This Online Interior Design Community Offers Crowdsourced Advice
Home Improvement

This Online Interior Design Community Offers Crowdsourced Advice

A shot of House Friends co-founder Linny Giffin’s DC home. Photo by Mariah Jones.

It’s a common pickle for those putting together a home: You need help picking out a new sofa or deciding on this rug or that rug, but you don’t necessarily want to hire an interior designer. Maybe you don’t want to spend the money, or maybe you just don’t want to hand the reins over to someone else. But you could still use some guidance.

That’s where House Friends comes in. The online, subscription-based community provides a space for design lovers to crowdsource home decor opinions and recommendations from other members, as well as access to home design workshops. DC artist and designer Linny Giffin (who also co-founded the former DC makers’ space The Lemon Collective) and Charlotte, North Carolina, designer Claire Keane launched the platform in June.

The duo met at the Lemon Collective—Keane previously lived in DC and was a member there—and bonded over their love of interior design. They started offering design consultations via word-of-mouth, where they’d go to a client’s home and provide guidance on decor puzzles or how best to utilize a space—more of a design coach than an interior designer. They realized there were a lot of people who wanted this sweet spot between going solo and hiring a full-time designer, so they launched the virtual House Friends platform, making it easy for anyone to access this kind of guidance regardless of location.

In terms of interior design, I really feel like there is a gap,” says Giffin. “Every possible thing that you could want to know is available to you on the internet; you can find any piece of information you need. There are tons and tons of free resources. And then there are obviously design firms, which are the other extreme of [getting] someone to do this for you. And I think that there’s a need in the middle.”

Keane’s kitchen. Image courtesy of House Friends.
Keane in her living room. Image courtesy of House Friends.

It’s $50 a year to become a member, which gives you access to the House Friends Slack group, where members gather to chat design tips, help someone tackle a project in their home, or drop links to awesome pieces of furniture on sale. Additionally, Giffin and Keane host monthly workshops on topics like navigating Facebook Marketplace or creating a home design mood board, and members get access to a private Pinterest page and Excel spreadsheet full of design resources and lists of country-wide furniture and vintage goods purveyors. The duo also offers one-hour virtual consultations, in-home consultations in DC and Charlotte, and product sourcing for specific projects at additional fees.

The group hosts workshops on topics like making mood boards for design inspiration. Image courtesy of House Friends.

House Friends also encourages sustainability via an emphasis on thrifted and vintage furniture and home goods. Giffin and Keane are both big vintage fans—not only is it more environmentally friendly to purchase a secondhand piece over a new one, but vintage pieces tend to be higher quality and longer lasting than big box options, says Giffin.

That’s not to say they advocate for 100-percent vintage sourcing: The duo encourages a mixed approach similar to how they style their own homes—some Facebook Marketplace and vintage finds mixed with a couple budget-friendly IKEA picks and a few big, save-up-for-it purchases that you’ll have forever. “The primary goal is to be more informed, thoughtful shoppers who are really trying to hone in on our personal tastes and honor that in the things that we buy,” says Giffin. “[We want to] take our time with it and let the pieces in our house tell stories about who we are.”

Right now, the two are focused on growing their community, but hope to one day offer sub-groups tailored to specific regions and maybe even sell products directly. The goal is to continue to make design accessible via a platform where people feel empowered to create a home they love on their own schedule and terms. “We really want to create a space where those little accomplishments can be celebrated,” says Keane. “Not everything is going to be quote, unquote, ‘Instagram worthy.’ But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth celebrating with your design community.”

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian

Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.