Beth Giguere from Lisa Scheff Designs participates in a digital meeting from home.
a digital product sourcing platform for professional interior
designers, reports positive news from the designers and furnishings
makers they serve. “As the world changes from day to day, designers are
staying nimble,” says Shawn Hughes, Steelyard president and CEO.
“They’re finding new, better ways to use technology to deliver what
their clients need now—and with shelter-in-place orders across the
country, today’s No. 1 need has become a comfortable, functional home.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping Americans at home and bringing much of our normal routine to a halt, interior designers and furniture brands are finding innovative ways to serve customers and keep their businesses going during these challenging times.
Home furnishings successes during the pandemic are good news for the economy, which has taken a hit in the U.S. and around the world. The design industry has a multibillion-dollar economic impact in the United States, including a $722 billion U.S. residential construction market and a $158 billion kitchen and bath sector, that also drives other industries—paint, electrical, plumbing, and more.
“Our clients are now working from home and may need to continue to do so for a while,” says Beth Giguere, communications director for Lisa Scheff Designs in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. “We’ve pivoted quickly to take advantage of technology. To continue to work with clients when we can’t go to their homes, we are mailing samples and holding digital meetings via Google Hangouts and Zoom. We are able to share our screen to do design presentations—it’s proved very successful so far.”
Virtual client meetings are also the new norm for Jeremy Bauer and Jason Clifton of Bauer-Clifton Interiors in Juneau, Alaska. In addition to interest in home office spaces, they’re focusing on designing outdoor spaces. “With nice weather just around the corner, this is a priority for people,” Clifton says. “And since we’re dealing with outdoor living areas and landscape designs, we can be onsite with zero contact, so there are no health worries.”
Other firms are turning their energy to e-design services. “We quickly developed a new division for our firm, which we call Southern Studios Simplified,” says Vicky Serany, founder and principal of Southern Studio Interior Design in Cary, North Carolina. “Using video consultations, we work on projects that are simpler than our full-service design offerings but are also a lot of fun. With schools and offices closed and family life turned upside down, it feels great to help people as they seek comfort in their homes.”
While interior designers forge ahead, often electronically, furnishings firms continue to find ways to supply the goods that designers are specifying through Steelyard.
“We’re fortunate to have a rather large facility that allows our employees to maintain social distancing so we can stay open and supply items for home offices, which is a very large category for us,” says David Farris, owner of Barnes Custom Upholstery in High Point, North Carolina. “We’re seeing so many people ordering furniture to change a spare bedroom into an office.”
At Polywood furniture in Syracuse, Indiana, homeowners’ desires for restful outdoor living spaces has led to an upsurge in sales for the digital-first company. “There’s a lot of energy going into creating a backyard oasis as people are spending time at home with their families,” says Lindsay Schleis, Polywood’s vice president of business development. “People also want furnishings that are easy to clean and sanitize.” Polywood specializes in outdoor furniture made from recycled plastic material.
“We’re so glad to be a bright spot,” says Steelyard’s Hughes. “We’re optimistic about the industry and keeping a positive attitude about the future.”
About Steelyard: For over 20 years, Steelyard has been the industry’s most comprehensive digital product resource serving the interior design trade. Digital and search technology has changed a bit since 1997 when we scanned brand catalogs page-by-page onto the first platform. But the need for a streamlined way to quickly view thousands of products has not changed, and every evolution of Steelyard — from site upgrades to rebranding to more site upgrades — has been designed to create the most efficient way to search and organize products in a password-protected, wholesale environment. At Steelyard, we’re here to connect the industry’s best brands and trade programs with design professionals like you. Whether shopping the go-to giants or hunting for bespoke and emerging artisans, we put them all at the designer’s fingertips with a single login. For more information, visit steelyardaccess.com.