University of Calgary

Anita Modha

Anita Modha’s Rollout Custom Wallpaper collaborated on the design of the “punk rock/granny/brothel” look at the Calgary clothing
Anita Modha’s Rollout Custom Wallpaper collaborated on the design of the “punk rock/granny
/brothel” look at the Calgary clothing store,Worth. / Photo: Ken Bendiktsen

First they take Manhattan

Alumna recognizes world of wallpaper ripe for a revolution

It’s a long way from studying lab rats in the Department of Psychology to hobnobbing with the crème de la crème of the fashion world in New York City. And while Anita Modha, BA’97, MEDes’06, didn’t exactly plan on taking the interior design world by storm, the road to Fashion Week 2009 was the result of some good luck and a lot of determination. She also credits her solid grounding in psychology and industrial design for helping to make Rollout, the funky custom wallpaper company she co-founded that took her to the Big Apple earlier this year, a smash hit.

“Five years ago, I had no clue our lives would go in this direction but things just started falling into place,” Modha says of the journey that unfolded when she and her partner, Jonathan Nodrick, moved to Vancouver from Calgary in 2003. “We knew we wanted to do something creative and work with our friends who are really talented artists. It is so rewarding to see that you can create a business from an idea like that.”

Fresh from her master’s degree, Modha and Nodrick, who studied at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, began experimenting with a large-format digital printer they found on the internet. Thinking that the passé world of wallpaper was ripe for a 21st-century overhaul, they enlisted the creativity of friends from the art and design world to come up with 25 bold, sophisticated and even wacky patterns that were plastered around a Vancouver restaurant in late-2005. The art show quickly mushroomed into a small business as architects and interior designers recognized the potential for high-end wallpaper that could be tailor-made for clients.

“It’s definitely a niche product but it’s really catching on,” Modha explains. “People are realizing that you can enhance the beauty of a space and at the same time brand it as your own and make it look exactly as you want it to look.”

Rollout made it into the top 10 of the Telus New Ventures B.C. competition, which provided business training and mentoring for the budding entrepreneurs. That was followed by media attention in leading culture and design magazines, The Globe & Mail, a project with
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and several international X news outlets.

Juried by New Design Canada, Rollout was also accepted to attend the 2007 International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. The company has since landed contracts to design wallpaper for conference rooms at Microsoft’s Zune headquarters outside Seattle, a museum exhibition in Australia’s historic parliament building in Canberra with Ralph Applebaum Associates, and the Mercedes Benz VIP Star lounge at this spring’s Fashion Week in New York.

Closer to home, Rollout worked with Calgary architect Walker McKinley to provide a “Beatles go to Bollywood on an Acid Trip” design for the walls of Mango Shiva restaurant’s new location on the Stephen Avenue Mall and a “punk rock/granny/brothel” theme to adorn the 17th Avenue clothing store Worth.

“Together, we came up with a store that looks like an art piece,” Worth owner Carl Abad says. “The wallpaper has become the most recognizable part of my brand—even more than my logo!”

Modha says the most rewarding part of Rollout’s projects is working with a wide range of artists, graphic designers, marketing executives
and small business owners to create one-of-a-kind designs.

“Every project is so different, and that’s what keeps it exciting,” she says. “A lot of what we do is very collaborative and you really have to
immerse yourself in the environment to figure out what a space can and should look like.”

Modha says that’s where her background in psychology and industrial design come into play.

“My psych degree ended being an important asset because it provides a unique perspective on human emotion, ergonomics and how to translate this understanding into strong emotive design work,” she explains. “And one of the most important things I learned in EVDS is that bringing people with different ideas and backgrounds together always makes a design stronger.”

For more information about Rollout Custom Wallpaper, visit: www.rollout.ca.

— Grady Semmens