Direct-to-consumer brands shaking things up
also offers a paint calculator and blog with plenty of how-to advice.
For Backdrop’s husband-and-wife cofounders, Caleb and Natalie Ebel, the goal was to totally rethink the way people look at paint.
“It’s not a hardware store purchase; it’s an art project on your wall,” Natalie Ebel said.
The Ebels say they spent years reimagining everything from the straightforward names of their paints to the twist-top, stainless-steel containers. Caleb, a veteran of Warby Parker, and Natalie, a former nonprofit executive, said they thought it was important to build social impact into their startup, with a portion of every sale going to the International Rescue Committee.
“We’re a consumer-oriented company built by consumers,” Caleb Ebel said. “One of the most exciting things we see is people are painting because they’re being inspired to paint.”
For Elizabeth Rishel, founder of the DIY home lifestyle blog Within the Grove, renovating without having to set foot in a hardware store is an answered prayer. As the mother of a 2-year-old and someone who shops for home goods online via Wayfair and Joss & Main, Rishel says she frequently recommends direct-to-consumer companies to her readers.
“The importance of companies like this is they are simplifying the process, which is giving the homeowners the confidence to do it on their own,” Rishel said.
Rishel says anyone who is squeamish about shopping this way should browse social media posts to see what kind of outcomes people have had with the products. She also suggests taking advantage of the companies’ attentive customer service. She says that’s one of the major draws of direct-to-consumer brands, especially those with savvy social marketing strategies.
“Besides the convenience, you’re reaching people on a more personal level,” she said. “It’s more organic — a true opinion, a true voice.”
Nicki Clendening, owner of Scout Designs in New York City, says the direct-toconsumer shift in the home space represents convenience, but also consumer empowerment. When industries that previously catered more to contractors and designers adjust their strategies to target consumers, the result is a more streamlined and user-friendly sales process.
“As a designer, my job is to find the right thing for my client, but hiring an interior designer is a luxury that not everyone has,” Clendening said. “It’s the way the design industry is going: the accessibility of having access to things a designer only had access to.”
She says she sees this change especially in the furniture market and points to ecommerce sites such as One Kings Lane, which offers in-person or remote designer services.
Designer Jessica Williams of Hendley & Co. says in her experience, direct-to-consumer home brands appeal especially to design-savvy consumers who appreciate these brands’ contemporary aesthetic. One of her current favorites, the Inside, offers a service similar to Clare and Backdrop for upholstery.
“I recently purchased a divider screen for my living room. I knew I wanted something velvet,” Williams said. “I could choose the structure and fabric swatches from their library.”
The on-demand furniture company started by DwellStudio founder Christiane Lemieux delivers custom-made products to consumers within four weeks. Staying nimble with inventory gives freedom to react more quickly, providing customers with the latest looks at a lower cost — taking a page from the “fast fashion” playbook.
“The patterns are speaking to trends,” Williams said. “They understand the pulse, and the price points are fantastic.”
Williams also serves as a brand ambassador for the direct-to-consumer furniture brand Interior Define. She says the sleek, custom-made furniture has a dozen different sofa and chair styles that can be customized by size, leg finish and fabric. The company has showrooms in six cities, but the site is designed so you never have to visit one in person.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that most of these companies are churning out beautiful images to their Instagram feeds faster than Architectural Digest can share its latest celebrity home spread. The Inside has racked up almost 24,000 Instagram followers, while Interior Define boasts 122,000.
“These brands with big influences offer trust for a customer,” Williams said. “If your brand isn’t active and pushing out beautiful imagery, you almost don’t exist. We live in a culture where we’re so obsessed with creating content and reacting to it. Everyone’s a decorator in their own right.”