Supergraphics: '60s design concept still going strong

Those big, bold, supergraphic designs for walls are still with us. Changed, perhaps, more varied, and available in more versions. But whether brilliant or muted, they continue to be important in homes. They add a dimension to a room that not much else can.

Supergraphics were first devised in the 1960s to serve the decorative needs of a restless young generation that wanted different things and different looks. They thought all those popular plain, painted walls had become monotonously static and dull. They sought brilliant but disciplined splashes of color and geometry to enliven those flat spaces between floors and ceilings.

Some claim that supergraphics began on the West Coast. Originally, they were used as signage in institutions, as directional signs, and as definers of space. A California architect, Charles Moore, is credited with being among the first to stir national interest in the more decorative use of supergrapics.

Those of use who thought supergraphics had waned in appeal during the 1970s may be right. But the word at present, from such experts as Sue Goldstein and Diane Weisman, partners in their own firm, Interior Graphics of Great Neck, N.Y. , say: "The supergraphic approach to wall design has not at all subsided. We have never been busier, and are booked up through Christmas."

The two women, both of whom are wives of lawyers and are mothers, discovered a few years ago that they could blend their art school backgrounds into a business of doing custom-designed and -applied supergraphics for clients' walls. Mrs. Goldstein says her approach to design in curvy and her partner's tends to be linear, so they complement each other.

They take on jobs within a 100-mile radius -- in Long Island, New York City, New Jersey, and Westchester County. "We make appointments to see the people and the rooms they want decorated," the two partners explain. "We discuss different designs with them, make sketches for their approval, and then return later to spend from one to two days executing our designs, by hand, without use of masking tape, on their freshly painted walls."

The partners use only washable, semigloss latex paint, in colors that best complement the interior they are painting. They tie in with cabinet and appliance colors in kitchens and to fabrics, carpets, and furniture tones in other rooms. Most of their imaginative graphics go in family rooms, children's rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens.

It isn't just young people who go for graphics, they claim. Often parents and grandparents see and admire the dramatic designs in the homes of their young , and then engage the pair of designers to brighten up their houses, as well. Most of them want the excitement of broad strokes and big, clean lines that the artists feel they do best.

The partners think their hand-painted graphic designs could last 10 or more years, or until a new look is desired in a room. They claim that their geometric graphics can help erase architectural imperfections, unify the elements in a room, and lower or heighten ceiling effects.

They also say they have but to look at a room to see immediately what to do to the walls. "The space, condition, and shape of the room dictate to us what to emphasize and what to block out. We can 'wrap' a room, open it up, or close it in. We can make windows disappear by traveling through them or accent them by going around them."

Prices are determined by the size of a room, the complexity of the design and the number of colors it requires. The average is $400 to $500 per graphic.

Another supergraphic venture, in the Chicago area, has been successful for two partners, Frank Matranga and Dan Gratzl, who formed Creative Insights Inc., in Addison, Ill. They were so successful at applying their supergraphic designs by hand that they decided to market a graphic mural wall kit so do-it-yourselfers everywhere could paint on their own graphics. Their $15 kit, called "Mural Graphique," contains simple instructions and patterns for 15 wall graphics. It is sold nationally through all Montgomery Ward stores and through many top paint and wallpaper stores. It may also be ordered by mail from Box 205, Addison, Ill. 60601.

Supergraphic wallcoverings continue to be introduced for those who prefer to paste their designs on rather than paint them on. Jim Patterson, who heads Perceptive Concepts Inc. at 979 Third Avenue, in New York, comments, "The demand for graphics has not dwindled at all, and we see no slack coming up. We even offer graphic elements, in the form of 27-inch squares, that the customer can combine in limitless ways to form stripes, circles, squares, and arrows."

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