Expert Advice: Custom Design in Cyberspace

Website makes pro advice affordable

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

You don’t have to be an interior designer to enjoy decorating, any more than you have to be a fashion designer to appreciate clothing. But everyone can benefit from a little expert direction. The new website provides just enough professional guidance to help you create your own dream home.

Launched last month, Found Market is the brainchild of well-known Atlanta designer Scott Laslie and Alex Guerrero, former merchandising exec with Dockers and the North Face. Part Facebook, part 1stDibs, part Decor8, this online design service is a forum where you can chat with your designer, get some affordable advice, discover distinctive products, and perhaps be inspired by like-minded amateur decorators.

“We wanted to provide a new way of accessing professional interior design advice without having to hire a full-time designer,” says Guerrero. “This is for people who love DIY projects, home magazines, and TV shows, but who need professional guidance to put it all together.”

New users complete an online profile outlining the scope of their proposed project. They also select chairs, sofas, art, and other home furnishings from an array of choices and pick their favorite colors. “That way, we can know that your style is, say, French Modern but you like folk art,” explains Laslie. There’s also room for uploading photographs, magazine clippings, and even video of existing spaces, furniture, and collections.

“We encourage people to use items they already have,” says Laslie, who advised one client to reinvent a vintage dresser with bamboo detailing by lacquering it dark brown and then nickel-plating the original hardware. Laslie helped another decorate her entire living room for less than $6,500. One savings was enlarging the client’s own photographs to use as artwork.

Once a client has completed the profile, he or she schedules a personal consultation with a Found Market designer—via web, telephone, or even Skype. Based on that interview and follow-up correspondence, Found Market prepares a hand-finished, custom design plan, including recommendations for fabric, furnishings, and accessories. A basic plan starts at $1,500, but pricing is quoted individually.

Each user has his or her own page, which allows interaction similar to Facebook. The site also has a companion design blog, which the founders hope will build an online community of people who are passionate about personalizing their living spaces. It’s an irony of the digital age that technology can help individuals make their homes more handcrafted, but that’s exactly the philosophy behind Found Market. In fact, its logo of a raised hand—inspired by Laslie’s own collection of hand sculptures—signifies the personal touch.

This article originally appeared in our August 2010 issue.