Flash with Film

July 27th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs

Elevating Spaces With Decorative Film

By Chris Collier

Chris Caithness, owner of Complete Film Solutions in Perth, Western Australia, holds dear one decorative film project from 2022. “My mom passed from Alzheimer’s Disease on May 28, 2023,” she says. “The last few years were very hard, and she had to go into a nursing home as my dad was no longer able to take care of her at home. We got permission from the nursing home to install a wallpaper graphic to the door of mom’s room. The image we used was a high-resolution photo of the front door to my parent’s home of 30 years. She was very confused in the end, but after we installed this graphic, she always knew which room was hers.”

Reliving Memories With Film

Decorative film provides personalization, privacy, style and distinction for homes and businesses worldwide. From concealed cubicles to stylized branding, the segment accommodates a desire for differentiation. Caithness’ project is just one example of the power of decorative film. She says working with customers during the design phase and finding a connection between an image and their happy memories is one of her favorite elements of the gig.

“The ability to create a truly unique piece of art that is meaningful for the customer,” Caithness says of the most powerful element of the product segment. “We had a customer who was older, and his life revolved around sailing. His home had sailing memorabilia all around it. In a stairwell, he had large glass windows that looked out onto a bland wall, and he wanted to use frosted film to hide the ugly view. We worked with him to choose a beautiful and impactful sailing image and printed this onto the film. It looked amazing.”

Decorative film projects comprise 15% of Complete Film Solutions’ total sales. Caithness and her team have worked with decorative film since founding the business in 2005.

“The vast majority of decorative film work we now do is custom printed, whether on optically clear or frosted film,” she says. “With the progression of wide format printers, it is rarer these days to see the computer cut vinyl when you can achieve the same or similar effect with high-quality printing on film. It’s quicker to install, too.”

Providing Solutions

Decorative film supplier Vetrilite LLC in Coral Springs, Fla., entered the decorative market in 2016. Vice president of sales Marcello Becchi
says that there is a lot more interest in decorative projects—especially in custom decorative jobs—today. “We believe there is a big space [for] creating designs specifically for entryways,” Becchi shares. “We offer our own standard designs inspired by design periods: Art Decò, Art Nouveau and Victorian. Then we create custom designs based on customers’ specifications. We always start from an optically clear film. We never print on frosted film. We want the design to look the same from both sides.”

Becchi observes a customer base increasingly more interested in having designs where they can express themselves. The company recently introduced glass textures into the design process, propelling this mission further.

“Usually, you see custom designs done in white frost and colored frost,” Becchi shares. “We introduced the possibility of having part or the entire design done in one or more glass textures. This means that a customer will compare it to an actual glass piece rather than a different frosted product from another company. By doing that, you elevate the material.”

Diversified Decoration

Zoilo ‘Z’ Centeno is the president of Wintech Solutions Inc. (window film dealer) and Vego Inc. (consulting and printing service) in Tustin, Calif. He breaks down his product offerings as follows:
• Decorative window films (off-the-shelf rolls): 30%
• Custom print overlays (window and wall surfaces): 25%
• Architectural surface films: 25%
• Solar control architectural window films: 20%

“I’ve been offering decorative window films to contractors since 1986,” Centeno says. “We started printing custom window graphics in 2010 and began offering fabrication services to window film dealers in 2012. Early projects relied on a steady hand to cut designs using various films for visual effects. 3M Fasara, Decorative Films and various film manufacturers now provide a large variety of off-the-shelf films with visually pleasing tones and textures.” Centeno says his favorite part of offering decorative films is that most of the quoting and designing can be done in the office without visiting the jobsite. “Experienced window film dealers can ask the site superintendent to send floor plans, measure glass panes and provide an image of the glass panes,” he says. “This is enough information to provide a quote.”

2023 Trends

“There is always consistent demand for plain frosted film in the residential market. People who have bought or built homes with big glass panels in front doors, or clear glass in bathrooms want privacy, without losing natural light,” Caithness shares. “We get excited by people who want something that is a little bit different or customized; something that adds interest and a wow factor. In the commercial sector, digital printing of business logos or images relevant to the business remains consistent.”

Chris Huml, owner of Harmony Window Films and Graphics in Marshfield, Wis., entered the decorative film arena in 2021. While he hasn’t offered the service for long, he says it’s “wonderful” to see decorative installations gaining ground and recognition.

“I have found that most commercial projects tend to lean toward custom frost prints,” Huml shares. “Residential customers are drawn to etched/stained glass projects. I believe the reason for that is most commercial customers are looking to add privacy to office spaces
or having a full custom print for their entryway. It’s a great way to create a comfortable atmosphere or deliver a message. Residential customers often want to add an elegant, beautiful and unique wow factor to their glass to stand out or tie together room(s) in their home.”

Getting Involved

The decorative film product segment frees creatives and customers to pursue something unique. Caithness says that, while anyone can install frosted film, it’s crucial to think outside the box and create a unique design. It could pay dividends.

“Always look for an opportunity to upsell the customer on something unique and personalized for them,” Caithness says. “When they love the result, they will recommend you to all their friends, and more work will come in. You also don’t need all the fancy gear to do decorative film. If you’re a smaller operation, develop a relationship with a local signage business in your area that has a good quality, large format digital printer and/or vinyl cutter. You can offer this service without the cash outlay of buying the equipment. If the business grows over time, and you have the funds, it is worth getting your own equipment as you then can have total control over the quality of the print and product.”

Caithness says building a relationship with a talented graphic designer can make a huge difference in helping customers realize their vision for a project. This relationship can be purely online using freelance graphic designers. “We have an amazing graphic designer who works one day a week for us, and she does the design work, but also has a print production background as well,” she shares. “So she works with the customers, does the design proof and prints/ produces the final product ready for install.”

TNT Glass Tinting in Denver, N.C., entered the decorative market in 2012. Owner Steve Brooks advises newcomers to remain patient and understand that the design/selection process is longer than that of other films.

“We also recommend being clear and honest with potential customers, helping guide them with their decision process,” Brooks says. “Ask about their wants and needs or a style they like, then pick out a few samples for them to look at. This is how you show them you’re the expert. You’re there to guide them in their decision process, not just install film.”

Decorative Film Competition

Booragoon, Australia, rests more than 10,000 miles from San Antonio. But for Brent and Chris Caithness, co-owners of Booragoon’s Complete Film Solutions, the 21st Annual International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT) was a trip worth making. The couple traversed the globe to answer a thought-provoking question: “What does the window film industry mean to you?” Their themed window won first prize in WFCT’s Decorative Film category.

Returning for its second year at WFCT 2023 in Virginia Beach, Va., this competition allows teams to compete. In the preliminary round, competitors will submit a portfolio of their top three works, completed between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2023. A distinguished group of experts in the decorative glass field will judge the works shown in the portfolio. The Decorative Film Competition is judged in two parts: Creativity/Design and Film Application/Installation. A variety of factors will be looked at including theme, design, installation and difficulty of installation. The top ten percent up to four (4) teams will be invited to participate in the live finals during WFCT.

Chris Collier is the editor for Window Film magazine.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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