It seems it’s an obsession with me: real estate, design, art, and the Internet. After spending many years in the fine art business, I took a detour in 1996 to found BabyZone.com under the direction and support of my husband, an online veteran. Together we spent 10 years building it into a rich community and valuable destination for new and expectant parents.
In 2006 we were very fortunate to sell the company, and while I was figuring out my place in the world without BabyZone, serendipity seemed to strike. The founder of HomePortfolio, and a neighbor in our office space, asked us to get involved with his 12-year-old company. Given my background and personal interest in renovating our own home, I was instantly hooked.
Actually, I had always been a fan of HomePortfolio.com. It was founded in 1995—more than a decade before the design industry even realized it needed to be online. Additionally, homeportfolio.com was the first (Bostonians love to be the first!) to understand the importance of a robust product database in the interior design space—and by a long shot. The company has such a legacy there’s a book in print about it. What I didn’t know at the time was that the company was losing money and hadn’t updated its technology over the years.
But we thrive on challenge, so in October 2008, my business partner/husband and I brought in a new management team and new investors to revive Homeportfolio, just as the economy was crumbling around us. Over the last year, I have observed the industry from both a publishing/editorial perspective as well as a consumer in the space. Initially, I was discouraged that the interior design world has not advanced with current technologies. In my mind, educating consumers is the key to sales and success. Fortunately, it is catching up. Designers, manufacturers, and the people who drive this industry are realizing that the Internet is a great tool to communicate effectively and efficiently with clients. While the economic crisis has slowed the company’s growth, it has also been the impetus of positive change.
Consumer buying and spending habits have also changed. While our audience will always invest in quality products and services in their homes, their decisions will be more practical. The longevity, quality, and investment value of purchases will be taken into consideration. Excess spending is out of style and—similar to the mentality after the Great Depression—a memory of difficult times will result in a generation of fiscal awareness.
On a personal note, our home renovation project, which started with “just the kitchen,” has turned into a major renovation as we decided to paint the pad green and lower our carbon imprint.
I look forward to sharing industry observations and speculations from our perspective and I hope to include many anecdotal “learning moments” and future design finds as I move into the final stages of decorating our home.