If you’re like most people under 40, you probably hear the phrase ‘interior designer’ and think about the aesthetic masterminds behind ritzy apartments and polished office buildings—not your own modest apartment. Leura Fine, the 30-year-old founder of digital interior design firm Laurel & Wolf, is working on changing that.
An online interior design marketplace that connects clients with designers digitally, Laurel & Wolf has raised more than $25 million in the two years since it launched, and makes the process of consulting with a professional designer to customize your own home much more accessible and affordable. For $399 per room, you can pick from Laurel & Wolf’s roster of more than 1,000 pros, and work with your designer of choice to design the kitchen, living room, or bedroom of your dreams—affordably (the designers work within your given budget), from the comfort of your home.
Smart, right? We caught up with the entrepreneur to find out exactly how Fine turned her idea a legitimate, money-making business.
STYLECASTER: What was your thought process like when deciding to launch Laurel & Wolf?
Leura Fine: As an interior designer, working with a variety of budgets and spaces, I saw that technology had drastically shifted the way people were approaching the process of designing their homes and businesses. Pinterest and Houzz were used for inspiration, and e-commerce made better-looking products accessible to customers at a wide array of price points—but neither were solving the problem of putting it all together.
It also seemed crazy to me that I would meet people every day who desperately wanted and needed professional design help, but couldn’t afford it. Meanwhile, almost every designer I know was looking for ways of building their own businesses. Other opaque and offline industries had successfully leveraged technology to move into the future, so why shouldn’t interior design? Once I decided this is definitely something that people want, that is when I raised venture capital. That first round of funding is always very challenging, but you learn as you go, and my pitch now is definitely a lot stronger than it was two years ago! It only took six months to go from idea to launch.
What does an average day look like for you?
As the CEO of Laurel & Wolf, I oversee a team of more than 65 employees and am involved in every facet of the business. I work with my directors and execs to make sure we move towards our quarterly goals as well as work on our long term strategy. I spend a lot of time working with our investors, developing the culture of L&W, and doing HR and hiring. I try to get in workouts in the morning and my evenings are packed with industry and work-related events. When I have free time on the weekends, I love to cook, hike, horseback ride, and check out new well-designed spots.
Who has been a major influence on your career and aesthetic?
At every stage of the business, I have looked to connect with people who are a couple of phases in front of me. After we’d completed a seed round of funding for Laurel & Wolf, I was looking at founders who had 50 employees and up. Now I’m spending time with companies who are in late growth stages or who have gone public. I seek out stories about what went wrong along the way, as I’ve found this is the best way to learn what obstacles you may have to overcome.
I have also had the opportunity to meet some exceptional women, some of whom I now call friends. I recently started my own networking group called The Badass Ladies, which began as a bit of a joke, because when I started the business, I was going to all these networking events for tech and it was almost all men. So, our first event was a cocktail party with a group of female company founders, and then we expanded the network. It’s now comprised of female CEOs, women in venture capital, female leaders in technology and product, as well as women leaders in media. We’ve done dinners, cocktails, art nights, all sort of different events in LA, New York and San Francisco.
You’ve said you live with your fiancé, and that you both have very different aesthetics. Any tips on merging two different tastes gracefully?
I’m lucky because my fiancé actually has great taste. I really liked a lot of the furniture he had, but I wanted our home to be a bit warmer and more traditional than his industrial taste. Like any good relationship, there was compromise but we made it work. For me, it was a fun process of bringing our two styles together—but for many young people, that’s why our service is so great for couples! If you aren’t a professional, merging styles and items can feel impossible and frustrating. No need for couples to argue over furniture decisions any longer.
What are one or two things that you think—above all else—can really elevate a room or a space?
Before you can design the perfect space, you absolutely must get organized. The key to maximizing the beauty of any space is to give everything a home. A well-placed decorative object can also instantly take a space from drab to fab. Don’t underestimate the power of fresh flowers or live plants and a few good accessories. Candles, books, trays, and more can all really bring a space together. With great design, the devil is definitely in the details.
What are your design pet peeves—the things that you see in a home and cringe?
There is no excuse to not have art on your walls. Make it, buy it vintage, frame cool postcards, or hang a gallery wall of photos you took on a recent trip. You don’t have to have expensive art. The only thing that matters is that you surround yourself with imagery that is meaningful to you. Choose pieces that evoke a memory or emotion that you would want to have everyday when you walk by it.
What are your favorite current design trends?
I look for inspiration in a lot of places: theater, art, film, fashion and architecture. I’m always on the hunt for new restaurants, hotels, and boutiques to see what environments other people are creating for clients to experience. And travel of course! I think treavel allows you to turn your brain off, experience other cultures, and see the way other people see the world, even if it’s just going to Texas for a weekend and seeing how people there live. What is their day-to-day life like? There is much inspiration to be found in both the ordinary and the extraordinary.
What are you most excited about in the next year or so of Laurel and Wolf’s growth?
Everything! The business is growing super fast, and we are excited about every facet of what is coming next. We love helping people transform the way they live through the power of great design.