Wallpaper is not just paper on the wall. It can tell a homeowner's taste, style and preferences, and those who are concerned about every detail in the house will spend time and effort to find wallpaper they really like.
Take Cholakarn Visutipitakul, a former ad executive at Y&R Thailand. She had a headache when trying to buy wallpaper three years ago. After visiting many shops in Bangkok, she found no wallpaper to suit her fancy.
"I looked through many wallpaper catalogues and did not like any of the designs," she said. "I was so frustrated and thought it's just paper, so why is it so difficult to make nice wallpaper to suit my taste?"
That was a start for Ms Cholakarn, who never imagined choosing wallpaper for her house would bring her into the wallpaper-making business.
Channelling her frustration, she decided to gather information about the supply in Thailand and found 90% of wallpaper is imported from China, Europe and the US. Imported designs often do not match Thai tastes. Moreover, some designs are produced and sold for up to 10 years until new ones are created.
After learning more about wallpaper, Ms Cholakarn had the idea to start a business. She had three options. First, she could import it. She visited many wallpaper companies abroad but did not like their designs. Second, she could hire factories to make wallpaper for her. The third and winning option was to design and produce her own product.
"I thought it would not be difficult for me since I've been in the ad industry for 13 years, which is related to beauty and taste," she said. "Furthermore, I have sufficient knowledge about consumers and brand building."
Ms Cholakarn made the decision to quit her advertising job and establish Bodhi Tree Decor Co with a few million baht in seed funds in early 2011. Family members are the firm's major shareholders and help to run the business.
Ms Cholakarn bought a machine to make wallpaper using water-based latex, organic inks and environmentally friendly paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The wallpaper factory is in Samut Prakan province, and freelance designers develop patterns. Ms Cholakarn set a goal of producing premium tailor-made wallpaper using high-quality materials, for sale at home and abroad.
"I think people are more aware of the environment and prefer to use green wallpaper for their houses and other buildings as well," she said.
Bodhi Tree launched its brand at the Bangkok International Gifts and Bangkok International Houseware Fair in 2011, introducing four collections with themes of casual living, art living, children's room and Buddha praying room.
"We received very good feedback from customers and attracted a number of interior designers," said Ms Cholakarn. "They really liked our wallpaper, as it is totally different from a traditional one. The size of our rolls is bigger, so the wall will have fewer seams."
Standard widths of wallpaper are 53, 70 and 90 centimetres, while the width of Bodhi Tree wallpaper is 130 cm.
Bodhi Tree's tailor-made wallpaper is not available in regular wallpaper shops. It is sold online or at the suggestion of interior designers. The catalogue is downloadable at Bodhitree.co.th.
Potential buyers can phone the company and e-mail a picture of the room and measurements. The staff will make a computer simulation to show how the room will look with the chosen wallpaper.
"It's always true that people want to be different and have individualism, and this is reflected in wallpaper demand," said Ms Cholakarn.
Sometimes the company gets useful input from customers about patterns and designs they want to see, leading to development of new collections.
Five customers wanted wallpaper with old map pictures. The request was granted, and the collection became a hit. The Hotel Grand Mercure Fortune Bangkok hired Bodhi Tree to supply it for more than 200 rooms.
The company's wallpaper featuring Thai mural paintings is quite popular with hotels and restaurants abroad that want to show Thainess.
Less than three years in, Ms Cholakarn is happy with her business.
"Our mission is to build Bodhi Tree's brand into a forefront lifestyle brand such as Yothaka furniture, Pasaya curtains and Jim Thompson silk in the next five years," she said.
Tips for wallpaper
1. Gather information about wallpaper types and choose the right one to suit the room.
2. Prepare the wall and clean its surface before installing the wallpaper.
3. Measure the wall and calculate the cost of the wallpaper and installation fees.
4. Take the time to choose a wallpaper design and pattern you really like, as it will be with you for many years, sometimes up to 10 years.
5. When the wallpaper is stained, use a wet warm fabric to rub the spot and let it dry. If it is extremely dirty, gently apply shampoo to clean it.
6. Don't use thinner or benzene to clean dirty stains on wallpaper.
7. Don't leave wallpaper wet for a long period of time as fungus will develop.
8. The wallpaper should not face strong sunlight for a long period of time, as its colour will fade.
9. If the wallpaper seam loosens, repair it immediately. If you let the seam loosen for a prolonged period, it will become difficult to reattach.
Source: 'The Room' magazine
About the author
- Writer: Krissana Parnsoonthorn