In the direct-to-consumer product revolution, all it takes is a few swipes and taps to get houseplants, comforters and mattress samples delivered from your Instagram feed directly to your front door. Now two startups are vying to turn one of the most powerful — and whined about — home decor purchases on its head.
We’ve all been there, staring dumbfounded at a rainbow wall of paint chips wondering where to start. Was that trim color she recommended White Dove or Dune White? How are there so many versions of blue-green, and what in the world does “eggshell” mean, again?
Paint and supply companies Clare and Backdrop both launched in 2018 with splashy e-commerce sites, social media feeds and similar price points to their bricks-and-mortar competitors. Rather than selling thousands of colors, they both offer a tightly curated lineup of about 50 low-to-no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints. And perhaps most notably, in lieu of providing flimsy paint cards, the companies sell generously sized, self-adhesive color swatches for less than the cost of a sample can.
“Shopping for paint hasn’t been an inspiring process,” said Nicole Gibbons, interior designer and founder of Clare. “The home industry has been slower to catch on to innovation and e-commerce. You can shop for everything online and have it appear on your doorstep. That’s what people want.”
Gibbons says an important part of her vision for Clare involved creating a virtual “interior designer BFF” to help people navigate the unnecessarily egregious painting process. Through eight questions, Clare’s Color Genius tool dispenses customized paint recommendations. The site also offers a paint calculator and blog with plenty of how-to advice.
For Backdrop’s husband-andwife co-founders, 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, stainlesssteel 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-yearold and someone who shops for home goods online via Wayfair and Joss & Main, Rishel says she frequently recommends directto-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.
Nicki Clendening, owner of Scout Designs in New York City, says the direct-to-consumer shift