Most entrepreneurs that start companies at the nexus of technology and interior design—and there aren’t many—come from design. Modsy founder and CEO Shanna Tellerman is the rare exception. Tellerman studied 3D graphics at Carnegie Mellon and founded a company out of grad school, later acquired by Autodesk. She then went on to Google. But in 2015, after struggling with the experience of decorating her home, she had an idea.
“I was looking at a catalog and felt like, Wow, what if I could design my home with an experience like this, [where] everything is staged, everything is a real product I can buy—but what if that was in my real space? What if the environment was my room that I was shopping from?” she tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “That’s when I was like, Aha!” And thus, Modsy was born.
Seven years later, the e-design platform has raised over $70 million, employs hundreds of online designers and has executed thousands of projects. Modsy, alongside its competitor Havenly, has come to define what e-design looks like to American consumers.
Which isn’t to say that the field is set in stone. New advances in technology; the chaotic landscape of online commerce; the shifting relationships between consumers, designers and brands—all of it makes e-design, and Modsy itself, a work in progress. That’s partially why the company does so much experimentation, both on the technology and business side. In the past few years, Modsy partnered with homebuilder Lennar, developed a renovation service, made leaps in visualization technology and hired away a big name from Amazon.
And although thus far Modsy is mostly viewed as a mass-consumer product (individual room designs cost as little as $159), Tellerman says there is a future where Modsy is involved with high-end designers on AD cover-level projects—but as a tool, not a brand.
“There’s a part of the market today that we don’t address. Consumers where the experience they’re looking for with an interior designer is different than what we’re going to provide … I don’t think any of that is going away,” she says. “We’re not going to provide that virtually at Modsy. We think the right way to do this is to say, ‘Well, let’s help those designers be great designers by providing the thing we do exceptionally well, which is visualization capabilities. And in some cases maybe the ordering as well, where we can remove those pain points and allow those incredible designers to convey their visions through our visual tools.’”
In this episode of the podcast, Tellerman highlights the past, present and future of Modsy, and shares insight on what technologies will and won’t matter for the future of home—ranging from artificial intelligence to AR, VR and the metaverse. The key, she says, is balance. “I think we’re always going to live in balance between technology and the feeling of serenity we’re trying to have in this space,” she says. “I think there is going to be this fight against technology taking over our lives and the feeling that when you’re home, you want to feel private and the devices are not overwhelming you.”