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How these online furniture startups plan to win the sofa wars

Burrow, Interior Define, Maiden Home, and the Inside are reimagining how to buy a couch in the digital age.

How these online furniture startups plan to win the sofa wars
[Illustration: Elena Boils]

As millennials grow up and start nesting, they’re graduating from Allen-key decor to higher-quality pieces–and a slew of new furniture companies are there to help. From delivering sofas in a box to offering online customization tools, these direct-to-consumer startups are reimagining how to buy a couch for the digital age. The forerunner of the bunch, Vancouver-based Article, launched five years ago and is track to make $200 million this year. “Our biggest challenge was getting people to buy such expensive products without ever seeing them in person,” says Aamir Baig, Article’s cofounder and CEO. “But luckily, millennials are willing to take that risk.” Here, a look at the latest entrants:

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1. Maiden Home, New York, 2017

Approach: Democratize American craftsmanship by cutting out the middleman, markups, excess inventory, and showroom costs and selling North Carolina–made sofas on-demand and online; couches start at $1,975.

Audience: Would-be Restoration Hardware shoppers willing to spend more for long-lasting pieces.

Pedigree: Founder and CEO Nidhi Kapur ran business development and operations at Birchbox and Google. After raising an angel round of $500,000, she is bootstrapping the business, which has been profitable since day one.

Growth: Kapur courted interior designers to generate early buzz and plans to expand beyond sofas in 2019.

Verdict: The brand’s traditional aesthetic might not appeal to the fashion-forward set, but the quality is excellent.

[Illustration: Elena Boils]

2. Burrow, New York, 2016

Approach: Remove many of the pain points of furniture shopping by offering customers a single style of sofa, a modular, easy-to-assemble design that comes in a box, and instant financing via Affirm.

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Audience: New-to-nesting urbanites who appreciate $845 sofas and free UPS shipping.

Pedigree: Cofounders Kabeer Chopra and Stephen Kuhl met as MBA students at direct-to-consumer breeding ground Wharton. Casper investor New Enterprise Associates led Burrow’s $14 million Series A this year.

Growth: A new experiential store in New York lets shoppers try out sofas while watching movies beside a fireplace. Burrow also partners with coworking spaces to get its couches into offices around the country.

Verdict: The modular approach works well for basics; expanding into more stylish interiors will be tricky.

[Illustration: Elena Boils]

3. Interior Define, Chicago, 2014

Approach: Let shoppers customize their living, dining, or bedroom furnishings with different fabrics, finishes, and sizing options; furniture is made in China and delivered within 12 weeks (sofas start at $1,925).

Audience: Homemakers and interior designers attracted by the company’s AR visualization app.

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Pedigree: Founder and CEO Rob Royer was an early employee at Bonobos, whose founder, Andy Dunn, participated in Interior Define’s $15 million Series B earlier this year.

Growth: Interior Define has six showrooms across the country, where customers can work with design specialists. Collabs with blogs like Apartment Therapy and The Everygirl build further awareness.

Verdict: The sheer number of options may overwhelm some customers.

[Illustration: Elena Boils]

4. The Inside, New York, 2018

Approach: Elevate a fairly standard collection of beds, chairs, and ottomans with on-demand textile-printing technology, allowing shoppers to choose from a Dorothy Draper-worthy collection of trendy patterns and designs.

Audience: Online influencers on a budget: chairs start at $299.

Pedigree: Cofounder and CEO Christiane Lemieux launched DwellStudio and was chief creative officer of Wayfair. Rent the Runway’s Jenny Fleiss andApartment Therapy founder Maxwell Ryan invested in the Inside’s seed round.

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Growth: The brand has an outsize presence thanks to collaborations with fashion insiders including designer Clare V and Refinery29 cofounder Christene Barberich.

Verdict: The furniture range is limited, but the fabrics are perfect for an Instagram era.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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