It all started with a deer.
Well, it all started with a very creative young couple from Wayzata, who—like buying a monthly gym membership or groceries—casually bought in to a makerspace.
Among specialized equipment and ample space for spreading out and creating things, the makerspace was home to a rather expensive computer numeric control (CNC) machine, which could precisely cut or carve flat materials.
“I’ve always drawn things, doodled, done design, I guess,” recalls Kait Schroeder. “I had done this free-form deer head drawing, and my husband [Avery] just cut it out on the machine one day. It turned out so cool! We immediately started asking, ‘What else can we draw?’”
Wanting to stay creative and make some money while staying home with their three young daughters, Schroeder had recently begun selling kids’ hair bows and accessories at the I Like You store in Minneapolis, which exclusively carries products from independent Twin Cities makers. Schroeder made a quick phone call to the store after some more test runs on the CNC machine—followed by a few coats of paint—and the shop immediately agreed to carry a handful of her creations. Each one was cut from a hand-drawn design out of premium medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and painted a single color.
In 2013, Pink Linen Designs became a full-fledged business, which now sells a collection of simple designs available in 15 saturated colorways, from classic white to stark black, trendy blush to vintage mustard. They’re lightweight and hangable—making inexpensive wall art at just 18- to 30-ish dollars a pop—or prop-able, adding a bit of fun to ever-changing mantels, bookshelves, and window sills. Check out the imaginative product photos on Pink Linen’s website or social media feeds, and you’ll see brightly colored vignettes pairing the cutouts with everything from books to romantic vases of flowers, modern metal giraffes and Rubik’s cubes. With an eye for design and lighthearted tendencies, Schroeder is constantly introducing new shapes and colors to the mix, trying them at home first in her family’s art room, which features the designs nearly floor to ceiling.
“Now I’ll see prints on clothes or out in the world and know instantly that I should try them in a cutout,” Schroeder says. She’s also taken design cues from her tiny at-home creators, turning her kids’ artwork into cutouts on the CNC machine they now keep at their own industrial workspace in Roseville. There are sets of winking eyelashes, animals, custom pennants, state shapes, cacti, pineapples, and ice cream cones. Each stands well alone or in a cluster of similar shapes, but they also work in a haphazard collection—as evidenced by the all-over-the-place, rainbow vibe of the family’s art room. “We love the fun, quirky stuff. Really, our whole house is designed that way," Schroeder says.
Sales have increased steadily by about 20 percent each year since the company began, with husband Avery handling the cutting and Kait holding down the painting, marketing, events and connecting with customers. She’s also the lead creative muse, wearing her “mom” hat to her home office each day.
“My designs have moved more kid-friendly over time, from more serious pennants and state shapes to the funkier stuff. Being a mom really helps me design for kids,” Schroeder adds. While she works hard to protect her kids' privacy from the company’s online presence—2500 followers and counting on Instagram and recent spreads in Country Living and Design Sponge—they’re never far from her mind behind the scenes. “I’m constantly thinking of what my kids will like, and what will look great in their spaces. They’re the inspiration, really. I do it all for them.”
From their fashion choices to their home design, and also in their cutouts, the Schroeders’ aesthetic skews minimal. “It’s whimsical, modern, quirky. Not fancy, but fun,” says Schroeder, noting that she’s gotten to know quite a few local makers at this point, especially in the kid design space. Since she’s been entrenched in that world—unexpectedly, but delightedly so—she’s been pleased to see kid design moving “less gooey, with more color and pops of interest,” she says. “But simplistic. I love that. We all love that.”
Pink Linen's TV Debut
Last month, we featured Brad and Heather Fox, of Minnetonka's Fox Homes, who are the newest stars on HGTV. In their pilot episode of Stay or Sell that aired last summer, the longtime interior designers, real estate agents and home flippers overhauled a dated but affordable St. Louis Park home in a way that would delight the owners and their kids with a modern-meets-vintage, casual vibe. The Foxes used the opportunity to give a little love to Minnesota, bringing in artisans and contractors to add a local touch to the home while in turn giving them some national exposure.
“This is a cool place,” says Heather. “We’re considered a flyover state. But we want to show it off!” To that end, Pink Linen Designs had a few well-placed cameos in the form of bunny cutouts on the daughters’ bedroom walls and a cheeky “Girls Rule” pennant in their bathroom.
Pieces from Pink Linen Designs are stocked at several local shops, including the I Like You stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Golden Rule in Excelsior, HWY North in Marine on St. Croix and St. Paul, Homade in Eden Prairie, Rose and Loon at Rosedale Mall in Roseville, and at occasional events and craft shows.