Hitting that furniture sweet spot of quality and affordability is notoriously difficult, and the recent closing of much-buzzed-about “Ikea challenger” Greycork is a sobering reminder. But that doesn’t mean others aren’t still trying.
The latest startup taking a shot at shaking up the furniture industry is Burrow, which officially launched yesterday with a line of modular, easy-to-assemble sofas offered at mid-range prices—i.e. $550 for a one-seater, $750 for two, $950 for three, and $1,150 for four.
In the age of shrinking apartments and nomadic lifestyles, the idea of a modular couch that can be rearranged or added onto per your needs and space constraints has been a popular idea. What sets Burrow apart design-wise is that, rather than looking overly rudimentary and bulbously spineless, it actually passes for a regular sofa, and midcentury-inspired at that (as all things seem to be these days.)
Designed by Leah K.S. Amick, a luxury furniture designer educated at the Rhode Island School of Design, Burrow couches feature clean lines with high-density foam core cushions and stain-resistant, chemical-free upholstery. From what we can tell after sitting on one for about 15 minutes at Burrow’s office, it’s definitely on the softer side of midcentury-style sofas, designed to be actually used for extended periods of time.
Now, purchasing a sofa can be a deeply personal process, largely dependent on specific tastes and existing home decor styles. While Burrow probably won’t give you that one-of-a-kind statement piece, its couch isn’t exactly one-size-fits-all either. There are four sizes and five colors (“Crushed Gravel,” “Charcoal,” “Beige,” “Navy Blue,” and “Brick Red.”) to choose from. There are also two armrest options—high or low—and all the cushions are tufted on one side and smooth on the other for a reversible look. One more add-on option? A charging station with 2 USB ports and 3 AC outlets that attaches to the bottom front of the sofa.
Logistics wise, Burrow hopes to do what Ikea pioneered—cost-saving flatpack design—but better. When you order a Burrow sofa, you get two to five boxes delivered based on the size of the sofa, each with a handle up top designed for easy carrying. As you can see in the GIF above, the sofa back, bottom, and cushions come out of the box essentially partially pre-assembled. You just have to maneuver a series of alignment pins, latches, and levers—no tools required.
The company is also launching with free one-week shipping in the continental U.S., plus free returns within 100 days. Sound familiar? That’s because mattress-in-a-box startups like Casper are already doing it.
“Direct-to-consumer mattress companies did a lot of the legwork for us in educating consumers on how you can get such a large piece of furniture and get it in compact packaging,” says Burrow co-founder Stephen Kuhl. “They’ve kind of set the standard.”
Kuhl and his co-founder, Kabeer Chopra, who both come from the business world, came up with the idea for Burrow in fall 2015, and within a year, had run the company through influential Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator, rolling out a 1,000-pre-order beta-launch in the process. This sort of outsiders’s perspective could prove crucial.
“It was helpful to approach it from the multiple viewpoints that we got from the partners at YC, and taking lessons from other companies that are outside the industry, and applying them to Burrow,” Kuhl says.
The startup recently hired a mass production engineer to help streamline its manufacturing processes. Kuhl writes in an email to Curbed, “Half the battle with being a startup is getting the execution right, and we’re obsessive at Burrow about being as operationally efficient as possible.”