Christian and Heidi Batteau converted a tornado-damaged seed mill in rural Witter into a warehouse designed to produce their luxury wallpaper and serve as the headquarters of their company, Assemblage.By Amy Gordy Photography by Novo Studios
Husband and wife team Christian and Heidi Batteau have designed wallpaper for some of the most high-end brands in the country from their homestead in rural Northwest Arkansas. “It’s nice to be able to live in one of the prettiest places in the world—in the woods—and still have our work out internationally in the design world. Our work is in three of ten tallest buildings in the world—it’s in London, New York, Dubai,” Christian Batteau said.
The couple both studied fine art at Kansas City Art Institute, where they met. Heidi specialized in fiber art and Christian studied sculpture, which they both still experiment with. After graduation, the Batteaus relocated to New York where Christian started an architecture business and Heidi made her way in the textile industry.
The wallpaper idea got rolling when Christian was asked to design some for a job with his company. “That experience sparked the whole idea,” he said. He utilized his experience with plaster and Heidi’s textile knowledge, and the pair began experimenting and formed their first collection of wallpaper.
“We got to a place where we wanted to have a nicer life and start a family, so in 2011 we walked away from design art careers and decided to become homesteaders and bought 32 acres. Heidi is from [Witter], and I fell in love with it.”
The quiet, simplicity and beauty of the area appealed to the Batteaus, who had to hit the ground running when their business unexpectedly took off in the midst of their move. Before the couple could get fully unpacked they set up a workspace in the living room and pulled all-nighters—with the help of Christian’s brother-inlaw and one employee—to design and produce wallpaper for Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co.
In 2013 they incorporated their business and gave it an official name—Assemblage. The business needed room to grow as the client list grew, so the couple purchased a nearby seed mill that had been hit by a tornado and began renovations. “The mill had cinder block walls, no water and no electricity, but enough room for the 30-foot-long tables and shelves we needed,” Christian said.
They assembled three tables, added a roof and constructed their own recycled water system. “All the water used to make our wallpaper is caught rainwater. We didn’t have capital up front when we were doing construction, so we had to focus on building a super ecofriendly manufacturing space.”
The company, now represented by Holly Hunt, is finding a place in smaller-scale markets. “We had that initial big glut of work with roll-outs for high-end clients, then we had a lull going out to market. We are still selling on the coasts, and have just gotten back to that place were it’s getting incredibly busy— it’s less fragile and more of a constant stream now,” Christian said.
What the Batteaus create is very unique. It’s a time-consuming process, each step done entirely by hand. They utilize their fine art skills—Christian uses bronzing and patina techniques—to create cutting edge luxury design that is its own work of art.
“A lot of what we do takes an inordinate amount of time. We wanted an alternative to mass-produced wallpaper. This is handmade from beginning to end. It starts with great paper—we don’t like vinyl—that breathes and is naturally anti-microbial. We use 2,000-year-old techniques,” he said.
The process can involve marble plaster on top of high quality paper, hand-carved stencils, a beeswax finish and metal powders embedded to create a shine. Even the paint colors are handmade.
The future plans for Assemblage include growing the line and the business and adding several full-time employees and artists. “We began as fine artists and are lucky to have been able to maintain that creative drive and experimentation in the work."