The trend of fast furniture is starting to become a thing of the past. Millennial consumers in particular are looking for pieces they can keep for years as opposed to something they’ll throw out before the next time they move. No one knows this better than Declan Ee, who co-founded the furniture brand Castlery in 2016. “The idea of Castlery came about because we were frustrated by the lack of well-designed, quality furniture that came at a compelling price point whilst we were furnishing our own homes. And this is exactly the unmet need we hope to address,” he tells me. “Castlery is founded on the premise that everyone deserves a space to thrive without the burden of choosing ‘fast furniture’ or being out-priced. We aspire to create furniture that inspires people to thrive as they journey through the different seasons of their lives whether they are shopping for their first home, designing a space to gather with friends or nesting for a growing family.”
With a contemporary yet timeless aesthetic, Castlery sells beautiful pieces for every room in the home. From warm leather sectionals to wood tables, and cane dining chairs, everything has a charm to it.
I recently spoke with Ee what makes Castlery special, the current state of the furniture industry, and trend predictions for 2023.
Amanda Lauren: What makes Castlery’s design process different?
Declan Ee: At Castlery, we have developed a rigorous process refined over the years. Each collection is assigned a designer, a buyer, an engineer, and a planner. This group runs like a well-oiled machine to ensure on-trend quality products go to market in a timely and cost-efficient manner.
The designer works with our customer experience and data analytics team to understand our customers’ needs and market trends, coming out with products that not only look great but fit their needs. The buyer finds the best-in-class manufacturers to work with, the engineers redesign inefficient processes while a planner works to source raw materials at the best possible price point.
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This result is us crafting time-tested, durable pieces intended for real lives. We have refined this approach by engineering over 7000 SKUs over the past nine years. Aside from all products being conceptualized and designed in-house by our team from start to finish, we take immense pride in every single product that gets launched, with our founders still signing off on every single product.
Lauren: What makes Castlery unique?
Ee: Castlery helps make luxury living accessible to all urban millennials and not only that we make the process as frictionless as possible by continuously iterating and improving the customer experience.
We believe we have one of the strongest supply chain management teams in the industry allowing us to offer on-trend quality products at accessible price points.
We are propelled by empowering urban millennials to create spaces they can thrive in through their different milestones. The desire to craft centerpieces for someone’s life really pushed us to arrive at this intersection of high-quality, beautiful design at compelling prices.
Lauren: Why do you think the brand’s international numbers increased after the pandemic?
Ee: We just entered the United States market a few months before the pandemic hit, starting in only seven states. So, the odds were stacked against us as a new entrant to the market. But in those few months, we quickly gained momentum owing to us being customer-first and developing a product range that our customers wanted at an attractive and fair price point while tackling their needs on a smooth and prompt fulfillment experience.
The entire industry saw an uplift in sales as people made improvements to their homes after being cooped up for so long. It took some time, but we saw a spike in sales once it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t going away quickly, and we were all going to be home for longer than expected. We saw a marked uptick in sales for sofas, presumably because people were spending more time on the couch. We also noted a big uplift in sales of desks and dining tables. This is in line with consumers’ needs shifting as dining rooms doubled up as conference rooms and classrooms.
Lauren: How Castlery use technology to improve customer experience?
Ee: As a tech-led business, we pride ourselves on making it easy for consumers to shop with confidence whether using augmented reality (AR), intelligent shipping information, or comprehensive product pages with videos and close-ups. While many brands were facing uncertainty with their shipping timelines, our website was equipped to display transparent delivery windows, updated daily, specific to each zip code. We also harnessed augmented reality on our website to enable our customers to place true-to-scale three-dimensional models within their own homes. The virtual models even let you examine details such as fabric and leather textures.
Lauren: What are the biggest challenges facing the furniture industry right now?
Ee: Uncertainty as we come out of Covid on the potential consumer spending— this is something that affects the whole industry as it has a long planning cycle and in the current environment, it is challenging to predict how consumers will behave in nine to twelve.
The industry continues to face shipping issues, but we’ve entered into a long-term agreement with Maersk that gives us an advantage and steady access to reliable shipping so we can continue to meet our customers’ needs.
Lauren: What are some things to look for when buying buy furniture to keep for the long run?
Ee: Poorly constructed furniture may seem attractive at first but will likely end up in the landfill once fabric starts ripping, and the seats begin sagging. Investing in well-constructed furniture made from high-quality materials is always a sound bet as you can rely on it to last you a long time, saving you both money and preventing waste.
Lauren: What furniture and design trends will we see in 2023?
Ee: We foresee a continued embracing of curved, organic freeform shapes. We also project to see a continuation of love for textured fabrics like bouclé. But when decorating a home, we always suggest looking past what’s trendy and choosing furniture that you can enjoy for years to come.
Lauren: What are the best timeless furniture pieces to invest in right now?
Ee: I recommend starting with a high-quality leather sofa in a timeless shade of brown. It is the centerpiece of your living space so invest in a good sturdy piece that can age gracefully and serve as a neutral foundation. Pick a classic mid-century modern look with tufting like the Madison or Isaac collection or go with a minimalist silhouette accentuated by flange seams like the Jonathan.
A classic piece like this will last you for years as you go through the different phases of your life and can be refreshed simply by changing your accessories or adding a new lick of paint to the walls.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.