podcast | Jun 26, 2023 |
Fromental’s Tim Butcher on finding a niche and owning it

In 2005, Tim Butcher, the co-founder of hand-printed wallpaper company Fromental, got a phone call from the head of purchasing at Wynn Las Vegas. The luxury hotel had not yet opened, but the manager wanted a quote for 4,000 yards of hand-made wallpaper. Butcher had just launched the company and was still running the business from a spare room at his home in London, but he was determined to win the business, so he boarded a flight to Fromental’s production studio in China to manage the production process.

Butcher got the job—and had to quickly scale up to produce the high-volume order. Because the operation needed so much space for the frames and panels, the only location that would work was a local badminton court. It took 10 weeks and 220 embroiderers, but Butcher was able to deliver the wallpaper to Wynn in time for installation. “It was one of those moments when you’re in your startup period,” Butcher tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “But that gave us an impetus commercially, and also a belief and drive that we could do this.”

That drive was born out of a strong passion for creating wallpaper. Butcher and Lizzie Deshayes, who is both his wife and a decorative painter, were textile designers, and they felt that there was an opportunity to combine hand-painting with the medium of wallpaper. They founded Fromental with the idea that they would stick to one mission: to push the envelope of traditional wallpaper-printing processes. “As we’ve grown in all sorts of ways and become international, we’re still guided by that initial passion and direction,” says Butcher.

Over the past two decades, the business has expanded all over the world—including a new corporate showroom in New York opening this month. Most recently, Fromental collaborated with interior designer Scott Maddux on a courtyard room for Wow!house at London’s Design Centre Chelsea Harbour and supplied custom wallpaper for designer Timothy Corrigan’s room at the Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York.

Hunting out and defending the brand’s niche is what Butcher says has differentiated Fromental in the wallcovering industry, despite the category’s growth throughout the past 15 years due to the introduction of digital printing. “What we do is very special,” says Butcher. “One of the ways that we make sure we’re crafting a niche is to do something that is probably too difficult for some of the bigger firms with more resources. That’s the easiest way we can carve out a Fromental-shaped niche that we can ensure that remains unique.”

Elsewhere on the podcast, Butcher discusses the complex cultural history of chinoiserie, why the rise of digital printing is both a blessing and a curse, and how AI will impact the design industry.

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Loloi Rugs and Room & Board.

The Thursday Show

Meanwhile, on the latest episode of The Thursday Show, Scully, BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus and BOH managing editor Haley Chouinard dissect the most recent news in the design industry, including the relaunch of Lonny, a Pride Month controversy and a look at greenwashing. Later, the executive director of the Design Leadership Network, Michael Diaz-Griffith, discusses his new book, The New Antiquarians.

Listen below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode is sponsored by Crypton.

Homepage image: Tim Butcher | Courtesy of Fromental

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