and checked for uniformity before the project continues.  

Pattern Matches

Wallcovering that have a repeating pattern that requires precision will need to have pattern matching conducted over the course of the process. The check ensures that the vertical distance between the two identical points on different strips are appropriately aligned. The distance between one point and the next one in the pattern is called the repeat. This distance varies based on the pattern; it could be as small as a few centimeters or it could be the entire length of the roll. The repeat depends on the pattern.

The process will require one of three types of pattern matching based on the type of repeat the pattern has. In some cases the pattern will use a straight hang, such as plaid, other times it will require reverse hanging to ensure the repeat lines match up.

Drop Match

Some patterns are not meant to be aligned straight across, and these are called drop match. There are two types.

Half Drop Match

Every alternating strip aligns at the halfway point between each of the vertical pattern repeats. The strips in between begin at the same point, but the design runs diagonally. You will need to apply three strips to verify that the pattern has been done correctly. Marking the strips to be odd and even can help you ensure that the right strips are applied in the right order. However, if you do mark the strips, use a light pencil marking on the back of the wallcovering.

Multiple Drop Match

The difference between a half and multiple drop match is the number of strips to set the pattern. This drop match is difficult as it requires at least four strips, sometimes more, to match the design pattern. 

Random Match

The easiest of the wallcovering patterns, this one does not require any special attention to the way the strips align, such as stripes, linens, and grasscloths. Most of these should be reverse hung so that the pattern is alternating, creating a more visually appealing alignment. Some patterns, such as stripes, do recommend a straight hang to ensure the directional quality. This can be the most environmentally-friendly as it wastes less covering since it is not dependent on the repeat pattern.

Straight Match

The type of matching most people are familiar with, the straight match, repeats the pattern on every successive strip. Typically, it has a straight hang, but the occasional design requires a reverse hang.

Commercial Wallpaper Categories

Type I

While durable, Type I is the lightest duty wallcovering and typically is around 19 oz and less than 54” per yard. It must meet several minimal requirements set by the Federal Specification CCC-W-408D; breaking strength, blocking resistance, crocking, and tear resistance. They are most commonly found in waiting areas and calm spaces, such as waiting rooms in doctor’s offices or hospitals, hotels, and offices.

Type II

Type II offers a stronger covering than Type I and at a lower cost than Type III. It is typically between 20 and 32 oz per 54” linear yard. Locations with heavy traffic, such as the entry way of a public building or hallway of a hospital commonly have this wallcovering because it meets a higher Federal Specification for abrasion resistance, colorfastness, and stain resistance, in addition to having higher standards than all of the specifications regulated for Type I.

Type III

The most durable of the contract wallcoverings, Type III is exceeds 22 oz per 54” linear yards, making it ideal for locations with extremely heavy regular traffic. It has the highest standards for all of the Federal Specifications regulated for both of the other types, and has additional specifications for blocking and cold cracking resistances, coating adhesion, and heat aging resistance. Type III is best used for wainscots or low areas of walls that are likely to get kicked or banged up more than higher areas of the wall.

Studio Motif Co.'s Commercial wallpaper is Type II.  Our residential is currently a standard clay coated material which requires a traditional paste application.  We can also print to other decorative wallpaper substrate including metallic, silk, grasscloth and more.  All of our patterns are designed with a straight match. In trying to keep ordering and installation as simple as possible, straight matches offer the least complicated solution. The rolls easily tile along the wall. 


March 01, 2019 by Tira Hightower

Patterns of Mexico

Just back from the lovely tropical weather of Mexico.  Inspiration was everywhere, from the organic shape and color of the greenery and flowering plants to the painted pottery and textiles.  Vivid bright colors that emotionally connected me to Mexico.  Landing back in the gray of mid-winter Detroit was a stark difference, not just in temperature, but color.

While our focus right now at Studio MOTIF Co. is on growing our social media presence (we are a new company), the next wave of design collections will include a Mayan inspired collection.  A visit to the Mayan ruins of Tulum in particular was memorable.  While it's a shame that most of the original relief on the exterior of the structures has faded away over time, texture was everywhere.  And shape.  And of course being a historic port city, that vivid aqua blue of water.  

This was my first trip to the Yucatan Peninsula.  Quite different culturally from the people, patterns, food and overall feel of Mexico City.  Check out @studio_motif on instagram for photos - especially those from Tulum.

February 28, 2019 by Allison Gable

Residential vs. Commercial Wallpaper Design

There are differences in the wallpaper stock materials for residential applications and commercial applications.  In order to put wallpaper in a commercial environment, it needs to be fire rated and more durable to hold up to higher traffic.  But beyond the material differences, there is a large difference in the design choices one used in a residential versus commercial environment.

A restaurant, office, or retail environment in particular can have bright, bold, colorful wallpaper that reflects the brand story, the atmosphere they are trying to create, etc.  A residential application for wallpaper tends to be lower contrast patterns, muted colors for quieter walls.  Other than a small bathroom or focal wall, most of us probably don't want high contrast, bold wallpaper in our living room.  

Here at Studio MOTIF Co. we are designing for a variety of contexts.  Our Kiawah collection, for example, lends itself to a beach house application.  It is also geared more toward residential applications.  Our Paris collection is geared more toward a commercial application.  The colors are a bit bolder, the patterns are stronger, suggestive of an Art Nouveau environment, etc.  And some of our patterns are better suited for our products like phone cases and bags.  We don't always want flowers on our walls.  But with 350+ colorway options and growing, we hope you can find something that works with your space.  If not, we'd love to work with you to create the perfect custom option.

February 07, 2019 by Tira Hightower

Atlanta Home + Gift Show

I took a quick trip down to Atlanta last week for the annual Home & Gift show.  It's where retail stores go to buy their wholesale products and it includes not only boutique gift items, but a lot of interior design products and art.  It was inspirational to say the least.  It was visually a feast for the eyes, for those who are inspired by their eyes.  Around every corner there were beautiful, carefully curated arrangements of products.  Every brand I have every heard of and many I have not heard of before. 

It was a great opportunity to see what is out there in the marketplace, what trends are occurring in interior design, what products exist and more importantly, what products are missing.  I am happy to report that I really did not find a lot of pattern rich products.  I supposed interior design companies sell more of the muted ivory, black, khaki and it makes sense.  It is a different business model too.  By creating products that only exist digitally, I am able to take risks that established brands may not.  If a product is not popular, I will pull it down.  Data allows me to better understand popular demand.  

The show covered 18 floors across two buildings and another 12 or so floors of a third building.  It was massive.  I spent three days walking, talking with business owners, learning more about the wholesale/retail model, and just absorbing visual information.  It inspired me for the year ahead!  Check out @studio_motif our instagram page for photos from Atlanta.

January 21, 2019 by Allison Gable