Averylily: From design firm to product launch

Striving to create a hyperlocal business in a world that is increasingly global, serial entrepreneur and home design enthusiast Lily Kanter is enjoying her latest venture, Averylily, a Hawaii-based design firm she co-founded with interior designer Avery Solmssen last year. In November, the company will launch its first line of home decor, the Averylily Home Collection, which will be available through the company’s website.

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The Averylily design studio, with about 25 projects in the works, has a small team now, but Kanter and Solmssen plan to carefully grow the business by fostering local talent and recruiting designers who studied at major design institutions on the U.S. mainland and encouraging them to return to Hawaii. “Right now, there’s really not a lot of opportunity for them to come back, and that’s quite sad,” Kanter says.

Local, local, local

It’s all part of the company’s mission to support the local community. The Averylily partners set aside a portion of company equity for employees as part of a profit-sharing program and invest 10% of profits in local organizations that provide shelter for those in need.

Many items in the home decor line will have local ties, too. For its first collection, Averylily collaborated with artist and designer Andrew Mau, founder of Mau-House. “He’s very bespoke and just an amazing talent,” Kanter says.

Avery Solmssen designed the mountain home that Lily Kanter and her family bought in 2021.
Avery Solmssen designed the mountain home that Lily Kanter and her family bought in 2021. | House photos by: Henry Houghton

To best serve its local customer base, Averylily will aim to deliver its new home accessories to island residents within a day, or even the same day.

“This is all going to be about local. Our strategy is not to go compete with the large companies, including my former company (Serena & Lily). That is not what we’re up to. We’re super focused on Hawaii,” Kanter explains. That’s not to say that the new home decor line won’t be available outside of Hawaii. Mainland consumers will be able to buy items through the website and have them shipped.

The Averylily origin story

Kanter and Solmssen (formerly of Philpotts Interiors) have something of a “meet cute” story. Unable to travel to favorite destinations in Africa during the early days of the pandemic, Kanter and her adventure-loving family visited Hawaii, fell in love and, in 2021, bought a house in the Hawaiian mountains. Taken with the home’s design, Kanter wanted to meet the designer, who turned out to be Solmssen. Over time, the two became friends and then business partners, first launching the interior design firm and now introducing home decor.

Kanter describes the initial home collection as a capsule of premium-quality “move-in basics,” including bedding and bath linens and other accessories. Tying the collection back Serena & Lily (Kanter’s previous partnership with designer Serena Dugan), the Averylily Home Collection color palette is based on Pantone matches to fabrics in the Serena Dugan Studio line.

Linens and other accessories in the Averylily Home Collection will launch in November. Photo by Kenna Reed

Decor News Now caught up with a busy Kanter as she was heading to North Africa, for a bit of rest and relaxation, which for her includes four-wheeling through the Atlas Mountains. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

DNN: Bringing your experience in leadership, accounting and technology to the partnerships, you’ve had successful collaborations in the past. What makes collaborative business ventures attractive to you and what made you want to launch a new partnership with Avery Solmssen?

Kanter: I’ve learned a lot and had success partnering with someone completely opposite of myself in terms of strengths, someone who has design talent and creative talent. That was my partnership with Serena. I am the home decor enthusiast. I love home design; I love home decor. I get so much joy from decorating and designing my home, but my (business) strengths are in other areas. … When I met Avery, we spent about a year just getting to know each other as friends, and she was helping me with a lot of projects at my home, which she had designed. It felt really good to be able to empower a local interior designer on the Hawaiian Islands and to build a studio.

DNN: You love home design and have been involved in other home-focused companies but never directly involved in a design firm. What do you enjoy about this side of the business?

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Kanter: I absolutely love the business because it’s very much of a relationship business and a service business. It has its own complexity … but it’s delightful because it really fosters relationships — long-term relationships. You’re working with these clients for a year or two, and that’s a great thing. Our (design) business has been 100% word-of-mouth. We have over 25 projects inside the studio right now. It’s just nurturing relationships and doing an amazing job.

Items in the Averylily Home Collection are inspired by the Hawaiian culture and landscape, with some designed in collaboration with local artists. | Photo by: Kenna Reed

DNN: The Averylily interior design studio is off to a strong start. Why did you want to move into a home decor product line, too?

Kanter: We’re a full-service interior design studio that can literally bring a house up from the dirt, working with the architect and bringing the home to life with the finishes, the woodwork, the cabinetry, the furnishings. We design the entire home. But when we get to the end of the project, a lot of clients ask Avery, “Where do I get my bedding? Where do I get my bath towels? Where do I get my things for the beach?” (This new line) is the finishing touches. It’s beautiful product, and we’re very excited about it.

DNN: You’ve had a varied career, first at Microsoft and later founding several companies, including Mill Valley Baby & Kids Home, Serena & Lily and Boon Supply. What do you find most interesting or challenging about your work with Averylily?

Kanter: The design studio is just a year old, but it’s on its feet in a very, very solid way and doing incredible projects. So, we’re being super conscientious of not distracting that part of the business while we’re launching a product line. They’re very different businesses. One is a high-touch service business, and one is about e-commerce, product development, inventory control and planning. I’m very conscious of what it really takes to be successful, so we’re launching the product in a thoughtful and slow way to make sure we have the right team and the right operation. We want to deliver a high-quality experience on both sides of the business.

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