At a moment when many are focused solely on moving their operations online, luxury wallcovering company Phillip Jeffries is marking its 45th year in business by expanding both its digital and physical footprints. In 2021, the brand is opening three new showrooms—in South Florida come April, plus Los Angeles in June and Chicago in September. Each is tailored to its location: relaxed coastal glam in Miami, for example, or urbane classicism in Chicago. With showrooms already established in New York, northern New Jersey, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco and London, this year’s expansions will make nine.
“We opened our first boutique showroom in Boston five years ago as an experiment,” company CEO Jeffrey Bershad tells Business of Home. “What we found was, it allowed us a much greater depth of relationship. Designers would come in looking to decorate one specific space, end up finding options for several rooms, and then they’d know we’d be there, with their history on file, as an indispensable resource for future projects.”
With the coronavirus still at large, economic recovery in its earliest stages, and storefront retail especially hard hit, now might seem like a questionable time to expand—but don’t tell that to brothers Jeffrey and Philip Bershad. (“I’m older,” quips Philip, the company’s president. “Otherwise the company would be called Jeffries Phillip.”) Where others fear risk, the Bershads see opportunity.
In spring 2020, while some companies had to severely cut back or even close, the brothers took a deep breath, tightened their belts and doubled down instead, pledging to provide interior designers with the types of wallcoverings their competitors could no longer supply—at a discount, with free shipping to boot.
The company moved product launches online, boosting its social media reach via Philip’s popular “Behind the Design” Instagram Live chats, and hosted Zoom luncheons to check in with industry colleagues about their concerns. The brand debuted three collections over the course of the past year, and did not lay off or furlough any of its more than 200 employees across the globe.
“I’m proud of that—it shows our character,” says Philip of the company, which, in a bit of design industry lore, was famously founded by their father with “just 10 grasscloths” in his New Jersey garage in 1976. “We may be a world-class organization now, working with the likes of Bunny Williams, Martyn Lawrence Bullard and Charlotte Moss, but we still hold true to our roots as a family business.”
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been bumps along the way. “It’s been a struggle,” says Jeffrey. With restrictions on travel and their factory in Japan having been temporarily shut down amid the pandemic, Phillip Jeffries continues to face supply chain issues: “Air-shipping in product is three times more expensive, but we’re not passing that cost along. These are our problems, not the customers’.”
The brothers pinpoint two prior crises that helped prepare them for this one: They’d already weathered the post–September 11th world, followed by the global recession of 2008 and its aftermath, which occurred just as they had assumed control of the company from their parents. In 2009, they embarked on an informal tour, meeting with interior designers across the country to take the pulse of the industry. Two key takeaways? “You have to have a range of designs,” says Jeffrey. “And you have to have stock.” A customer who needs linen is not going to buy velvet—and they’re not going to wait 12 weeks to get it, either. “Now, everything is next day.” That’s why Phillip Jeffries stocks a million yards of wallcovering in its New Jersey warehouse alone, with a commitment to ship orders placed by 5 p.m. EST that same night. “You can check PJ in your PJs,” jokes Philip of the option to shop directly from their website. “If you want to buy 200 yards of blue grasscloth at 2 a.m., all it takes is two keystrokes.”
Another convenience of the digital age is the brand’s Pure Imagination initiative, which allows the brand’s customers to create their own digital wallcoverings. Premiering this month, “it’s a radical transformation” in the manufacturing of wallcoverings, says Jeffrey. It will allow custom collaborations with independent and up-and-coming designers, who can bring original artwork (or even just an idea) to Phillip Jeffries and partner with the company—utilizing its vast library of textures and colors, not to mention its nine-member graphic design team—to produce the design within a few weeks.
“We take their concept, refine it, and convert it into high-resolution files that can be printed on more than 30 different grounds,” explains Philip. From cork to silk to textured vinyl, each fabric presents its own idiosyncrasies: “If a loose piece of raffia or a stray silk thread hits one of the print heads, that could result in thousands of dollars in damage.” But the combination of environmentally friendly, state-of the-art equipment and the company’s 45 years of concierge customer service can handle any glitches.
For the residential sector, one silver lining of the pandemic is that, more than ever, people want their homes to be restorative retreats: Sumptuous wallcoverings with saturated colors and irresistible tactility are a way to create that. “We knew that by this spring, people would be ready to bring some sunshine into their homes,” says Philip of the brand’s Resort 2021 collection, which took its inspiration “from Palm Springs to Palm Beach to South Beach” and features such fabrications as wood laser-cut onto gold ground (The Grove), striated plaster (Desert Dunes), and mica-flecked resin (Granite). Mirage, a hand-painted pattern, presents a seductive ombré effect that’s based on photos Jeffrey took of pre-pandemic sunsets in the Hamptons.
With a new app and other announcements up their sleeves for later this year, along with the expectation that commercial hospitality will rebound when travel returns, the Brothers Bershad keep looking forward. “The investments we’re making now will help us achieve our vision for the next 45 years,” says Jeffrey.
“That’s always our goal,” adds Philip. “To inspire a more beautiful world, one wall at a time.”
This story is a paid promotion and was created in partnership with Phillip Jeffries.
Homepage image: The Grove wallcovering by Phillip Jeffries | Courtesy of Phillip Jeffries