This Sister Duo Knows Where To Find The Best Furniture
How two talented sisters created a design business.
The Hovey sisters have it all figured out. At least, they have the world of home interiors all figured out. After leading independent careers throughout their twenties, Hollister and Porter Hovey are now the co-founders of a full-service staging and interiors styling firm — and they make all of our design dreams come true.
Based in Brooklyn, Hovey Design specializes in not only bringing a home to life, but also integrating its neighborhood, architecture, surrounding culture, and sheer originality into the mix. Largely inspired by Scandinavian design — think natural textures, clean color palettes, and whimsical shapes — Hollister and Porter know how to make your potential home look seriously welcoming. We had a chance to chat with Hollister to find out exactly how their company came to life, and where they find all their dreamy furniture and art. Here's what we found out.
Lonny: How did you and Porter get started?
Hollister Hovey: Each of us moved straight to New York after college. We're actually from Kansas City. I went to Washington & Lee for undergrad, and Porter went to Bard. After school, I started out as a journalist in Biotech, and on the side, I had a blog. It was all about antiques and their history and all sorts of design-oriented content. It was really just a hobby!
Meanwhile, Porter was a photo major, and she had worked on a few magazines in college, and then became a real estate agent. She would see various places get staged, and while some were so beautiful, she also found out how expensive it was to make the homes actually look good. She thought, I think we can do this — create something that encompasses an aesthetic that people can live in.
What did you want to bring to the staging world that wasn't already there?
HH: Everything seemed to be plush and shiny with lots of chrome and velvet — it's a good look for uptown, but doesn't always look right for downtown or Brooklyn. We really wanted to bring in a Scandinavian aesthetic and hopefully carve out a special niche. Slowly, we started contributing to projects Porter was working on, and all the real estate agents who came to those showings got our card. Soon after that, Porter quit her real estate job, and I quit my PR job — we were already busy with our new projects!
Did you ever think you would be staging homes?
HH: Never! I studied Journalism in school and Porter did Photography, so we could have never predicted this career path. But, surprisingly, our separate skill sets definitely make this work. I can do PowerPoint presentations and Excel, so I think I contribute a business perspective. And then Porter is amazingly organized and has her business skills, too, as well as the art background. Plus, those years of experience in our twenties really lended themselves to this.
How did your first project come together?
HH: I think it all started with a weird sense of naïveté and confidence mixed together. We had an extra couch — it was a beautiful Danish leather find. Porter had the idea of bringing it into one of her real estate properties for work. She went in confidently saying, 'We have an extra couch!' I think her team knew we had the ability to make it look good, and slowly began integrating more pieces into these projects.
So from there, we got these two massive jobs, which was crazy to accept. The way it works is, as a staging company, we get paid half upfront to do staging. So we spent all of the upfront money on new furniture, and then that allowed us to get enough pieces to get for our next project.
From where do you find the furniture you use in your projects?
HH: We get some stuff from the big stores, like CB2, Article, and West Elm. We really find a ton from auction. I’m constantly searching for things from the regional auction houses, and finding things there is nice for several reasons. First, you can just go pick it up the next day. And second, you can get great deals on classic pieces from Herman Miller and other iconic designer brands. We definitely work on maintaining a balance of new and old — it's a mix of things people probably have in their homes anyway (we even include IKEA sometimes!) and special vintage finds.
What was it like leaving your jobs? Was it scary?
HH: I think at that point we were so busy with so many staging projects, we didn't even have time to be scared. We had gotten to a place where there wasn’t enough time in the day to focus on day jobs. We also had enough money and furniture that we were ready to go. We waited to quit for a while — I think we were staging for a full year before we started doing this full time, and I was a managing director at another company. We worked all of our weekends and nights at that time!
Your work reflects a really sharp interest in design. Did you grow up around design?
HH: Yes, our mom definitely had an eye. We would go antiquing with her almost every weekend. It was the best time just us girls together - so we did grew up with it. Our mom was always looking for great bargains and finds, and together we were constantly working on a DIY or fixing up the house. When our mom passed away in 2002, we put all of her antiques in our apartment. That really became a living image to our story. We had all these remnants of our childhood! And now, because of that history, sourcing and piecing things together is really fun for us.
What would you say to individuals who have a day job and are also working on a side project or dream of starting a company?
HH: It's a huge luxury in being able to focus on a passion project. And, there's absolutely no shame in having a day job. The world gets by on practicality — and then art makes it beautiful. Weirdly, when I started the blog in 2007, the people who read it loved it kind of passionately. It was nice to see that if you are simply yourself, and you really own your perspective and maintain a focus, something can grow from that. I never did it to get fans — I couldn’t keep track of all my visual thoughts and kept losing my journals, and I wanted to put all of my ideas somewhere. So, I think there is also something to be said about fostering that creative part of you and putting all of your creativity in one place — even if it's just a small webpage! It will all come together in time.
Check out a few of our favorite Hovey Design projects here: