While most people don’t report having a deeply felt affection for furniture shopping, Rob Royer’s background makes him a little different from most people. His mother and grandmother were both interior designers and and his father and grandfather were both architects.
That enthusiasm for design in general first led Royer to be an early worker for bespoke men’s clothing firm Bonobos — but even back in his clothing days, he held onto a lasting fascination with the furniture market in general, and sofas in particular.
Sofas, caught his interest, he said, because they seemed to be something of the odd player out in the furniture market in terms of range of offerings. There were cheap sofas in abundance on the planet — and of course extremely expensive options out there. But something simple, purpose build and of high quality for the middle market. That, he noted, seemed to be the donut hole in the market.
“It felt like a massive opportunity, but I frankly didn't know how I was going to crack it at the time,” Royer told Forbes last year.
But a few years later, he had done some research into the market, particularly how the supply chain worked with manufacturers in China. And after two years of working to build relationships — and designing a supply chain that abandoned the “build it and then warehouse it forever” model — Interior Define was ready to launch in 2014.
“The plan from our perspective was to create a user experience online first that would enable shoppers to easily customize a piece,” said Royer.
It was not an overnight hit, largely because at first no one had any idea who they were and with limited marketing budget, drawing people to the site was a challenge. The marketing tool that ended up working best for the brand was opening a physical store — and giving customers a chance to interact with their line of couches.
Today, Interior Define has opened several new guide shop locations in New York, LA, San Francisco, Austin and Boston.
“We have essentially tripled the business every year for three years in a row,” said Royer.
The omnichannel brand has also expanded its line, recently announcing its intentions to partner with organic baby and children’s clothing company Monica + Andy for its first collection made especially for kids. It is a partnership Rob Royer had something of an inside track with, given that he is married to Monica + Andy co-founder Monica Royer.
“Monica and I have discussed fun ways for our brands to collaborate for the past couple of years,” said Rob Royer. “Beyond the familial connection, we launched at roughly the same time and maintain a similar focus on building better customer experiences in our respective categories.”
The collaboration focuses on use Interior Defines furniture design and the child-focused safe fabrics produced by the Monica + Andy brand. Monica Royer chose the patterns, which include Palm, Peace, Gray Stripe and Blue Stripe to cover the chairs and sofas as upholstered or slipcovered options.
“For me, the collaboration was a natural next step. Rob and I are both so passionate about furniture for his part and kids and baby apparel on my end that it felt like a fun way to work together,” said Monica Royer. “I have long admired the Interior Define furniture collection and the ability to customize. At Monica + Andy we really love our unique and fun limited-edition prints. They seemed like the perfect addition to the sofas,” Monica Royer noted in an interview.
The expansion into children's couches was in many way a natural next step for the brand, particularly given the familial connection between Interior Define and Monica + Andi. But Royer noted that the vision of the now 5-year-old brand is more expansive — and with its first half decade behind it, the next big question for the firm is how to grow next while still providing the right custom experience for consumers.
“We consider ourselves the most innovative custom sofa retailer in the country and we are using this success to expand and redefine other categories in the home as well,” Royers said. “We intend to be known as the pioneer in the digitally native home furnishing space.”