A Creative Trio Takes Interior Design to an Arty Level

Electrifying interior spaces with hand-drawn wallpaper, intricate art installations and more

By Lauren Mang September 9, 2014

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This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Seattle magazine.

If you’ve been to the seafood joint Westward, at the foot of Wallingford on the north shore of Lake Union, you’ve likely noticed an oversize ship anchored to the wall behind its bar. But look more closely: Side-view cutaways in the vessel’s wooden hull reveal painstakingly crafted and layered dioramas (and a few are stocked with liquor bottles). “It rewards people who take the time to really look,” says Patrick “Duffy” De Armas, one of three artists at the helm of Ballard creative firm Electric Coffin, which created the boat installation. “We added hidden things that all relate and interact to bring a sense of discovery to the environment.”


Westward’s wild boat cabinet

Electric Coffin is a relatively new artistic endeavor for its three founders—De Armas, Justin Kane Elder and Stefan Hofmann—who combined their collective fine arts backgrounds in 2012 to dive into the world of interior design, art installations and branding for restaurants, commercial outposts and, most recently, residential spaces. Their self-described jam-band style of collaboration has produced some standout (and often surreally colorful) creations, including bright blue hand-drawn and hand-screen-printed damask wall paneling, a neon sign/chandelier distressed to look like a found object, and a table crafted from 100-year-old wine staves at Rachel Yang’s Joule restaurant; a multicolored, mixed-media, 3-D mural and a hand-drawn, hand-screen-printed toile wall covering at Hollywood Tavern in Woodinville; and, of course, the elaborate Westward boat diorama. During this interview, the Electric Coffin triumvirate was busy with two more commercial projects (and a residential venture was slated to start in August): a custom neon sign/chandelier, a visual timeline and a storefront façade for outdoor retailer Evo in Portland (the firm also completed a custom art installation for the Seattle store’s checkout counter); and a top-to-bottom design for Trove, a 4,000-square-foot eatery (also from Rachel Yang) slated to open on Capitol Hill. Netting the responsibility for the look and feel of a whole space, rather than just an art installation here or a wall covering there, has been a huge coup for a firm whose marketing relies mainly on word of mouth.


From left clockwise: The colorful checkout counter installation at Portland’s EVO; Space Needle at Belltown’s Via6 apartments; toile-inspired wallpaper at Hollywood Tavern

For Trove, the design involves a deconstructed ice cream truck, whose side will be embedded into the building’s exterior for window ice cream service, while its front and other half will reside inside the space. Also in the works is another highly detailed wallpaper concept. Sketches for that print sit amid multiple Godzilla figurines (the designers are big fans and have been known to draw old-time movie monsters into their works on the sly); those drawings will then be scanned into a design program, shaped into a cohesive pattern and prepared for meticulous screen-printing section by section.

“Our work is not flat,” De Armas says. “I suppose you could argue that it’s overkill, but we’re creating our own narrative within a space.”

For Trove, the design involves a deconstructed ice cream truck, whose side will be embedded into the building’s exterior for window ice cream service, while its front and other half will reside inside the space. Also in the works is another highly detailed wallpaper concept. Sketches for that print sit amid multiple Godzilla figurines (the designers are big fans and have been known to draw old-time movie monsters into their works on the sly); those drawings will then be scanned into a design program, shaped into a cohesive pattern and prepared for meticulous screen-printing section by section.

“Our work is not flat,” De Armas says. “I suppose you could argue that it’s overkill, but we’re creating our own narrative within a space.”

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