Design startup Decorist has raised $4.5 million in seed funding from home improve giant Lowe’s Companies, the Women’s Venture Capital Fund and undisclosed angel investors.
The big player in the market is probably Houzz, which allows users to find home design ideas and hire architects, designers and others who can actually make those ideas a reality. The Decorist approach is a bit different — it’s an online platform where users can connect with designers for advice.
CEO Gretchen Hansen (pictured above) said she was inspired to start the company after her own experience buying “these two amazing chairs” for her office and discovering that she “absolutely hated” the way they looked once they were in the room. She asked a designer friend for help, who was able to look at photos and design a much better office.
With Decorist, Hansen said she’s trying to replicate that “virtual design” experience: “People want beautiful homes, but they don’t have that help, that component of assisted commerce.”
The first thing users are asked to do on Decorist is create their ideal living room, which in turn allows the company to build an online profile of their taste — for example, the site suggested that I have “eclectic” taste, preferring to “mix and match different styles.” (That might be a nice way of suggesting that my choices didn’t really fit together … ) Then you can connect to professional designers through the Ask a Designer feature, or through full room makeovers, which start at $199.
Hansen said Decorist isn’t just matching designers and customers — it also uses that style profile to suggest items that would be a good fit. In other words, it’s a combination of personalized, technology-powered recommendations with the filter of a professional designer. And of course you can actually make purchases based on those recommendations.
The site launched last year, and Hansen said the average customer shopping cart is now an impressive $3,000. She added that she doesn’t just want to be a “one-off makeover provider,” but rather create a relationship with consumers, so they come back anytime they have design-related needs.
I also talked to Monica Dodi, co-founder and manager of the Women’s Venture Capital Fund about why she invested. Dodi said Decorist has created “this great technology platform” that makes it easy to find the right designer, something that’s usually difficult and expensive.
As the firm’s name suggests, it’s focused on backing women entrepreneurs. In this case, Dodi said it’s also nice to invest in a company that’s reaching primarily female consumers.
“We’re really happy that we can actually to talk a B2C platform and not just these dry enterprise-focused companies,” she said. “They have huge potential, but they’re not as sexy.”