It was a great way to finish out a work week.
On Friday, Sept. 3 Rick Holtz read a direct message in the company’s Instagram account from an unexpected source: Jennifer Gracie, creative director of Gracie Studio, a company whose hand-painted wallpapers are world-renowned for their craftsmanship, detail, and beauty.
The message was simple: “You obviously do a great job with our wallpaper. Thank you,” she said, adding she had placed H.J. Holtz & Son on the list of recommended paper installers that designers and showrooms provide to customers.
“I stalk people’s Instagram accounts,” Jennifer Gracie says, laughing. She had seen a post from Richmond designer Avery Sefcik that tagged H.J. Holtz & Son in photos of Sefcik’s sitting room. Earlier in the year, Holtz craftspeople had installed “Winter Garden” for Sefcik, principal of Avery Frank Designs.
“I can look carefully at an image and make sure I feel [the installer] has done a great job,” she says. “I could see [Holtz] took great care with our wallpaper.”
Because every Gracie wallpaper is hand-painted to the specifications of the customer and to the room itself, the installation process is specific and must be followed.
“Experience is the most important factor when it comes to installing hand-painted papers,” Gracie says. “When a client is beginning the process, I always ask them who their installer is. I always feel better when I hear a name that I recognize. If it’s not a name I recognize, I press for more details.
“This isn’t typical wallpaper,” she adds. “Someone may be extremely talented and have been in business for decades, but unless they have experience with hand-painted paper… .”
To create a Gracie room, meticulous measurements are taken, and panels are painted according to plan. When the panels go up, the plan has to be followed.
“Every single room is unique and designed to fit the architecture of the room,” Gracie says. “We have created a design sketch the client has approved to make sure every bird or flower is exactly where it’s supposed to be. I’ve seen situations where a panel is hung in the wrong place. [With other projects,] paper hangers usually order more than they need and have plenty of extra paper; that’s not the case here.”
The company was founded in 1898 by Jennifer Gracie’s great-grandfather Charles Gracie. Now, Jennifer Gracie and her brother are the fourth generation of the family in the business; Jennifer’s son Zach Gracie-Shea works in the firm’s New York office, the start of the fifth generation.
Earlier this year, as the company was preparing to revamp its New York studio, Jennifer Gracie had her son shoot video of her rolling a panel off a wall, demonstrating how easily Gracie wallpaper can be removed. Once posted to the company’s Instagram, the video was viewed by thousands. Soon after, it was picked up by House Beautiful magazine and viewed nearly a million times.
“It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Gracie says now. “I said to Zach, ‘Hey, let’s show people how to remove [wallpaper] when it’s on muslin.’ I had no idea it would go viral! Trust me: If I’d known, I would have spent more time that morning on my hair.”
One practical aspect of the video, Gracie says, is that it shows customers – both current and future – how durable the company’s hand-painted wallpaper can be.
“It makes me so happy to see our wallpapers cherished and handed down generation to generation. I hope they can continue to be loved and saved,” she says. “We’ve been around so long, some of our papers are antiques themselves.”