“I don’t think the old models of distribution are the only ways to play anymore,” says Tracey Reinberg, whose year-and-a-half-old company, Kismet Tile, provides Moroccan-made cement tiles. She works directly with customers, she says, instead of trying to get showrooms to carry her goods.
More traditional methods also help get the word out: Vahallan Papers, a purveyor of hand-painted wallpaper based in Lincoln, Neb., swears by trade shows.
“We usually go to the same trade shows that (the big companies) go to,” says owner Dan Nelson. “As long as we have a great product to show, we can compete.”
This page features a sampling of the variety of small startups carving out niches in home decor.
Housefish: Scott Bennett is the mad scientist behind this Denver furniture company, launched in 2008, that offers storage and shelving pieces with a nod toward the automotive industry. A former Indy-car designer, Bennett automated the manufacture of his furniture to keep costs down. Housefish furniture is made from birch-and-alder plywood and finished with nontoxic, zero-VOC paint. “Housefish is my experiment in using American, high-tech manufacturing to produce innovative, environmentally responsible furniture,” says Bennett. (housefish.com)
Mediterra Tile: Founded in 2007, this Tumacacori, Ariz., company creates decorative ceramic tile in hundreds of designs and several finishes. Husband-and-wife designers Morgan and Julie Ringer work with Oscar Carrillo, who oversees the tiles’ creation at the company’s studio in central Mexico. The patterns come from architecture and traditional crafts. “We hope to use pattern boldly and playfully, and we ask that our customers take some measured risks with their living space,” says Morgan Ringer. New to the company’s lineup: ceramic tiles made with reclaimed bottle glass. (mediterratile.com)
Spoonflower: Started in 2008, this Durham, N.C., company makes it possible for designers and DIYers to design and print their own fabrics for window treatments and home accessories such as pillows. Spoonflower uses nontoxic ink to digitally print on 10 types of fabric. Customers can create original designs or choose from an inventory of more than 100,000. Owner Stephen Fraser says Spoonflower also will soon be able to print eco-friendly — and removable — wallpaper. “All along the novelty of Spoonflower has been the novelty of making customization available to regular people,” says Fraser. (spoonflower.com)