Requires some modernisation: home décor
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By Morwenna Kearns
3 February 2011
Those looking to personalise their home could go further like this restaurant in Bangkok, revamped using HP kit and materials
When house-hunting, a phrase which turns up frequently is 'in need of some modernisation'. But what does 'modern' décor really mean? An absence of 1970s carpets? Minimalism? Or using modern technology to create a comfortable, practical and personalised home? And with digital ink-jet printers now able to produce durable jobs on substrates including fabric, tiles and glass, how much of this can be achieved in the printroom?
Roland DG has embraced the use of wide-format print for decoration with not only a range of examples at its Creative Centre demonstration facility but also an entire Interior Décor course at the Roland Academy. Speaking to people who have attended the course, which includes topics such as wall coverings and films, floor graphics, window films and blinds, the application which caught my attention most was a sink wrap. With the prominence of vehicle wrapping, it seems like simultaneously a minor jump and an incredibly clever idea.
The difference between vehicles and sinks, of course, is that cars and vans can attract attention by driving around and are therefore a powerful marketing tool for businesses, whereas the same cannot be said for kitchen or bathroom equipment. This also goes for printed glass, fabric and vinyl wall covering – the corporate market is much wider than the private decoration sector. However, it may be possible to have a foot in both camps.
Fabric printing is a growing market – although some would say it hasn't yet reached its full potential – demonstrated by the launch of the dedicated FESPA Fabric exhibition. The next show in May does have more features focused on apparel, but other textiles will certainly get a look-in. For sign-makers, the obvious products are soft signage, flags and banners, but some imagination and business connections could extend this offering. I've seen a brilliant advertisement in a furniture shop window – a sofa upholstered in the company's logo with details on its soft furnishing products – which indicates both the marketing and home décor potential of textile printing.
Among the ink-jet and dye-sub fabric printing equipment available are Roland DG's VersaArt RS-640S, a dye-sublimation version of its VersaArt RS-640; the Mutoh Viper TX models; the DFP series of direct-to-fabric printers from ATP Color; and Mimaki's TS5-1600, TS5-1600 AMF, TPC-1000 and DS Series.
Wallpaper's popularity waxes and wanes, but recently there has been resurgence in demand. Digital photography provides new personalisation possibilities and companies such as BetterWallpaper.co.uk produce feature walls or photo murals from personal photographs sent over the internet. Landor's Phototex self-adhesive printable wall fabric had a starring role on Channel Five's The Gadget Show recently, where it was pitched against standard wallpaper. While being the subject of a programme about new gizmos and contraptions suggests it hasn't yet made a huge impact in the mainstream, national exposure may set it on its way.
Looking at the floor, Rutters has made a name for itself by manufacturing floor coverings for television studios, adverts and film premieres using digital technology, with a Lego-patterned carpet for the UK opening night of Toy Story 3 among its recent accomplishments. It has examples of smaller projects such as rugs, demonstrating the medium's possibilities in the home.
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the non-contact process of ink-jet printing has reduced the price and improved the opportunities for ceramics personalisation, and tiles may be a lucrative avenue for printers. Xaar has promoted its print-heads around this application, but fairly standard machines from EFI, Agfa, Xennia and Grapo, among others, can all handle ceramics as well as glass – which also has applications such as cabinet doors, patterned or frosted windows and worktops. Indeed, this raises the issue of the composition of home products; why have wood when you can have patterned glass? Companies like P-One have also proven that cardboard – an easily printable substrate – can be used for lightweight chairs.
The present 'improve, not move' era may result in more people who want a personalised home and the kit mentioned above can supply that demand. Moreover, there's nothing to stop a DIY shop like B&Q purchasing the equipment to produce personalised home furnishings in-store so the pressure's on our industry to get in first. Ultimately, the display producer who works out how to sell home wares through existing high-street or commercial channels to everyday individual customers may find their fortune.
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