May 30, 2020

10 Questions With… Kyle Bunting

It all started with a 1995 Christmas gift from his father, Jim Bunting. Texas was a mosaic hide artwork of the Lone Star State that opened the younger’s eyes to a world of possibility. Transforming vision to reality, Kyle Bunting learned the ropes assisting his father in all stages of the elder’s hide art and furniture making, from assembly to marketing and production. In 2001, he opened his eponymous two-person studio, with the occasional helper, in San Francisco. Feeling the pull of his roots, he relocated to the Live Music Capital of the World, aka Austin, Texas, where the studio is now 35 strong, maintains hundreds of designs from aerials to zebra, and similarly keeps hundreds of colors in stock. Not to mention his strictly bespoke work comprising about 25 percent of his business. All hides are Italian, and Bunting promises delivery within six to eight weeks. As Interior Design Editor in Chief Cindy Allen says: “Have you ever walked on a Bunting? Get ready to smile. It gives you happy feet.”

Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, and raised in the Dallas suburb of Irving, Bunting graduated from the University of Texas in Austin. Prior to founding his firm, he was an executive producer for SKYTV, where he oversaw stories for diversified and global clients, much like his clientele today.

Interior Design: How did growing up near Dallas influence you?

Kyle Bunting: That part of Texas was booming during my childhood. New buildings seemingly popped up overnight; businesses and national brands flooded in. The dynamism and sense of opportunity was overwhelming as was the sense that anything was possible. That confidence, freedom, and independence we associate with being Texan really shaped my perspective.

ID: Your big news is the switch to selling exclusively online. What was the catalyst?

KB: The fundamental factor of Kyle Bunting is the desire to control the message and relationship with our clients. Showrooms provided a valuable function by exposing designers and clients to the product and communicating the unique features and benefits. Still, it became challenging to train and manage that process with a third-party representing our product.

Photography courtesy of Kyle Bunting.

ID: How many showrooms had you been in?

KB: At one point we were up to 20 showrooms around the world. Now Kyle Bunting is sold directly through the studio.

ID: Are you selling to both professionals and end users? What is the pricing structure?

KB: Since we opened the business, we’ve always made the product accessible to end users as well as designers. Designers who open a Studio Direct account with us receive a substantial discount, and direct end users can purchase the product at list price.

Photography by Douglas Friedman.

ID: How’s it all working out?

KB: We’re thrilled with the decision. The business is growing, and we’re finding ourselves better able to manage the business and our client relationships by being direct.

ID: What are some of the more unusual uses of your rugs, upholstery, pillows, and wall coverings?

KB: I don’t think the answer is that there are unusual uses of our products. They are just sometimes unusual or unexpected projects that use our applications. For instance, at a spa in Saudi Arabia, a 950-square-foot rug had to be inlaid into pre-poured concrete. Hundreds of designers use our wall coverings to wrap support columns in offices and apartments around the world. It might not be unusual, but it’s certainly different. Once we established acceptance for hide as a medium for both vertical and horizontal applications, it truly became the designers who found interesting ways to use our product.

Photography courtesy of Kyle Bunting.

ID: Speaking of designers, name with whom have you worked?

KB: Jamie Drake, Jiun Ho, Mark Zeff, Amy Lau, Roric Tobin, Mark Thee, Amanda Nisbet, Jennifer Welch, Jan Showers, and Deborah Walker.

ID: How does the custom process work? Does it start with a sketch? Yours or the designer’s? By hand or computer? Walk us through.

KB: It starts with the designer’s idea and ingenuity. Sometimes they’re sketches, sometimes drawings or scribbled on a cocktail napkin. On our end, we render the project for the client and present it, so they have a representation of what we can create. Once approved, that rendering turns into a series of technical vector files with database triggers to help us manage the process of cutting and sourcing materials. On the surface, it’s a fairly straightforward process. Behind the scenes, it is wildly complex.

Matt Neuman’s collaboration with Kyle Bunting. Photography courtesy of Kyle Bunting.

ID: What are you working on now?

KB: We just launched a collection with artist Matt Neuman. In January, it was Atlas with photographer Douglas Friedman. This summer, we have a collection of European-inspired designs with Timothy Corrigan. They’re centered around his Chateau de la Chevallerie in the Loire Valley.

ID: What influences you?

KB: I get exposed to some of the most beautiful things in the world. Scheduling travel around events and exhibitions that’ll keep the creative energy flowing is critical to free my mind. Carrie Mae Weems once said: “Art has saved my life on a regular basis.” I don’t think I could have said it better myself.

Matt Neuman’s collaboration with Kyle Bunting. Photography courtesy of Kyle Bunting.
Matt Neuman’s collaboration with Kyle Bunting. Photography courtesy of Kyle Bunting.
Photography by Douglas Friedman.
Photography by Douglas Friedman.

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