Culture | March 13, 2018 9:00 am

CIVIL Makes High-End Scandinavian Furniture for Half the Cost

Never choose between IKEA and Restoration Hardware again

It’s Warby Parker for ______.

At this point, the direct-to-consumer sales pitch has everything from your bike to your baggage to your braces (yes, actually) covered.

But here’s the thing about clichés: they exist because they’re true.

Companies that cut out retailers and distributors really do save you money, and now you can add high-end Scandinavian home design to the list.

Because just-launched NYC furniture company CIVIL is ready to bring modular, contemporary pieces to your apartment for far less than anything you’ll find in a storeroom in Flatiron.

The concept is as simple: it’s modular furniture for the nomadic New Yorker. So if the dimensions or aesthetics of your living space change, you can also reconfigure or change the appearance of your sofa — all for less, and without compromising on quality. We caught up with founder Kristoffer Vestre to get the rundown on everything from their next-level storage system to how to buy online to a little something called the Magic Box.

InsideHook: What differentiates CIVIL from other design companies?

Kristoffer Vestre: We started with the goal to make beautiful furniture of the very highest quality that could evolve with people. We are among the first — if not THE first — furniture brand to sell high-end designer furniture direct-to-consumer. Online has been dominated by mid-market and discount brands, meaning there is natural perception that D-2-C means good price with compromises on design and quality. Many brands have started with the ambition to make the cheapest possible sofa look and feel a little better through D-2-C. We started on the other end, with the ambition to make the exact same luxury piece of furniture and sell it for less.

IH: Who are the designers?

KV: We work exclusively with external designers. Our first collections were designed by Metrica under chief designer Robin Rizzini, who has designed furniture for respected brands like Arper, Poliform, Zanotta, Ligne Roset, etc. We’re currently working with other well-known designers on new collections. None of the designers we work with so far have designed for D-2-C brands before. We’re excited to be collaborating with them on collections that will be accessible to more people than the traditional luxury brands.

IH: What advice would you give to a first-time online buyer?

KV: First, we integrated a selection of finishes into our product development. Our designers don’t stop when the product is developed: they also select the fabrics and finishes that work perfectly for their collection. Choosing the right fabric or model can still be difficult, and what works now might not work in a few years when people move or live with a partner or kids. This is where the flexibility of our systems provides added peace of mind. You invest in the best frames but can still change, expand or upgrade your model easily with a fabric or even a leather cover, or change the colors on back panels or dividers in your storage system.

IH: Will you provide any solutions for people who are still uncomfortable buying online?

KV: We currently have two spaces in Manhattan where people can experience our collections in the context of a real home by appointment. This is a no-pressure environment with no salespeople on commission.

IH: Are shipping costs killer, included or somewhere in the middle?

KV: Our shipping cost is somewhere in the middle. We pass on our shipping cost at what we pay and we have designed all collections with packaging in mind. Everything ships in square, reasonably sized boxes that keep shipping costs to a minimum. And we offer white-glove delivery of sofas and storage systems to NYC for less than $200.

IH: Why create for city folk?

KV: In 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. This means that city living is not a temporary stage for people on the way to suburbia. People create homes in the city and we want to help more people create beautiful spaces that facilitate their lifestyle and inspire them. This is why we put such a big emphasis on design, on function and on selecting the best materials. We made our collections extremely easy to mount, and equally important, to dismount for that next move. It’s why we pack all models in boxes that fit up a narrow five-floor walkups.

IH: Are there any pieces designed specifically with urban living in mind?

The wireless charging Magic Box, where you can juice up the phone in between everything else. And the new air-cleaning plant we’re working on integrating into our Mosaic storage system, since air quality inside city apartments is often worse than outside.

IH: So have we all been getting ripped off by design companies this whole time?

KV: Many design-conscious people feel that they have “expensive taste.” That every time they find a piece of furniture they really love, it is far beyond what they can afford. The well-known high-end brands in furniture are reserved for the 1%. And yes, there are too many layers between the production cost and price tag for traditional luxury brands that add no value to the product itself, which leaves lots of design- and quality-conscious people having to make compromises when they buy furniture.

Then on the other side, there are brands that have made the consumer aware that they can get decent-looking furniture for close to nothing. Over the last decades, we’ve seen production costs driven down to a level that is not sustainable, and that had a negative impact on people and our planet.

There is definitely something to paying for quality, and we believe the line should be drawn at what constitutes a fair price. This is the actual cost of designing and producing a top-quality piece of furniture, with the minimal markups required to sell and deliver that product and a profit margin that make it possible to run a business. This is what we’re here to achieve with CIVIL.