Jennifer Haigler is a native Charlottean who started her Carolina Wallcovering business in the footsteps of her mother. Theirs is the story of a small family business, started as a way to support the family, that grew into a successful enterprise and an artistic outlet. Jennifer Haigler, who now owns and operates Carolina Wallcovering, first was exposed to wallpapering in the early 80’s as a child when her mother started a business of the same purpose.
“She was a single mom and needed, not only a job to pay the bills, but a flexible schedule as well,” Jennifer explains. “I worked with her every summer, picking up trash and washing sponges… Fast forward 25 years, mom has retired and I’ve not only carried on her expertise, but I’ve expanded upon it.”
Jennifer’s Carolina Wallcovering specializes in installing untrimmed/pre-trimmed designer goods, grasscloths, fabrics, murals, non-wovens, cork, Stikwood, and more. She is constantly pursuing new products, styles, and installation techniques to tie together one of the most important pieces of a build or redesign: the walls.
Tell us about the connection between your mother’s work and your decision to work in wallpapering, too.
I never intended to follow in her footsteps… quite the opposite. I swore I’d never do wallpaper, and she reminds me of that often! I started working with my mom when I was about 10 or 12 years old, cleaning up trash, rinsing sponges, and eventually learned pattern repeats and how to paste the paper. In my teens, I waited tables and worked at a bank but wasn’t happy. My mom told me to come work for her until I figured out what else I wanted to do, so I did… and I never left.
Why wallpaper, in particular, and what is something about the design choice that you think people might be surprised to learn?
Wallcovering is artwork on your walls. The way it transforms a space immediately, you don’t get the same with paint. I think people would be surprised at how many options they have compared to what was available then years ago. Now, there’s an unlimited market where you have geometrics, corks, glass beads and even artists that have their artwork printed on canvas or grasscloth substrates.
How long does it typically take to complete a project?
Most jobs only take a day, but it also depends on the size of the room, what you’re cutting around (cabinets, countertops, intricate moldings, etc.), and the type of wallcovering being installed. Some wallcoverings are extremely delicate, tear easily, can require liner paper to be installed the day before and some can’t get wet on the facing so you must work “clean” when pasting it. There are a lot of variables when determining how long a job will take.
What lessons have you learned owning your own business?
It’s not as easy as it seems! The installation side of the business is the easy part, and having to wear many hats is not. The paperwork is a lot, especially since I can only get to it in the evenings, which means late nights. I’ve hired help for other areas of the business, like bookkeeping, social media, and a part-time assistant, which helps.
Where do you typically draw design or artistic inspiration from?
As far as artistic inspiration, that comes when it’s time to install the wallcovering. As the installer, I’m not involved in the paper selection process. However, what most people don’t realize is that the placement of the pattern on the walls is extremely important. Balancing and centering the pattern on the wall, taking a mirror or artwork into consideration when determining pattern placement, and making sure you don’t lose an important part of the pattern in a doorway or window are very important to the final look. Covering the switch plates and air vents with wallcoverings to match the pattern on the wall is my specialty—they disappear!
What is a typical day at work like for you? How many people work with you, or on your team?
A typical day for me is generally by myself as far as in the field. I have another installer I call on for larger jobs, but for the most part, it’s just me for now. When I arrive, I go over the room(s) to answer any client questions and ask a few of my own. Then I go over the placement of the pattern and what their thoughts are. Once I find a place to set up my workspace, I begin prepping the walls. I lay out the pattern and placement of seams in the room before I start cutting and pasting the wallcovering. I generally work from 9-4:30, but some days are more/less. Once I’m home, it’s mom-mode and then on to paperwork after the kids are in bed.