Design Disruptor: Anna Brockway, Chairish

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Anna Brockway, Chairish
Photographed by Maria del Rio for Lonny.

Chairish is one of the design-industry’s major go-tos for sourcing (and selling) high-quality, vintage home décor in a snap. The San Francisco-based site makes it so easy to turn one person’s “trash” (if you consider vintage Vladimir Kagan sofas and Eames lounge chairs trash) into another’s much-loved treasure. Co-founded by Anna Brockway, former Levi’s VP of marketing, the site helms sales with design's biggest influencers and its Instagram is a constant source of inspo. Brockway has also just launched Decaso, a marketplace for some of the most luxurious home items in the world, sold by top-notch dealers and sellers. If there’s one woman who is changing the design space one vintage item at a time, it’s Anna.  

Give us the short story on how you got your big break in the design space.

"I experienced first-hand what a pain it was to buy and sell furniture personally. My husband and I moved three times in five years and each time, I had gorgeous leftovers to sell and needed new pieces, too. Ebay is too big and un-curated. Craigslist can be scary and full of junk. 1stdibs is closed to individual sellers and intimidating. And, no site helped with shipping, which is the hardest part. After whining to my husband about it, he suggested we start a business to fix it. And we did. In my dining room.

"That was just four years ago. Chairish now offers more than 150,000 curated items and is visited over 1.2 million times a month by fellow design freaks looking to score. I found my peeps!"

What’s been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on to date?

"Last month at an event, I met a chatty gal who shared that last year she sold over $75,000 of merchandise on Chairish. She’s since quit her day job to become a full time seller. It’s not an uncommon story, and it’s truly meaningful to know that Chairish helped get a fellow lady entrepreneur started. It’s also a responsibility I very much feel."

How do you define success?

"Professionally, success is securing Chairish’s position as the go-to online marketplace for furniture and decor. Personally, success for me is about happy kids. You can’t ask for more. "

What’s one thing about the design industry you’d like to change?

"Attitudes. I think our industry can be intimidating because so many people and brands adopt a exclusive tone that feels unwelcoming. Chairish stands apart for its witty spirit, inclusive business model, eclectic style and and 'Let’s try it!' attitude toward decorating. Our shoppers love Chairish’s open and spunky attitude. It’s refreshing."

On the flip side, what do you find really refreshing about the space?

"The potential for technology to utterly transform this industry. For example, by leveraging augmented reality technology on our iPhone app, we are now able to let shoppers try out our one-of-a-kind items in their homes before they buy them. This 'try before you buy' capability totally takes the risk out of making important furniture decisions, both online and off! We are the first in our space to offer this functionality and we are just getting started."

How would you describe what you do to someone who's never seen your site?

"Chairish is the largest and fastest growing online marketplace for the best of vintage and pre-owned furniture and decor. Imagine us as eBay but fully focused on furniture, run by an editor to insure we only sell great stuff and powered by a logistics department to make buying and selling easy. Come try us and you’ll never pay for new furniture again."

Where do you go for inspiration?

"I like to shop when I travel. I love digging into the unique style and looks of the different cities I visit. It’s my own little anthropology obsession. "

We stand out by making it fun and easy to find one of kind, statement making pieces.

In a space that’s so saturated and driven by trends, how do you make your work feel timeless and unique?

"I think that this is precisely what Chairish delivers: Uniqueness. In a world of 'McLiving Rooms,' we stand out by making it fun and easy to find one of kind, statement making pieces with a sense of history and character. These are the pieces that make a space sing."

Who are your design icons?

"Aesthetically, David Hicks. Professionally, Diane Von Furstenberg."

What other professions did you consider and why?

"I worked in the fashion industry before co-founding Chairish and was the head of worldwide marketing at Levi’s. I love fashion. It’s full of crazy design-addicted maniacs to whom I very much relate."

What advice do you have for people trying to enter the design space?

"Assume that you are going to be mostly wrong and often embarrassed. You can’t have an ego. As soon as you start believing you have all the answers, protecting your reputation and worrying what people will think, you stop experimenting and then the odds of finding the tricks that work drop to zilch. You got to hustle."

Is college needed — yes or no?

"Yes. Our business is venture funded so a college education is a requirement."  

What’s next for Chairish?

"More. More fabulous inventory. More shoppers. More business. A bigger brand."

See the full list of Lonny’s design disruptors here.

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