Let’s get real: New Yorkers are busy, and traditional “exclusive” services – from black cars to personal assistants – are becoming more available and affordable to the average young New Yorker by leveraging technology. Well, that’s what Havenly does for your apartment. It’s an online interior design service that, for one flat fee, sets you up with an accredited interior designer who will work with you virtually, learning about your needs, tastes and space considerations in order to come up with a final room rendering and list of handpicked product suggestions chosen to fit your needs and your budget. Havenly also provide one-click buying and coordination so getting decorated is actually just that easy. For a flat fee of $185, and the use of their platform, Havenly can virtually design your space for you – because, let’s face it: we’re all getting a bit too old for white walls and that Ikea futon from your fraternity days. Co-founder Emily Motayed is here to tell us how her service can help New Yorkers to live more comfortably.
Tell us about the service.
Havenly is a fresh take on interior design: we are an online interior design service. For one flat fee, we set you up with one of our accredited interior designers. He or she will virtually work with you, your preferences, and your existing space in order to come up with a final room rendering and list of handpicked product suggestions. We also provide one-click buying and coordination, so getting your place decorated is easier than it ever has been before. We are making a traditionally expensive service, interior design, affordable for the rest of us.
How is it different?
There’s no real way for someone to get their space professionally decorated in an affordable manner – unless you’re lucky enough to have a talented friend or mom, your only real option, if you don’t have the time and energy to do it yourself, is to hire an interior decorator. However, the existing interior design industry is very cost prohibitive – on top of furniture, which already consists of big ticket items, you have to pay someone on an hourly basis or pay them thousands of dollars per room to get your place decorated. We are moving that entry price point down by leveraging technology to decorate your space virtually – you spend some time chatting with your designer, send over some pictures and measurements, and we produce a beautiful design plan for you, while incorporating your feedback throughout the process. It’s a new way of looking at interior design and is tailored to our generation: a generation that is accustomed to e-commerce and online services in every other type of vertical. Why shouldn’t it exist in the interior design industry?
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
The Wall Street Journal estimates that the domestic home furnishings market is currently valued at $41 billion. Roughly, 25% of all furniture sales happen online and that number is growing exponentially, most likely due to the success of home e-commerce such as One Kings Lane and Fab.com. We’re marrying home e-commerce with the personalization model, which has been successful in so many other verticals, such as clothing, makeup, and even food. It’s a completely new way of looking at the interior design industry, which has been stagnant and old fashioned for so long.
What is the business model?
We charge $185 as an upfront room design fee, which the client pays after his or her initial phone call with the designer, so that the client has a risk-free opportunity to start the process. We offer one-click purchasing through our website in the final stage of the design process, so clients purchase furniture through us. We make commission on each piece that the clients purchase through us – a range between 15-50%, depending on the vendor. However, the clients always pay the same as they would if they were to purchase through retail avenues – and we take care of ordering, logistics, and tracking deliveries for them as well. We don’t hold any inventory, and the nice thing is that furniture, by its very nature, consists of big spend numbers, so it makes for a very solid revenue model.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within 6 months?
We plan on investing time and money in building out our data analytics: we put a high importance on aggregating data and building out a recommendation algorithm on the back end, which can cut down on our designers’ time and lend to our profitability. We’re building our brand and educating people that this service exists: converting people who traditionally thought that professional interior design was way out of their budgets.
If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community, who would it be and why?
That’s such a tough one! This probably isn’t very unique, but I’ve been a big fan of Fred Wilson (of Union Square Ventures) since I can remember – I love the fact that he has such a clear voice, and his blog, avc.com, always has such varied and interesting content and is a must read for anyone involved in or even interested in the start-up ecosystem in New York. I also would love to meet his wife, Joanne Wilson. I appreciate her interest in female-led startups and have followed her blog, gothamgal, as well. In all honesty, we are always interested in talking to investors who are passionate about consumer businesses, beautiful products, and unique value propositions – and female tech founders!
What was the most challenging space you’re worked on, to date (was it a tiny NY apartment)?
Yes! It was a studio for a male client in New York that not only was tiny, but also had AWFUL existing furniture in it to begin with – like a frat house that just got worse with time. FYI: a futon from Target is not supposed to last fifteen years. Literally, we were starting from scratch, but he was/is extremely grateful and we have some fabulous before and after photos. I don’t know how our designers do it, but they are miracle workers.
Why are you launching in New York?
New York is the perfect market for us, simply because our target demographic thrives here: our service resonates well with young professionals who enjoy the finer things in life and appreciate a well-designed home. Also, because of the unique apartment situation in NYC (tiny apartments that need a bit of imagination to become home), we find that a lot of NYC clients need a bit of external validation and help to really make their smaller rentals feel like home. Everyone does deserve to come home to a beautiful and cozy place that feels like it’s his or her own!