After the success of Warby Parker and Everlane, companies have been cropping up across all industries with business models that cut out the middleman to offer designer-quality wares at reasonable prices. But in terms of providing paired-down, high-end basics, home goods retailers have consistently lagged behind.
“Home is so much more complicated for people. It’s not like fashion, where people grew up dressing themselves and have this inherent style and idea of what they want,” says Rachel Cohen, cofounder of Snowe, a new direct-to-consumer home goods brand that aims to democratize luxury home products. “There’s a lot of overassortment. It’s overwhelming, there’s so much choice. So we wanted to simplify that shopping experience and really focus on the premium materials and qualities that can upgrade your entire home, and then people can mix and match with their own style on top of that as well.”
Cohen started Snowe with her partner Andres Modak to provide the “post-IKEA” (read: late 20s to early 50s) crowd with practical, thoughtfully designed home essentials that don’t skimp on quality. The idea is to offer people “everything they want and nothing they don’t need,” as Modak puts it, which means focusing on functionality and stripping products of unnecessary embellishments.
We normally think of UX in terms of the web, not household items as quotidian as plates, forks, sheets, and bath towels. Yet during the process of designing a line of elegant, practical household goods that are essential to any home, Snowe ended up reevaluating how we use those items, and dreaming up the subtle yet essential ways they can be improved. When it comes to the design of its products, nothing goes unconsidered–from the weight of a fork in your hands to the sound a wine glass makes when you “cheers.”
“We’re inspired by Dieter Rams’s 10 principles of design. It’s used at Apple, and in furniture and other areas of design, but it hadn’t been spoken about as much in terms of the home,” says Modak. “When we were going through the earlier stages, we were thinking about what worked for us. That idea of thoughtful design being effortless–what were our pain points?”
Some of their solutions are as simple as a wider bed sheet that doesn’t come untucked at the sides; others as clever as adding a tie to a dish towel so it can double as an ad-hoc apron. Here are a few of their most inventive and thoughtful design elements–and proof that genius really is in the details.
A Multi-Use Bath Towel:
“For women, you can never find the right hair towel,” says Cohen. “And if it’s a luxury towel, it’s super heavy, so if you use it as a hair towel, your hair bobs backwards. We basically took the hand towel and resized it so that it could also double as a woman’s hair towel.”
Like all of the towels in Snowe’s bath collection, the hand towel is made using a specific Japanese spinning technology that essentially traps air into each cotton fiber, giving the towel a lightweight quality that dries fast and alludes mildew. When it’s time to hang up, there’s a subtle fabric loop in the back corner that you can easily slip over a hook.
Sheets That Fit:
Forget the frustration of fitted sheets and hard-to-wash duvet covers. The most annoying aspect of bedding is that pesky little pouch that the sheets come in, and into which you’re supposed to shove them before storing in the linen closet. Why anyone would make the pouch the same size as the folded sheets is one of life’s great mysteries, but Snowe has a solution to that, too. Their sheet set comes in a pouch that is a bit oversized for ease of restuffing.
They also closely considered the fabric of the sheets, ditching the familiar sateen weave–most popular in the U.S. market for its satiny sheen–for the perennial percale. “Percale is very much like a crisp white tee shirt,” says Jessica Green, Snowe’s creative director. “And it’s breathable, which makes it seasonless–it’ll keep you warm in the cold and cool in the heat.”
An “Effortless, Ergonomic” Fork:
Many companies nowadays hollow out the heel of their flatware to be more cost-effective, but Snowe’s fork is stainless steel through and through, giving it the ideal weight for holding in your hand.
In terms of the form, “it was meant to be a very effortless, ergonomic fork,” says Modak. “So not only would it allow it to sit and look very engaging and beautiful on the table and allow you to do a nice place setting, but it would allow them to sit very well with each other and when stacking them in the drawer. And in your hand, it feels very natural—the curvature follows your hand, it follows your palm.”
Classy, Unbreakable Stemware:
Most formal glassware is made of crystal, a material that is terrible for the environment because of the heavy metals it contains, including–sometimes–lead. It’s the lead that gives crystal that appealing glint and the satisfying, toast-summoning clinking sound. For a more environmentally safe product, Snowe substituted crystal with a resilient, seamless glass with a titanium-coated stem. It looks like crystal, sounds like crystal, but the glass is durable and dishwasher safe–so it definitely won’t break like crystal or cheaper glass.
The Perfect Plate For Any Occasion:
For a generation of people living in increasingly smaller spaces, often in urban environments, it makes sense to use the same plate for eggs in the morning as you set out for a dinner party the night before. To achieve that versatility, Snowe’s plates have a lower profile (“It’s not so deep, so it can lend itself to be more formal,” says Cohen) and are made from the same material as your grandmother’s fine china.
“Limoge porcelain is really known as the type that you only bring out on holidays, but where we see the value is that it’s incredibly durable, it’s practical and effortless,” says Green. Limoge porcelain is nonporous, so it doesn’t scratch or break. You can throw it in the oven or the dishwasher. “It’s versatile enough that you can use it for casual, you can use it for formal, but that’s not how it’s currently positioned in the marketplace. We’ve applied that across the board with all the products–we see the value in what makes them timeless and luxurious, but also practical.”