Arts & Entertainment
Great Wall is a custom wall-covering company based in Ferndale. Photo courtesy of Great Wall.
Great Wall Grows Beyond
Wallpaper Business Expands, Gains National Attention From 'Project Runway'
Originally printed 10/3/2013 (Issue 2140 - Between The Lines News)
It was almost 10 years ago that Josh Young and Andi Kubacki stood at the edge of the proverbial cliff. Kubacki's job at a big printing company was going nowhere and Young was faced with the impending closure of the Internet marketing firm where he worked.
"We had this idea for a while that we wanted to start this business and when it looked like things were going under at our jobs, we jumped off the cliff," says Young, 35. "We gave ourselves six months dedicated just to our business and said that, at the end of six months, if we had to look for other jobs, (we would). But we never had to."
Great Wall is their custom wall-covering company that focuses on giving clients large format art installations. They have since expanded their offering, creating custom on-demand wallpaper and a matching furniture and rug line that complements it.
"Historically, when you planned a room, you would have to pick out the wallpaper first and then find furniture and decor to go along with it. But now you can go to our website and pick out the pattern you like and change the colors to match the features of your room," Young says.
With 60 colors available and most patterns having at least two color options, there are nearly 4,000 combinations. Their website, http://www.detroitwallpaper.com, has a fun, interactive way for testing the different colors and patterns. Once selected, they can custom print the paper on demand at a cost comparable to wallpaper purchased from a mid-priced catalogue.
The wallpaper is created on ecologically responsible stock with toxin-free printing and is made with 10-percent post-consumer waste and pulp from environmentally certified forests. Their newly created line of easy-to-assemble/disassemble side tables, called Design Factor Detroit, is made with reclaimed wood from distressed properties in Detroit.
Their original Great Wall venture focused solely on custom printing projects. "Detroit Wallpaper Company gives us a chance to get across our own aesthetic," Young says.
"With the custom work, clients can be so picky. In creating our own designs, we don't have to sacrifice what we like best," says Kubacki, 38. "But we can also be very flexible. We've had clients use our designs with colors that we hadn't even thought of, so it's nice to see what other people come up with."
Andi Kubacki and Josh Young own Great Wall in Ferndale. Photo: Crystal A. Proxmire
They've created six lines for their basic wallpaper designs: Botanicals, FABrics, Metrix, Wallgazer, Wanderwalls and Sprout. Designs range from basic patterns like florals and plaids to fun kids prints and even clouds with lightning and rain.
Their work has gotten regional and national attention. Hit TV show "Project Runway" has commissioned them to do their large on-set murals for the past two seasons. Their work was also seen on AMC drama "Low Winter Sun," and is a major part of the ambiance of AIREA, an interior design firm workspace inside the Compuware building in Detroit. Those who have been to Affirmations in Ferndale may recognize their LGBT history mural in the library.
"One story I'll always remember is that we did all the design and install work for Just Baked, and the client had someone that got on their Facebook page because they'd heard that they had hired a gay-owned company and made a comment saying it was wrong to work with us," Young recalls. "Without any hesitation Just Baked got on with a really nice response about how they don't discriminate. It felt good they did that."
"This is not the type of industry where you have to walk on eggshells for being gay," he adds. "It's kind of almost expected."
Great Wall is based in Ferndale, the epicenter for the gay community in southeast Michigan and home to many artsy, creative small businesses. Young and Kubacki both came from less progressive communities in the middle of the state, but felt at home near Nine Mile and Woodward. "Ferndale is so friendly and so open for the LGBT community that it made sense to open our business here," Kubacki says. "There are a lot of independent business owners and it's very supportive of the entrepreneurial spirit."
Kubacki and Young started out as partners in multiple senses of the word, but after breaking up a few years back they have remained close friends and even stronger business partners. Their work family has grown to include several employees and a cadre of loyal clients.
To learn more about their work, visit http://www.greatwallonline.com.
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