Online furniture store launching in December

November 07, 2013/Chicago Tribune- The entrepreneurs behind Chicago-based Interior Define want to appeal to a modern-day Goldilocks: the shopper looking for a chair that’s just right.

Rob Royer and Steve McClearn believe there’s a large swath of consumers who feel they have graduated from Ikea furniture but can’t afford to shop at high-end design stores.

Even options in the middle market are still too expensive for the typical consumer, said Royer, who used to work at men’s clothing e-commerce company Bonobos and advertising agency Draftfcb.

To cater to this segment, Royer founded online furniture company Interior Define, which will launch next month after about a year of setting up relationships with Chinese manufacturers. The startup’s first products will be upholstered items such as sofas, sectionals and occasional chairs, priced between $800 and about $3,000. Interior Define will offer a choice of fabrics, typically from six to eight options, from microfiber and linen blends to top-grain leather. The furniture will be made to order and delivered in eight to 12 weeks.

Buying furniture online is a potentially risky endeavor for consumers. But McClearn, Interior Define’s chief executive, said the company is “highly confident that people are going to like the product.” So confident, in fact, that customers have 365 days to return their furniture for either full store credit or cash “with a minor restocking fee,” McClearn said.

The company has about 15 people based in China, who manage order fulfillment, supplier relationships and quality control. A smaller group of employees is in Chicago, where Interior Define plans to open a showroom in January that will double as its office. The company will also add other categories of furniture to its product portfolio.

Interior Define closed in April a $2.16 million funding round, led by an anonymous Chicago-based investor and Utah-based Peterson Ventures. McClearn previously worked at Sears, most recently as a vice president in the appliances e-commerce division. He was recruited by Peterson Ventures to join Interior Define last summer as CEO.

“I have good experience selling big-ticket merchandise on the Web,” McClearn said.

By Wailin Wong