Blurring Retail Lines With Interior Define
Rob Royer was born into a design family – living, breathing and now changing modern design is what he does best. Royer recognized the present-day flaws of the home furnishings industry, including outlandish pricing and lack of customization and contextual design for modern lifestyle, so he founded Interior Define.
Interior Define is on a mission to bridge the retail experience from online to off, offering both furniture 3d visualization technology online for the customer, as well as a unique, experiential offline experience in their Chicago retail space, which Interior Define calls their “guideshop” (more to come soon). Here, Royer shares how Interior Define delivers high-quality products at a low cost, tips for interior designers in choosing the right sofa, and their differentiated approach to retail.
Photography courtesy of Carolina Rodriguez @linacaro
Rob – why did you feel the need to open up shop and revolutionize furniture retail with Interior Define?
With an interior designer/artist mother and an architect father, I developed a passion for design and furniture at an early age.
When it came time to furnish my first home with a new sofa, I visited scores of stores – both online and off. It quickly became clear that the sofa-shopping experience deserved a significant upgrade.
While working at men’s apparel startup Bonobos, I became enthralled with the idea of creating a furniture brand whose foundation rested on a seemingly simple proposition: An innovative product design matched with customization and a superior customer experience. And so, I spent over a year developing a production approach and design assortment for the brand’s launch – which formed the backbone of I/D today.
How is Interior Define different from the thousands of other online furniture retailers out there offering customized sourcing, buying and shipping experiences?
I/D is a unique furniture brand in a few important ways. Rather than taking bets on the designs, configurations, sizes, and fabrics people will want, I/D makes every piece to order. In doing so, we dramatically reduce the inventory overhead shouldered by the typical furniture retailer. We pass this along to our customers in the form of differentiated, attainable pricing and free white-glove delivery. Notably, our production approach enables significant product customization – from configuration, size, fabric, and leg style – even down to cushion fill on a number of our designs.
I/D is a digitally-native brand and, unlike many other online furniture retailers and platforms, we control the full customer experience from production to delivery. This allows us to deliver a level of customer service not found in the middle of the market. We have a unique, experiential retail location in Chicago (which we call our guideshop) – with plans to expand into additional markets.
Interior Define made the decision to partner with Cylindo to offer your customers a 3d interface which offers furniture visualization technology – how has this tool affected sales and business overall?
We believe providing our customers with the ability to view each of our products in all of our fabric options and leg styles (which are viewable in 360 degrees) enables a much better online experience. It helps people better envision the product they will ultimately receive, and it is fun to configure products on our site. We plan to take this experience several steps further, as we always want to be on the forefront of a better customer experience – whether online or off.
We read in The New York Times that you estimated Interior Define sofas to “cost 30 to 40 percent less than comparable ones sold by conventional retailers”. How does your production process make that possible?
The keys to making our value proposition possible are the fact that we do not hold inventory and that we have developed a unique, experiential guideshop (more coming), rather than maintaining retail locations sized in the tens of thousands of square feet like a traditional furniture retailer.
How does the Interior Define online sourcing and buying experience differ from your in-store flagship experience? What do your customers seem to prefer?
What is most important to us is that our customers have a differentiated, elevated experience from end to end. Our online and offline experiences do not differ all that much, other than the fact you can physically “test” the products in our guideshop. If you shop with us online, our design associates are eager to answer questions or help with a customization request – just as they are in our guideshop. We are blurring the lines even more by introducing new technology in our guideshops, which mimics aspects of our online experience. From our perspective, the two channels should compliment rather compete with one another – which is what we felt was happening in the market before we started.
What are some of your best-sellers?
Our collaborations with Maxwell Ryan, founder of Apartment Therapy, and Alaina Kaczmarski and Danielle Moss, founders of The Everygirl, have been very successful. Their respective designs – Maxwell, Rose, and Caitlin – are quite popular. Our original I/D designs like our Owens, Asher, Walters, and Sloan are also very popular.
In your opinion, how has the function of the sofa evolved over the years?
Today, the sofa is the centerpiece of the home, and arguably the most important piece of furniture. It’s functional, in providing a comfortable seating area for relaxing and socializing, but we believe strongly that it should also be well-designed and aesthetically pleasing. It used to be more about looks, not comfort. Slowly, starting around the mid-century, our culture started shifting with the introduction of the television, and comfort became a key factor. But by the 80s and 90s, good design fell by the wayside (remember all those non-descript beige sofas?). At I/D, our products are stylish, comfortable and attainable.
What are some key factors an interior designer should consider when searching for a sofa?
The client’s needs/wants are key to the project, but the interior designer most often guides the process. We think the most important things to consider are:
1. Customization Options: our products are all made-to-order based on your desired dimensions, leg style, fabric, etc.
2. Aesthetics: modern versus more traditional lines
3. Fabric Color and Content: depending on usage and durability
4. Seat Profile: higher legs are great for a more formal setting, while lower profiles have a loungier, more casual look
5. Cushion “Sit”: firmer, with more foam, or more relaxed, which has a greater ratio of down feathers
6. Configuration: 2 or 3-seater, chaise sectional, corner sectional, sofa + ottoman, etc.
7. Scale: appropriately sized for the space (not too big or small)
8. Policies: In terms of customer service and return policy, designers should only work with the best. We offer Free White-Glove Delivery and 365-Day Returns on all our orders, so clients are never stuck with a sofa they aren’t happy with.
How do you typically work with interior designers?
Our I/D Trade Program offers a special list of additional services, such as custom pricing and discounts, extensive design consultations, floor plans, shop drawings, 3D renderings, purchase order drafting and more. We respect industry members an incredible amount, and value the expertise and knowledge they bring to each project—which greatly improves their clients’ experience with our company!
What’s next for Interior Define?
We are constantly working on redefining the furniture shopping experience – which crosses the online and offline customer experience as well as the product itself. Look for new sofa designs and customization options in the coming months, as well as an announcement about our next guideshop location.
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