Nobody wants to wait for anything anymore, says Edgar Blazona, founder and owner of LA-based startup BenchMade Modern, which offers customizable sofas online that can be manufactured in the span of a single day. Why should modern furniture be any different? If the idea of made-to-order couches and chairs seems too good to be true, than perhaps, as the founder suggests, your expectations of what companies can do for their customers isn't updated to current technological realities.
"It's an incredible shift, but so is Uber," says Blazona. "The upholstery business is asleep at the wheel. Frankly, the sofa industry has been slow to adapt. We've taken a different approach."
BenchMade Modern's advantage over traditional manufacturers, according to Blazona, is speed and efficiency. Customers can order a custom piece, tailored to the inch in one of a few dozen colors, and have it manufactured in the company's Ontario, California, factory just outside of LA in seven days or less. Before buyers make the investment, they can print out a full-size paper floor plot to see if it's too big or small for their home or apartment. For a $100-$400 rush charge, the company will finish the couch or seat in 24 hours.
Whether it's the Couch Potato Chair ($1,250), Crowd Pleaser Sofa ($2,175), or any item from the store's eight collections, the BenchMade item will be built with an embedded tracker so customers can see it moving down the assembly line and across the country to their home, much like watching an Uber driver approach a pick-up spot. Delivery anywhere in the country in a week or less accrues no additional charge (it's two days to San Francisco, five to Chicago and seven to New York).
"I've been fighting this wait forever, and finally figured out a way to do it," says Blazona.
The 25-year industry vet has experience founding and running TrueModern, a national furniture wholesale company, and Modular Dwellings, which sold prefab backyard sheds and guest houses. He made the shift towards manufacturing sofas because he felt he had the technical experience to create a new type of manufacturing process while respecting the quality of old-school upholstery. He also feels social trends favor a more nimble furniture manufacturer.
"We're not trying to give you a 15-year sofa," he says. "Our lives are very different, and we move all the time now. I'm trying to create a sofa for this new world we live in. Our customer is grown up and married, tired of the IKEA stuff, and looking to buy a new piece that's high-quality."
Blazona wouldn't explain the company's manufacturing methods, just saying it was a little but technology and a little bit "secret sauce," but said since they started a few months ago, they've been shipping our roughly 6-10 sofas a day. Speed does not dictate design, he says, and they use different materials for every design. Despite advocating a more efficient, high-tech manufacturing process, Blazona thinks the fit and feel should come first—he believes the pricing of BenchMade Modern suggests that consumers shouldn't, and won't, tolerate a second-rate product despite a speedy delivery—and he's toying with the idea of opening "sit shops," so consumers can test out his designs.
"You can buy a coffee table online without much worry," he says. "A sofa is much different."
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