Interiors on a Plate: The Rise of Online Homeware Curators
Sitting at home during confinement in January 2021, with a newborn baby, Laura Jackson was, like many others, scrolling on her phone in search of household items. After hours of searching, she found a tasteful rug, ceramic mug, and print, all from different sellers on different websites, and began to wonder if there was a faster way to buy. . She realized that there were luxury fashion e-commerce platforms “where a whole team of buyers think about each product to bring their customers the best of different brands,” she says. “I wanted to create a beautiful, well-organized marketplace for household items.”
Known to her 153,000 Instagram followers for her love of interiors, Jackson is regularly contacted on social media about where to buy items from lampshades to serving trays, as well as working on collections for high-street brands. , including Habitat, where a co-collaboration with the brand and her friend Alice Levine sold out in three hours. “I know I’m really good at finding brands, recommending them and basically selling them; I love discovery,” she says.
Together with her brother-in-law Daniel Crow, a former senior buyer for online lifestyle brand END, she launched Glassette in November 2021, with around 120 brands ranging from £7 striped candles to a £3,100 embroidered daybed £. “In a noisy market, we extract the best and provide a level of preservation,” she says.
She’s one of many fashion and social media personalities to use their following and aesthetic to curate and sell homewares from obscure sources around the world – a service previously only available to those on a budget for an interior designer. Their newfound popularity is because “there are too many choices”, according to Kate Watson-Smyth, founder of curated shopping platform Design Storey.
Lucinda Chambers, former fashion director of British Vogue and co-founder of lifestyle etailer Collagerie, agrees: “The choice is now so overwhelming, you can have 10 tabs open on your computer and go down a rabbit hole. lampshade bunny that lasts for hours”.
Meanwhile, fashion buyer Pauline Vincent launched her digital homeware platform La Romaine Editions last June because, despite the choice online, “I always wondered where I could find the item for the house that I really wanted to buy”.
Part of the overall appeal of conservatives online is their mix of high and low prices: it’s something the fashion world is comfortable with, but has been slower to catch on in interiors. . At Collagerie, where fashion choices include £965 Bea Bongiasca floral earrings, a £48.95 denim jumpsuit and New Balance trainers, customers can also pick up an H&M soap dish for £4.99 £ and a £1,210 beanbag.
On Design Storey, there are £6 shakers from Etsy, while La Romaine Editions has a £300 mouth-blown glass candleholder from designer Boris de Beijer and a set of four hand-painted plates at the more accessible price of 72 €.
Lisa White, director of lifestyle and interiors at trend forecasters WGSN, says this grouping of less expensive items with luxury items makes them “relevant and desirable, whatever the cost”. It is, says White, the air of curation by a trusted like-maker that lends credibility to articles.
While their tastes and the types of buyers they appeal to differ, what curators have in common are large social media followings and a desirable aesthetic that consumers want to emulate. “Customers are looking for people-driven brands,” says Crow. Chambers agrees: “We saw that there was a particular need for a trusted authority who could see everything out there and bring some really polished, tasteful editing.”
As such, the curators’ stories matter; consumers want to know the person behind the brand. While Chambers co-founder Serena Hood also came from Vogue, with the two bringing together an established following, Watson-Smyth has run blog and podcast Mad About The House for many years and has 273,000 Instagram followers.
Jackson is known as a TV presenter, but also for running a supper club, co-authoring a cookbook, and most recently for her love of interiors on social media. She uses her east London home as a backdrop for her shopping and the work of British artisans. Decorator Tess Newall, for example, painted a bespoke mural in her daughter’s bedroom; furniture maker Fred Rigby designed his dining table.
Just as she did for her home, Jackson helped design some of Glassette’s lines, suggesting new colors or shapes. Similarly, La Romaine Editions and Design Storey work with designers to design exclusive, limited-edition collections for their audiences, adding an air of exclusivity to their curatorial role. A collaboration between Glassette and the small brand The Vintage List before Christmas sold a series of 220 glasses in less than a fortnight. “There is an appetite for this limited edition,” says Crow. “It creates buying energy and speed.”
The fact that customers are rushing to buy limited edition eyewear reflects our growing interest in homewares. Globally, the household goods market grew by around 5% between 2016 and 2021 to reach a current market value of around $175 billion, according to market research firm Fact. SIR. This amount is expected to increase further to more than $200 billion by 2023, he estimates. Consumers in the UK will spend around £14.2bn on household goods this year, according to analytics firm GlobalData, up from £11bn in 2015.
Chambers also saw a shift in consumer attention from fashion to interiors. It doesn’t surprise her: “Taste is in everything, from the clothes you wear to the way you decorate your home,” she says.
To keep up with demand – and falling fashion sales during the pandemic – a number of fashion brands have turned to the sector. Designer Henry Holland replaced clothing with ceramics; Historic UK department store Fenwicks launched its first homewares brand last November, and online fashion retailer Matches.com saw its homewares category grow by 35% for SS22.
Along with a wave of new kitchen businesses, it has created an increasingly crowded retail environment that allows the curator model to thrive. Glassette has not only attracted customers, but also investors, raising £1.2m in its first round of seed funding. Increased interest in homewares has boosted Collagerie’s turnover by 600% since the first lockdown, totaling £3.12m since launch, according to Hood.
Of course, the model of keeping what we buy is nothing new: department stores have been around for more than a century, and independent stores have been doing the same. Vincent says she was inspired by the “multi-brand concept” at stores such as her former employer, Galeries Lafayette. But the way we buy has changed: 63% of UK consumers bought their household goods online in March 2021, according to YouGov, up from 48% in March 2020.
Yet for Vincent, a fashion sensibility was exactly what was missing from the way interior products were presented online. “I saw that there was already a white minimalist style, and also a bohemian style, but something was missing – something more contemporary and fashion-inspired,” she says. Vincent curates his selection of products (mostly from French designers and makers) around a theme, like flowers, to encourage his customers to pair pieces, which WSGN’s White says, “brings meaning to objects by telling stories. visual stories”.
This storytelling is how online curators drive customers to the virtual checkout. In addition to engaging their audiences through highly stylized Instagram feeds, the online stores are presented like glossy magazines, featuring interviews with designers and other trendsetters from different disciplines, such as digital entrepreneur Abisola Omole talking on Glassette about how to create a comfortable home, while designer Tory Burch picks out her favorite products on Collagerie.
Interior designer Sophie Ashby launched an online retail platform, Sister, in October 2020. Her quarterly digital journal, which reaches over 2,000 subscribers and features interviews, recipes and early access to new products, seeks to engage her audience, as she puts it, “organize and contextualize” objects such as £60 marble eggs or a £1,850 bouclé swivel chair.
For Jackson, a passionate storyteller, showcasing a wide range of brands, collaborations and influencers serves to broaden appeal and reach. She particularly wants to target men more, perhaps with a future collaboration with a technical outdoor clothing brand.
“Traditionally, there has been a type of person who is interested in interiors,” she says. “One of the reasons we launched Glassette was to target audiences that fashion and homewares have traditionally ignored. That way we can continue to grow.
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