Peeking behind the factory walls
When it comes to wallpaper, a big problem is people’s memories of nana’s house.
The modern product bears little resemblance to the designs gran decorated with, but it can be tough to convince people to give it another chance, Piers Braddock says.
‘‘Most of us grew up surrounded by the stuff and don’t have the best memories of it.’’
Braddock is a self-described ‘‘wallpaper junkie’’, fortunate given his job as sales manager of the southern hemisphere’s only wallpaper factory.
Perched above Porirua City, Aspiring Walls has been beautifying New Zealand’s walls for over 50 years.
There were 400 workers in the business’ heyday, but now about 40 employees keep the machines rolling, Braddock said.
Wallpaper has been around since the 1700s when aristocracy would commission artists to paint their walls, often competing with the neighbours for the latest trends.
‘‘They were truly bespoke walls in those days.’’
Wallpaper was the go-to thing until the late 1980s when the industry took a crashing dive, closing the country’s factories.
People had become cautious of putting too much personality into their home for fear of affecting the resale value and took to painting the walls in plain, pale colours, Braddock said.
‘‘All of a sudden it was welcome to ‘half tea’ and ‘spanish white’.’’
The days of brown and cream are well behind us and the Aspiring Walls’ showroom is festooned with designs featuring roses, vintage cars, televisions and plants.
A few hurdles in perception remained and once people get over their ‘‘wallpaper memories’’ they still think it’s hard to hang, Braddock said.
‘‘Putting contact on the kids schoolbooks is about 800 times harder than putting up wallpaper.’’
Behind the opulent showroom - where visitors can’t help but feel the walls - the factory roars and rumbles.
Manufacturing manager Neil MacDonald knows the 8000 sqm space like the back of his hand and he’s happy to show it off.
Manufacturing manager Neil MacDonald, left, and sales manager Piers Braddock at Aspiring Walls.