One night about nine months ago, the founding members of the then two-year old furniture startup Greycork were holed up in their messy live-work loft apartment, watching their Indiegogo campaign soar to over $270,000 in funding in the final hours. What did they have to offer? A minimalist ashwood sofa, its matching chaise, and the promise of basic furniture that's high quality, easy to assemble, and affordable all at once.
Fast forward to last month, Greycork was a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree making its debut at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City, the largest design fair in North America. With its small but well-appointed booth, the company seemed to be saying to its industry peers (many of which have been around for decades): We're not just an internet crowdfunding project, we're here to stay.
And with this week's launch of Felix, an upgraded and expanded living room collection, the Providence, RI-based startup aims to carve out more space for itself in the furniture industry, a traditional world still dominated by brick-and-mortar stores, middlemen, and markups.
The Felix line, primarily made of baltic birch ashwood, solid ash hardwood, and powder coated steel, represents months of iterations, not only in design but also in manufacturing.
There was, for one, a major kink in fulfilling the early Indiegogo orders. The fabric and foam that Greycork's overseas manufacturer claimed to be fireproof and free of hazardous chemicals proved not so when the company put the materials through third-party testing. This obstacle took several tries to get right, which translated into a month and a half delay in shipping.
By now, Greycork has moved all of its manufacturing to the United States, which eliminates the need to deal with overseas freight and makes it easier for the company to visit the factories frequently and stay transparent with customers.
As for updates to the design, Greycork started with the most highly demanded features during the Indiegogo campaign: arm rests on the sofa and color options (grey, navy, oatmeal siipcovers are now available.)
The sofa has also been redesigned with slats rather than one big panel, making it more convenient to ship and for customers to carry the boxes into their homes. The Felix collection also expands the original sofa and chaise pairing with a coffee table, side table, and bookshelf.
Another notable update, especially given the early setback, is that Greycork now offers "real-time shipping," meaning products will leave its Providence warehouse in 1 to 5 days. The company, freshly replenished with a $1 million Series Seed funding round led by ff Venture Capital, feels ready to make that kind of promise as the team has also more than doubled to 10 people.
Perhaps the most intriguing component of the relaunch—besides the furniture itself—is the new Home Try-Out Kit, a free tool that wants to help you visualize Greycork furniture in your home before making any sort of commitment, thereby taking some risk out of buying furniture online.
In this era of VR-everything, the concept here is surprisingly, almost comically simple. Each kit mailed to your home comes with stickers, clear plastic sheets, swatches, and fabric samples. The "visualization" function comes alive when you place a sticker of the furniture on a clear plastic sheet, hold it up from an angle and look at it with one eye, move it back and forth to find the right scale, and then take a photo of it with your phone to see how it all looks.
"We're trying to stay away from the complicated platforms where you, like, make the layout of your house and then put furniture in the room," says Greycork Head of Product Alec Balala, "it doesn't look that great."
Though "low-tech," the kit does have a very au courant inspiration. According to Balala, the idea came to the team after talking about Snapchat, and how the stickers on there can be scaled up and down. This is, after all, a company founded by and for millennials.
Since Greycork launched on Indiegogo in August 2015, there have been many a flatpack furniture debuts targeting young urban dwellers with tiny apartments and nomadic tendencies. "It's becoming more and more obvious now to a lot more people that there's a real opportunity to take a big chunk of market share in this industry," says Greycork CEO John Humphrey. He goes on to cite a recent survey that concluded millennials are now the largest consumer group of furniture in the U.S.
While Greycork provides nowhere near the breadth of product offerings as Ikea, arguably the first-time renter's go-to remedy, it's in fact catering to those who wouldn't trek out to the Swedish retailer if they didn't have to.
"This audience—they don't have cars anymore," says Babala. "A trip to Ikea just takes such a long time, like the whole weekend...It just doesn't work."
For Greycork, functionality and design will vary as it rolls out new products and upgrades twice a year, but everything always has to ship to your door.