Wallpaper, something I’m sure you think about often, has always played second fiddle to the art that’s hung upon it. That is why Tom Pukko, Anne Pukko and Oliver Green, the founders of the interiors company Feathr, want to lift wallpaper out of the “decoration ghetto” and “bring it closer to art.” Through collaborations with artists from a variety of disciplines, Feathr produces artist-designed wallpaper that will blow your mind. This Helsinki-based startup, due to launch early in 2015, is on a mission: more art, less decoration. I like it. Tom shared just how the Feathr team is adding a little bit of awesome to wallpaper by applying technology to an outdated industry and creating a quality product.

WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR BUSINESS COME FROM?

As three ex-advertising people, we’ve done our fair share of ruining modern culture. To fix this in some small we wanted to focus on the things we actually care about – art, big ideas, design, craft, having our socks knocked-off, originality and art (again).

We experimented with a few different ideas before we stumbled on wallpaper. The revelation came when Anne & I were out buying wallpaper for our own home. In shop after shop, we were shown the same designs, by the same limited range of ‘designer’ brands. One sales assistant even said to us – ‘don’t buy this, everyone has it now.’ This seemed a little odd to us – whether it’s fashion, furniture or food, the world is now full of ways to buy from independent, artisan makers. So, we started doing more research into the wallpaper industry found it to be very outdated in its approach to all digital technology, but on the verge of going through great change.

That’s when it all fell into place. We saw the opportunity to be the first to bring independent artists and wallpaper together, supercharging it using digital business, marketing and production techniques.

WHAT IS YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH?

[Bing – going up] We source, curate and sell artist-designed wallpaper. We work with cutting-edge creative talent to create innovative designs. Then, we make and sell smart, so that consumers can access boutique quality design at a sensible price. [Bing – you’ve arrived at your floor].

WHAT IS THE BEST LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED THUS FAR?

Move fast and embrace failure. Almost all the assumptions you start a business on (whether intuition or research based) will be challenged by reality. So, rather than perfecting an idea before launching, get it to its minimum functioning level, put it out there, get reactions and learn quickly. You have to be prepared to adapt and abandon ideas that you’ve held close to your heart for months.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS?

We’re nothing without awesomely talented artists wanting to work with us. We’ve had success here because of the idea and attitude at the core of the company – more art, less decoration. Artists buy into the idea that homes should be filled with awesomeness, not averageness and beige. They want to be a part of taking the old-fashioned medium of wallpaper and reinventing it for the 21st century.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN?

Know why you’ve started the business. Not ‘to make money’ or ‘because I want to be own boss’ but – what’s your reason for being, what are you trying to fix in the world? Having this will inspire yourself, customers, partners, staff (when you have some) to give that extra 10%, or 100%. This is vital when times are tough. To paraphrase Nietzche, ‘If you give people the right why, they will endure any kind of what or how.’

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

Goodness. A professional adventurer once said to me that the best thing about his life is that he wakes up each day to some amazing request or opportunity in his inbox. That’s how we feel right now. Every day we hear from new artists. Every day we see work that astounds us. Every day people get in touch saying they’re excited to be part of what we’re doing. So, 2015 will be about making our first wallpaper collection a success, but beyond that we feel we have an idea – more art, less decoration – that could go anywhere.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When times get rough, and you ask yourself why you’re even doing this, you really should have a good answer. It will be far more motivating for you and your team if the answer is something other than “make money”. As well, by putting a minimum viable product out into the world for feedback is a great way to adjust and make your product even better. Best of luck to Feathr in 2015!

Photo by Peter Judson.