“If the work is good, the demand is there,” Kyra Hartnett tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. She is one half of the couple behind Twenty2 Wallpaper + Textiles, a private label manufacturer for digitally printed wallpapers and textiles. Kyra and her husband, Robertson, met in their early 20s while working at an Australian clothing company in New York. “There was just this electricity and synergy between us, and we felt like everything we did was made better when we collaborated,” she says. They got married and put that energy into a graphic design business, until a decorating project for her college friend Taye Diggs introduced them to the world of interior design. “The power of the wall was really clear to us at that point,” she says.
The two cashed in their 401(k)s and started a wallpaper company out of their Brooklyn Heights apartment, debuting their first collection at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in 2003. Four years later, they bought an HP Latex machine to digitally print wallpapers. They then began printing collections for others and they discovered they had a passion for teaming up with other companies and creatives.
In 2013, the Hartnetts stopped designing their own patterns and jumped headfirst into manufacturing and consulting with brands—not only on printing but also strategy, marketing, and sampling. “We got energized by working with other people’s work and reproducing it in a way that honored the work,” says Robertson. “We got into a place where that became what got us up in the morning.” Elsewhere in the episode, the couple talk about how far digital printing technology has come, the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, and how good work can weather any economic storm.
Crucial insight: The couple share the challenges and advantages of being in business with a spouse, and how they still make time for collaboration while allowing for growth. “[At first] we would sit next to each other and read each other’s emails before [sending them]—that’s how granularly we were collaborating. As we grew and scaled, we had to have some division of responsibility in order to get anything done,” says Kyra. “We are now recognizing the need to get back to the place not where we’re reviewing each other’s emails but where we have eyes on each other’s work and we’re collaborating. That is part of the secret sauce—the two of us and both of our insights.”
Key quote: “Part of what we are most proud of in the growth of our business is the team that has grown around us, and every single day we learn from each other,” says Kyra. “[The company is] over 85 percent female, and we’re really proud of the fact that we are challenging the norms of manufacturing and digital printing, both being essentially male-dominated industries. The team is also incredibly artistic—over 50 percent of our team has arts degrees.”
The Thursday Show
BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus joins host Dennis Scully to go over the biggest news in the industry, including deep cuts at Wayfair, Red Sea shipping delays, and a look at why furniture quality seems to be getting worse. Later, BOH editor in chief Kaitlin Petersen and market editor Caroline Biggs break down the highlights from Paris Déco Off and Maison&Objet.