Choosing the right pillow design or drawer knob is something that many new home builders and renovators will obsess over, and finding inspiration online is a growing trend. Pinterest-like site Houzz is a platform for finding home renovation ideas, and there’s certainly no shortage of inspiration with over 370,000 photos and 1.8 million “ideabooks” that users have created. Many of those ideabooks are created by users, but also by designers and architects who are using Houzz as a promotional tool.
Houzz launched in 2009, and raised an $11.6 million Series B round in December 2011 led by Sequoia Capital. Design inspiration sites in general are seeing a huge surge in popularity with Pinterest exploding and the widespread adoption of tablets that are conducive to browsing through photos. Houzz’s iPad app allows users to search their specific tastes and filter by other criteria, and it has been downloaded over a million times, with the average user sessions lasting about an hour.
So what does Houzz do that Pinterest doesn’t? One thing that differentiates Houzz in the design inspiration space is that they are working directly with designers to provide them with a place to promote their design talent. Many home owners have found a designers’ ideabook, contacted them and begun relationships. On the “Professional” tab, users can look at the designers in their city and view their ideabooks and sort by styles. There are 65,000 design professionals in total, with nearly 29,000 of those in the Bay Area. Many home improvement professionals have had success using it as a marketing tool, since designers aren’t charged to upload or share their photos or ideabooks.
It isn’t new for clients building a house or doing a renovation to come up with their own options for styles. They’ll go through hundreds of magazines, books and websites and print out everything that remotely interests them. After they’ve narrowed it down, clients will bring all of their designs to architects who can advise on the possibilities of implementing a certain style, looking if that sink or kitchen counter can realistically work in their house. Sites like Pinterest and Houzz let homeowners save their design plans in one space, in Houzz’s case in an ideabook they can take directly to architects.
Architect Chris A. Montgomery uses Houzz by asking his clients to create ideabooks and share them with him to accelerate the process of choosing design elements for their house. Most of his clients own an iPad, so they find it an enjoyable way to conceptualize their ideas as opposed to grabbing a stack of magazines, scissors and post it notes. Montgomery has set up a profile on Houzz with some of this work, though he says hasn’t received any work through the site, likely because it does require you to put in some time and effort as an active user on the site. Montgomery notes that when the economy goes down, people turn to renovating instead of purchasing or building new homes, which may lead to the increase in people looking for inspiration.