Started by software engineers, Article is a furniture design company that’s doing something different. We spoke to them about their unique business model, being inspired by the Pacific Northwest and finding new ways for people to interact with design. (Hint: booking one of the three Breather locations they outfitted is just one of them).
Article was founded by four software engineers, how did they make the switch from software to sofas?
Before they were co-founders, Aamir, Andy, Sam and Fraser were longtime friends and adventurers who semi-regularly sought to see the world in new and different ways.
It was on one of these adventures, above the Arctic Circle in Tuktoyaktuk, Northern Canada, that the idea for Article was born. Our founders shared an intolerance for the inefficiency of the traditional retail model, one that they’d noticed was particularly pronounced in the designer furniture industry.
Together, they laid the foundations of a plan to make beautifully designed, high-quality furniture more accessible by making the whole process more efficient.
Article today is the result of four years of hard work executing on the plans sketched out on the frozen tundra.
Given that the company’s founded by engineers, how does technology factor into the product or the brand?
Approaching the industry as outsiders has allowed us to question many of the ingrained practices and processes that traditional furniture brands have employed, which in turn has led to the application of technology to solve problems in ways that have come to define the brand.
The most obvious example of this is that the only place to purchase our product is via our website, Article.com. Traditional retail brands spend millions of dollars on creating, staffing, and maintaining a network of showrooms. Despite the vast sums of money, many of these showroom experiences are far from inspiring or delightful. In addition, each store is only able to serve its immediate geographic area. By selling exclusively via our website we’re able to focus on delivering the same remarkable end to end customer experience to every customer in the U.S. and Canada.
Article has a different approach to production than most companies—how is that process unique?
Our product team, led by Creative Director Maureen Welton, does an amazing job of sourcing and designing our incredible product range.
From there, we take a very data-driven approach to product development. Unlike other retailers, our new product launches are not accompanied by big advertising or PR campaigns. New products are quietly added to the site with limited stock available (hint: sign up to our newsletter to be among the first to know), and we carefully watch several key metrics before determining what kind of inventory is required.
This means that our customers have a huge say in determining the products in our collection. The feedback we gather by observing those metrics as well as data points like product response across social media is invaluable, and another way we integrate technology and live our core principle of being direct.
Has this approach to production changed the way you design or the way you talk about the brand?
Yes, mostly because we feel we are in the moment.
Our advantage is that our collection is constantly evolving based on customer reaction and engagement. When our customers can’t get enough of green velvet, we can add more products quickly. If they're leaving green behind and clamouring for blue, we can reduce our green velvet inventory investment and design more blue products.
The furniture trade used to be a slow, lumbering business (no pun intended) but technology has allowed us to be nimble and responsive.
What's the Article aesthetic?
We love modern design from every decade.
From the 1950's to today, we look to Scandinavian and American Modern icons for inspiration. Inspiration being a key word for us, as we deliberately eschew direct copies and reproductions. You won't find an Eames shell chair in our collection, but a design that channels that idea of timeless function and style is very much part of our aesthetic.
What inspires the design of your pieces?
We think that Einstein summed things up pretty well: "The best design is the simplest one that works."
We look for simplicity in everything that we do—from product design to the purchase process. This doesn't mean we remove absolutely all ornamentation, but we work at reducing the things that don't improve a look and focus on what makes that piece function. That’s an idea we’ve definitely taken from the mid-century modern furniture that inspires us. It was a period of time where simplistic, functional and at the same time beautiful design was key.
Given the beautiful surroundings of our head office here in Vancouver, Canada we have a strong connection to the outdoors. Natural features of the Pacific Northwest like forests and mountains and the organic shapes they create, the nearby ocean, and the beautiful surrounding landscapes all inform our colour and texture selections.
Any new projects on the horizon?
We have always sought to turn the furniture industry on its head. Having successfully grown our collections for living and dining areas, we’re listening to customer feedback and preparing collections for other areas of the home. Look out for furnishings for the bedroom and outdoor spaces soon!
We also wanted to provide articles that would complement the collections we already have, so we are adding an expanded accessories collection filled with unique, stylish pieces to make your home feel more lived in and an expression of your personality. Like everything else we make, these will be high-quality, functional pieces that are designed to last.
As a result of recent growth, we’re also opening a brand new LA warehouse, adding to our existing facilities in Seattle and New Jersey. This will mean faster delivery times for our customers in California and surrounding areas.
Perhaps the most exciting project we are working on is looking for fun, engaging, and fresh ways for our customers to experience the brand in the real world. We can’t wait to explore more innovative ways to introduce the brand to potential customers, and allow them to have an intimate, physical experience with our articles.
Experience Article’s articles at three LA locations.
This collaboration is part of our Design Partnership Program.