“We have a new elevator pitch to run by you today,” says Britt Bunn. “The Inside is all about the next generation home furnishing experience, which is: ‘frictionless, personal, and inspiring’.” Britt is the co-founder and COO of The Inside, the furniture brand bringing custom furniture to everyone. She’s joined by the company’s co-founder and CEO Christiane Lemieux, formerly the Creative Director of Wayfair and founder of DwellStudio, which the former acquired in 2013.
Both founders enthuse about The Inside’s refreshing approach to furniture creation, which is all made on demand and results in very low wastage. “That’s one of the most exciting things for me,” Christiane says, “as someone who had a much more analog business prior to this. Honestly, old-school textile manufacturing processes are some of the worst things for the planet.”
It’s not a pretty picture Christiane paints: “There’s a ton of run-off, a ton of chemicals, all of which goes into the ground water,” she explains. Digitally printing on demand, however — the process used by The Inside — is a somewhat different story. “The amount of run-off you get from digitally printing fabric is like a cup of water,” she continues. “You can actually physically drink the run-off. So it’s massively game-changing in terms of its impact on the planet.” This was an aim of the founders from the start: to create products with as little environmental impact as possible. As such, the production processes themselves were a key influence in the creation of the brand. “The fact that you can literally do it anywhere and create the same output was not lost on me,” Christiane recalls. “There’s a stark contrast between being in a large traditional textile factory, with sub-optimal environmental practices, versus creating the same thing in an office park in Raleigh, North Carolina.”
If, at this point, you’re starting to wonder if Britt and Christiane are big fans of technology, you’d be correct. The task of producing imagery for printed-on-demand products is — when you really think about it — a pretty daunting prospect, which is exactly why the pair have invested heavily in 3D rendering. “We don’t take any photographs ourselves,” Britt reveals. “We’ve built a way of creating product and lifestyle imagery through 3D modelling, and that’s game-changing because we can create all of this content very efficiently.” Christiane explains that for this to work, they’ve taken what she describes as an an art-and-science approach. “I’m not thinking about 3D rendering as some sort of engineering input; it’s a way for us to have a near-constant photo shoot. But we art direct these 3D ‘photo shoots’ in the same thoughtful manner that we might art direct an analog photo shoot.” The result is another time and cost saving, which The Inside is able to pass on to the customer. “It’s completely outside of the traditional photo shoot model of yore,” Christiane enthuses.
Of course, the very nature of every product being made on demand is how The Inside can deliver such affordable designer furniture. “That’s very unusual in the industry,” Britt explains, “because it means we don’t carry any inventory. Everything is made from scratch in the USA, produced quickly, and shipped directly to the consumer. This isn’t product we’re importing from China that’s then sitting in a warehouse for months.”
The flexibility enabled by The Inside’s tech-fuelled processes also means the brand can work with multiple pattern designers, which, Britt says, “allows us to reach different audiences and different tastes.” And they’re looking forward to meeting a new audience at Neighborhood Goods: “In a way, being a digitally native brand is a bit of a five year-old concept,” Christiane explains. “What we all now realize is that people want to be part of a brand story, so choosing thoughtful touchpoints like Neighborhood Goods makes a lot of sense for us. We allow people the freedom to create the piece of their dreams, but some might be intimidated doing that online. This allows us to do that in-person, and show them how, through the use of technology, bespoke furniture is no longer out of reach for the average consumer.”