Meet the Artisans Crafting the World’s Most Exquisite Handmade Wallpaper
Assemblage’s textural designs, now available with Holly Hunt, have adorned everything from Tiffany & Co. boutiques to Steven Gambrel’s interiors
“You can’t be in more than one place at a time,” says master craftsman Christian Batteau, cofounder of the bespoke wallpaper studio Assemblage. Christian—who once worked in the studio of art-world superstar Jeff Koons—got his start studying decorative painting and plastering at the Kansas City Art Institute, but as demand grew, he was looking for new ways to provide the artistry of wall installations while expanding to introduce creative materials, like resins and jewel lines, that had to be manipulated on a flat surface. “I wanted to offer this sort of bang and artistry that you would get from people working in your living room for three weeks, and it can go up in a day.”
Christian founded Assemblage in 2013 with his wife, Heidi, and since then the Arkansas-based pair have seen their custom wall coverings grace commercial and residential interiors from New York and Dubai to Hong Kong. With the firm, Christian’s expertise melds with his wife’s experience in textile design, infusing the collection with compelling patterns and textures. Together, they have created a proprietary blend of ingredients to make wallpapers that are beautiful and textural, and that can also be easily rolled and transported.
Lamina—an Assemblage series featuring sinuous stripes accented with gold—was an early success story. Years were spent engineering the right chemistry for the skinlike texture of Arashi and Lotic, or Bast, which reinterprets Coco Chanel’s iconic bouclé textile into a multilayered wall covering made with burnished marble plaster and beeswax. “Materiality is at the base of what we love—real wood, real plaster, real mica—and so getting to use those materials and play with them is so fun,” Heidi tells Galerie.
Using old-world Italian methods, a team of artisans handcraft each 30-foot piece with trowels and blades, hand-applying layers of plaster and resin with mica powder in an almost choreographed synchronicity. One team will see a project through from start to finish, so there’s a continuity that offsets the lack of repeats built into screen-printed designs. “Hopefully, it has an inconsistency that is consistent enough that it makes it feel like an artful piece of wall covering that doesn’t exactly match the one before but doesn’t stick out,” says Heidi.
For the conservative color palette, the couple looked to nature, culling muted shades from lichen, acorns, moss, eggs, and leaves found on their farm in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “My goal is to make an un-color,” Christian tells Galerie. “The goal is not to be able to distinctly identify the color you’re looking at. We want our work to enliven a place, to enrich a place, to add a depth, warmth, or texture. We want it to activate a space but not necessarily dominate a space.”
Now part of the Holly Hunt family, Assemblage’s bespoke wall coverings have been seen in interiors cultivated by designers like Steven Gambrel and in Tiffany & Co. boutiques around the world, as well as store locations for other prestige brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Saks Fifth Avenue, and London Jewelers.
Currently, they’re expanding their Witter, Arkansas, studio, which is housed in a former seed factory, restoring an existing wing badly damaged in a tornado to create more room for artisans and nearly tripling their production space. They’re also continuing to experiment, now with larger-scale patterns that will soon be announced. But like many others, they’ve had to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, creating a safe space for their artisans and balancing running the busy studio with homeschooling their children. “Christian and I worked together for years, and a lot of our creativity is sparked being with each other,” says Heidi, “and during this time we’re separated more than we’ve been in two decades.”