Tech Bros Wells and Knox Childress Bring Your Dream Décor Into Virtual Reality
GIVEN THEIR LINEAGE, the Childress brothers’ success may come as little surprise. Masterminds behind 3-D product-imaging company Kermit Labs, Wells, 31, and Knox, 26, got their sharp eye for design from their interior-decorator mom Kara — and their entrepreneurial spirit from Houston-Oiler-turned-auto-dealer father Ray.
They grew up interning for their mom during summer breaks. “When she would present ideas to clients, she’d show a mood board with a small, pixelated image of a sofa next to a tiny fabric swatch next to a tiny wood sample,” says Wells. “And she’d say, ‘Imagine this sofa covered in this fabric with this type of wood leg.’ This client is about to spend $15,000 on the sofa, but they still can’t completely visualize it.”
The brothers saw an opportunity and pursued the business idea that became Kermit Labs. Kermit allows clients to see products in a photorealistic way, “in the exact fabric and finish and in the exact room they want,” says Wells.
Utilizing special software, the Childresses create a 3-D model, “basically a digital twin of the product,” Wells explains. “Then we’ll also create a texture, like a fabric or wood finish.” But the real fun happens next: “We create amazing, slick, virtual room scenes that include the client’s products.” Even though the exact furniture item or floor covering hasn’t yet been built IRL, the customer still gets a scalable and interactive experience. And since Kermit Labs can swap textiles, finishes or accent pieces digitally, it saves the client from producing tangible products in multiple variations — which cuts travel and photography costs by nearly 90 percent while creating stunning product imagery. The business model has earned the endorsement of major industry players like Ashley Stark Home, Lee Industries, and Visual Comfort & Co.
“We’re working on view-in-room capabilities,” says Knox, “where you can look through your phone and picture the proportions of a sofa or chair in your own home.”