Let there be light and the tapestries

As college students soon descend on their apartments and dorms across Michigan and beyond, decorative items take temporary housing from the blank canvas to the comfort zone. The latest picks can reflect their personalities and become conversation starters that make great icebreakers. Just ask Ann Arbor-based Kyle Leighton, founder of Tapestry Girls, a global distributor of home decor for college students and graduates.

Tapestries offer an affordable way to decorate a wall in a small space like a dorm or apartment. “Styles and colors promote well-being and personal identity,” he says.

Leighton began his career in the lighting industry and is the author of several technical and scientific studies on lighting that have been published nationally and internationally. The University of California Davis used his studies when developing Title 24 energy codes for the state of California. Leighton also traveled to Washington, DC to help the US Department of Energy develop federal lighting codes. Later, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine would publish his lighting studies.

A tapestry of palm trees gives an indoor space an outdoor feel with a tropical pattern that gives a sense of calm.

This recognition and achievement would lead him to a role in higher education with a teaching position at Jackson College which would inspire his latest endeavor. “I was asked to teach and develop an energy science degree for students interested in the same area of ​​work,” says Leighton who noticed all the colorful tapestries on campus.

His early career had taught him that lighting was mostly made overseas and he found the same was true for tapestries following an online search. “There was no US-based company. They just don’t make them here,” says Leighton. “I had a light bulb moment, no pun intended.”

So the 37-year-old entrepreneur, who also owns 26 rental properties in the Midwest, decided to become the only upholstery company headquartered in the United States. Soon after the website was set up, orders quickly followed and grew from there. Tapestries and other unique products for small spaces are also available through Society6, Redbubble, and Walmart.

In addition to their origin, Leighton says the quality and color of the tapestries also sets them apart, as well as the emerging trends that shape them. “They went from VSCO to cottagecore, boho, e-girl, goth and indie bands,” he says. “Aesthetic trends can be inspired by music and we adapt our products to these trends.”

Fashion also plays an important role. “The style of a college student’s bedroom looks a lot like what they would wear,” adds Leighton. “It’s fashionable and it has an identity.”

For example, the indie aesthetic features decor inspired by popular indie music. “It’s a unique style rooted in that culture, which is the same with the grunge or gothic look,” he says.

Y2K décor that features retro colors like purple, pink, and blue is another current trend. To simplify the selection process, buyers can search the website (tapestrygirls.com) by aesthetic.

Washable tapestries can go beyond the walls of dorm rooms and starter apartments to spruce up picnics, tables, and beds. Plus, a variety of unique decorative pieces are available to complement them, from a heart-shaped alarm clock to a shiny disco ball. Bedding sets, posters and lighting are some of the other options, such as LED Wall Vine Lights which remain a bestseller.

Softy bedding sets are another popular item, while seashell pillows offer a fun take on the standard square. “They’re summery and cool,” says Leighton. “We have a ton of products with over 2,000 SKUs for students looking to establish their own identity.”

Social media contributes to her growing clientele while providing insight into the creative process. “Students tend to get things and put them in their rooms. When they display them, we can see how they decorate,” says Leighton. “It’s like painting. Each time they post, they paint a different picture and put together how they want their space to look.

LED wall sconces have a curtain effect that blurs the lines between indoors and outdoors with a bit of greenery.

Having a home away from home becomes an integral part of the college experience. “They will spend the next four years of their lives there, so it’s important to have spaces that they feel comfortable in,” he says.

“This is an extremely important trip for students,” adds Leighton, who mentions a dorm checklist on his website that incoming students can download and print. “It’s not just the bed and the tapestries. There are storage solutions and bath essentials so they can feel comfortable in their personal space. They leave their parents’ house to fend for themselves. It’s a great experience.

He encourages the next generation of entrepreneurs to pay attention to their surroundings and ask themselves what products are made of and how they work.

As for Tapestry Girls’ products, Leighton continues to set them apart. “Going forward, we want to be a home fashion business where there’s a real opportunity to establish your identity,” he says. “We embrace the intersection of home decor and fashion with a focus on fashion. We’re looking at home decor through a fashion lens right now.

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at [email protected]

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