Customisation seems to be all the rage in the ecommerce space right now, with the likes of Mon Purse, The Daily Edited, and Shoes of Prey winning customers over by giving them the ability to stamp their design flair on products.
Bringing this approach to furniture is Furniture and Me, born out of a family business producing bespoke furniture for hospitality venues around Australia.
Having launched B Seated Global with her father in 2005, founder Daniella Klein Menachemson realised there was a market to offer the same concept to consumers. With funding through the existing business, she decided to launch Furniture and Me.
“I thought to myself, we’re making custom one-off pieces for hotels and restaurants, why can’t we offer the same furniture makers to the public? They get the benefit of purchasing directly from the source and are able to design it too,” she said.
Of course, customised furniture isn’t a new concept – the likes of Harvey Norman and Domayne and smaller furniture stores also offer consumers the ability to customise various aspects of a design, while the particularly keen can go direct to a manufacturer or use a platform such as Handkrafted to approach a maker. What Furniture and Me looks to do is package all of that together online.
As well as customisation however, also key is the fact that the startup connects consumers direct to the manufacturers, cutting out the middle man; this model also pushed the founding of Brosa, which looks to cut prices seen in stores.
Menachemson said, “The price points are better and the range to choose from is larger; the curated furniture range on Furniture and Me is not restricted by floor space and you are buying directly from the manufacturer, where the traditional furniture stores purchase from importers’ agents and furniture makers via their head offices. The buyer is separated from the source by a number of people in that model.”
Starting with sofas, the platform allows consumers to design their ideal product in an online product builder, testing out different styles, fabrics, and colours, and then purchase directly from the maker.
“The main objective was to give shoppers access to an affordable custom furniture site. In the past, custom meant expensive. By giving customers access directly to the makers, we can make the furniture affordable,” Menachemson said.
A user can complete the entire process online themselves if they so desire; if they need advice, Furniture and Me has an interior design team on hand to assist and can also provide fabric samples so a user can see and feel it for themselves before making their choice.
Once a design is created and an order placed, it is sent to manufacturer, who will then get to work on creating the piece. At the end of the production process, a picture of the piece will be taken and sent to the customer for their approval before the piece is packaged and shipped. If the customer is unhappy with the piece, Furniture and Me has a 100 day returns policy.
With a network of furniture makers already in its pocket through B Seated Global, the next step for Furniture and Me was to create the online platform through which users could create their furniture. To gain ideas, Menachemson looked to the fashion space; “we’ve always said furniture is like fashion,” she said.
Building out the tech was a lengthy process, with ready-built plugins not suited to the job.
“The hardest part is in the rendering; we want to give people choice, and that means rendering products in different fabric and styles in for four angles. Each fabric translates in four renders per colour, so it’s a huge process and one that I underestimated when we were in planning mode,” Menachemson admitted.
Though broadly aimed at consumers, to begin getting users on board Furniture and Me is targeting interior designers creating for clients at launch. It has created a rewards program giving them rewards points to be redeemed for cash every time a client purchases a design they create.
With international expansion a key goal, Menachemson said the business will be looking for funding in 2017 to help facilitate growth into the US, Asia, and UK. Adding new products and styles and further building out the tech platform is also on the to do list, with Menachemson keen to include 3D viewing options and virtual reality to the design experience.
Image: Daniella Klein Menachemson. Source: Supplied.