SmithHönig, a maker of wild and bright home fabrics and decor inspired by travel, has formally been a company for less than a year. But its founders, Melanie Hönig and Kellie Smith, have been creative collaborators for more than a decade. They met when Hönig hired Smith, an interior designer, to work on her home. “She came over, and we were supposed to talk about window treatments,” says Hönig, a photographer and travel blog author. “About four hours, a bottle of wine, and a box of chocolates later, we knew we wanted to work on something together.”
In January, 10 years after that first conversation, the duo launched their Dalton-based company with a collection of pillows, wall art, and other home decor defined by abstract and heavily manipulated patterns and saturated colors and inspired by their travels. In April, SmithHönig added wallpaper and fabric in roughly a dozen patterns to their offerings, and they are working to expand the colorway options for each. The Moroccan Knot pattern, for example, draws inspiration from Italy’s Villa Crespi, a Moorish-style hotel filled with arabesque furniture, which Hönig visited in 2013; the geometric and bold-colored design was based off of Hönig’s photographs of the hotel.
“There weren’t a lot of people using color in a bold and brave way in the market,” she says. “And when we debuted our collection, there was a part of me that wondered if we were too out there—but the response has been amazing.”
Both cofounders submit sketches and photographs, which are burned, scratched, or torn before eventually becoming digital patterns printed onto SmithHönig’s goods. Most of the design work takes place in Smith’s 10,000-square-foot studio in an old hotel that once housed injured Civil War soldiers. With its tin ceiling, deep blue wallpaper, and hand-sanded hardwood floors, the studio is more work space than showroom; the company employs eight people and produces some of the more embellished offerings, like velvet pillows with tassels, while mainstays are printed by factories in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Having spent the better part of the year launching their business and developing new products, Hönig and Smith don’t have a next trip planned, much to their own surprise. They’re eyeing India or Scotland. But as they would say, planning their next steps is most of the fun anyway. “Melanie and I quickly realized that we’re sort of creative kindred spirits, old souls who share a love of history and culture, and that’s not always easy to find in a small town,” Smith says. “Getting to talk about things we want to create and traveling together—now with our families, too—is something really special for us. That’s really the best part.” smithhonig.com
This article originally appeared in our Winter 2017 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.