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Watch Out Ikea, New U.S. Startup Promises Modern Furniture That's More Affordable and Easier to Setup

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Moving into a new home is a daunting, unavoidable task of life, and for those who find themselves in dire need of new furniture (and fast), the options are limited. The default route might look something like a few frantic trips to Ikea to cover all the bases, while mentally preparing oneself for several nights of concentrated assembling. Some goofier wildcard solutions include a 5-piece "room" composed of cardboard in primary colors and a shiny portable apartment "starter kit." Starting today, though, there's an earnest new contender in the "room in a box" game: Greycork, a Providence, RI-based startup aiming to fulfill the ultimate tall order of furniture that's simple, affordable, high quality, and good-lookin'.

Just launched on crowd-funding site Indiegogo, Greycork's Living Room Set includes a sofa ($450) and chaise ($300) for now, with a side table ($75), coffee table ($125), and bookshelf ($200) slated for the near future. Targeted to the millennial set who moves often and relies on Uber or public transportation, each piece comes delivered to your door in a flat, 5.5" cardboard box and can assemble in minutes, no tools necessary. (This debut full collection follows last fall's Brooks Collection, a limited edition series of benches and tables.) These pieces, made of ash wood, fiberboard, and metal produced in the U.S. with polyester upholstery from overseas, are all designed by Greycork's trio of designers trained at the Rhode Island School of Design.

The Greycork sofa and chaise, plus coffee table from the limited edition Brooks Collection

According to John Humphrey, Greycork CEO and the sole non-RISD member of the founding team, Greycork's clean, practical look and feel has references to the work of modernist greats like George Nakashima and Charles and Ray Eames. But mid-century flair is just one part of it. Developing the final designs took a whole lot of user-centered testing, where people were invited people to test every last detail down to the number of shelves and the density of the foam in the cushioning. At one point, Greycork held a "movie night" at its studio and asked guests who sat on sofa prototypes for feedback on two upholstery options.

Taking Ikea head on, Greycork's Indiegogo page includes a graphic that puts Greycork and Ikea products side by side and lists their respective prices and assembly times. The Greycork sofa ($450; 4 minutes) vs. Ikea's Kivik sofa ($600; 60 minutes). The Greycork side table ($75; 4 minutes) vs. Ikea's Hemnes side table ($100; 20 minutes). And so on. Factoring in shipping (free for Greycork and an estimated $100 for Ikea), the total money and time spent setting up a Greycork living room is $1130 and 20 minutes—$250 and 160 minutes less than that projected for a comparable set of Ikea furnishings.

In a phone interview, Humphrey explains that this aggressive price differentiation boils down to Greycork's pursuit of simplicity in construction. "In a [Greycork] box, there are really only nine or 10 components," Humphrey says. "Versus Ikea... you're typically ending up between 20 to 75 components including hardware."

Though the comparison to Ikea comes naturally, Greycork's products will also feel familiar to those keeping abreast of Everlane, a provocative and strong new voice in fashion that's also focused on cutting out the middleman and connecting consumers directly to high-quality modern basics. As it turns out, one of Greycork's earliest fans is an Everlane exec, who now serves formally as an advisor to the furniture brand. Beyond their immediate commonality of "designed basics," the companies also seem to share an eagerness for transparency. Like Everlane, Greycork will be sharing stories of the factories involved in producing the furniture and inviting consumers into the design and construction process.

Humphrey, who has family roots in manufacturing and started working in factories from a young age, finds peers today rather detached from the products filling up their homes. Greycork, then, is also an effort to encourage a stronger relationship between consumers and their furniture by informing people how exactly the furniture is made. The company will soon open up their studio/showroom, the Greycork Loft, for short stays on Airbnb and host tours of its Massachusetts-based factory.

While these immersive offerings certainly round out a compelling brand vision and identity, the future of Greycork comes back to the product itself. Launching on a public platform like Indiegogo allows the company to test the waters, further gauge customer preferences, and incorporate the feedback into future designs. There are definitely plans to expand beyond the living room, though Humphrey won't say how, for now.

A home entirely outfitted with Greycork furniture will no doubt be a striking sight, one that's more likely to find favor with fans of a Japanese-inspired midcentury look than with others. And there's certainly value and joy to styling rooms with pieces from diverse sources, but at this moment, Greycork is boldly going back to basics and hoping you'll come along.

· Greycork - Upgrade Your Living Room [Indiegogo via Greycork]
· In Stores Soon: Ikea's Gamechanging Furniture Line with Built-In Wireless Charging [Curbed]
· Ikea is Bringing Back its Furniture from the '50s, '60s, and '70s [Curbed]
· Snowe Offers Minimalist Home Goods for the Post-Ikea Crowd [Curbed]
· Outfit a Room in 30 Minutes with This Cardboard Furniture Set [Curbed]