Our Founder & CEO, Christine, sits down with artist and designer Jill Malek. Jill Malek is a design studio that creates wallcoverings, rugs and textiles for the interior design and architecture community. Inspired by the fluid forms found both in natural and urban landscapes, Jill is a pioneer in the use of dimensional materials in commercial wallcovering, raising the industry’s bar by creating transformative products that promote wellness and illustrate expressive forms in nature. It’s nature that inspired Jill’s design for the Cougar “rainshine” Kensington rain boot. Jill’s desire was to make an impact on interior spaces and how they affect the people who inhabit them by inspiring a sense of calm and transformation.
CC: There is so much to cover with your prodigious career, but let’s start at the beginning. How and why did you start your business?
JM: Originally, I started my business to have full creative control over my projects, while having the flexibility and freedom to work on a full range of projects with different types of people/organizations. The types of services and products I would offer and sell became apparent gradually to me over the years. My main focus was to offer inspired products that radiated a sense of calm, tranquility, and connection to nature.
CC: Give us a brief overview of what your company offers.
JM: Primarily, I offer wallcovering applications to interior designers, architects and homeowners looking to renovate their spaces. Since I started, I have slowly folded in more offerings, such as custom rugs, textiles (soon dimensional pillows) and blankets.
CC: What are some of the services you offer that people might not expect?
JM: I think people are surprised by the level of customization I offer. Aside from custom color options, all of the non-repeating murals are 100% customized to the space, meaning that each one will be unique. The scales and artwork will always change, and I think my clients love that they will be getting something truly one of a kind, like a piece of art. Also, not everyone knows that many of my wallcoverings now come with optional dimensional felt that is sewn by hand into the mural. It brings a new level of depth and texture to the surface.
CC: What is your favourite piece of architecture in the world?
JM: This is a tough question. For me, what makes a great piece of architecture isn’t necessarily how beautiful I think it is, but how it makes me feel. I am not sure that it’s my favorite piece of architecture, but when we were in Croatia, we went to the Diocletian Palace in Split and the medieval fortress at Klis. My favorite show, Game of Thrones, was filmed at these locations, and so being there sparked my imagination quite vividly. And the views were breathtaking.
CC: Tell us about your design collaboration with Cougar and the inspiration for the Kensington Chelsea rain boot.
JM: I met Cougar through their New York PR Company, that resides in the same building as my office. After initially meeting with the owner and head of marketing, it became apparent that the Cougar team was looking to take their classic Kensington boot and offer it in the form of a mini piece of art. Creating a pattern that was functional, had the right scale, wasn’t too overwhelming, and could also work as a stand-alone piece. This was an inspiring challenge for me—and I am thrilled with the results. The concept of ‘rain falling’ came to me for two main reasons: firstly, I wanted to experiment with metallics and tell the story of translucent rain falling against a surface, and secondly, I wanted people to equate rainy days with happy days. The ‘Rainshine’ shoe is a little reminder of that rainbow that always peeks through the clouds after a storm.
CC: Tell us how Nature influences your designs?
JM: I am inspired by fluid forms in nature and try to express these moments that I see—melting colors from the setting sun, rain and water falling, flocking birds, animal formations…these moments in nature make for beautiful color palettes and interesting organic gestures.
CC: What is your favourite project to date?
JM: The mural I created with Rockwell Group (a well-known architecture company in New York), and Maya Romanoff is still one of the most exciting projects. It hangs in a glass atrium at the Yellow Magnolia Café within the iconic Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Aside from the collaborative process which I loved, the composition, color, and most importantly, the materials used were super successful. The design was printed on a felt base and had dimensional felt floral appliqués sewn into a 100 foot long wall.
CC: Any advice for those considering a career in design?
JM: Where to start with this one? There is a long list but I will include the first two thoughts that come to mind:
1. Do NOT compromise your style. People will respond to your unique voice and vision and while you can be influenced and inspired by others, newness is important. What can you offer that others do not?
2. Don’t dismiss business classes! I never took them and had to learn the hard way. If you want a viable business, it’s good to have a plan mapped out and always understand how much money you have at hand to complete your goals. Planning can seem antithetical to some artists/designers (including myself), who are guided by emotions and gut feelings. But having a balance is crucial to a successful business.
CC: What destination is on your bucket list post-pandemic?
JM: I really want to go to Japan with my family and ingest the amazing sushi and beautiful design… And also see dear friends living in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Tel Aviv.
CC: What are the trends you are seeing in the world of design and how has the pandemic influenced these trends?
JM: I see a trend towards biophilic design…designs that increase our connectivity to nature. Since people have been stuck indoors during the pandemic, I think bridging worlds to the outside and having that feeling of “expansiveness” has become more important than ever.
CC: What is your favourite New York City restaurant?
JM: It’s by far not the most exquisite food in NYC, but my favorite restaurant is our local sushi restaurant called “Hibino”. Pre-pandemic, the three of us (me, my husband, and our 11-year- old son) would frequent there often, sit at the bar, and devour our favorite sushi dishes. All of the staff knows us and there is a familiarity that can’t be matched anywhere. The dishes are authentic, extremely fresh, and we would always walk there from our home, meandering through beautiful brownstones in Brooklyn. The experience from start to finish is always perfect.