These days, media outlets do much more than publish articles. Some host events or curate showhouses, others develop affiliate revenue or create in-house brand studios—many try it all. Still, it’s relatively rare for publications to make their own furniture, but that’s just what Sight Unseen has done. In collaboration with Long Island–based manufacturer Bestcase, the indie digital design publication has launched its debut collection to coincide with NYCxDesign.
Sight Unseen built its name covering emerging artists and designers, with content ranging from decor inspiration and gallery events to trend tracking and themed shopping lists—a multifaceted strategy that co-founders Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov used to reinforce their business model at an especially dicey time for independent media. “When we started in 2009, it was right after the media bloodbath,” Singer tells Business of Home. “We were really, really niche—no one knew who we were except hard-core design people.”
From the very beginning, Singer and Khemsurov knew they had to go beyond the website to generate revenue—they developed an events business and are now working on a book. Still, the founders had a feeling they were missing out on an opportunity. “It was kind of frustrating for us to discover all of this incredible talent, show their work to people and then not be able to do anything with it after that,” says Singer. “We would watch as retailers or gallerists picked up their work and could continue that relationship, and we didn’t really have an avenue in which to do that. It was something we wanted to do, but for the longest time it seemed out of reach.”
An opportunity came by way of a coincidence. In 2018, Sight Unseen opened a store on 1stdibs, where it began selling furniture and home decor pieces that had been featured on the media brand’s website—its success affirmed the duo’s curatorial instincts. Around the same time, an industry friend, Charles Constantine, had just co-founded Bestcase, a metal-making facility on Long Island. “They had gotten going making case goods and furniture, and he was like, ‘What if we did a Sight Unseen–branded capsule collection?’” says Singer. “It was a quick yes. It gave us the opportunity to put the pieces together in a way that we had never been able to before.”
Then came the challenge of actually coming up with designs for the collection: “We see and publish so much furniture that it’s really hard for us to say, ‘These are the six pieces that represent who we are as a brand.’ We have such freewheeling, wide-ranging interests,” says Singer. Initially looking at inspiration themselves, the founders soon turned to the roster of makers they had worked with over the years. “Monica and I aren’t designers,” says Singer. “We’ve always relied on people to translate that vision for us. So we put out a brief to a bunch of designers we knew, and we got a ton of submissions.”
While designs came in droves, it’s still not easy to transform the aesthetics of a digital media publication into a chair. Available in both high gloss or brushed finishes, each piece boasts a swipe or two of color that, for the founders, takes the material and draws it even closer to the brand’s identity. “The fact that it was all in metal was going to prescribe the aesthetic to a certain extent—it’s a colder material, yet we feel like we have a pretty warm aesthetic,” says Singer. “That’s where the details came in. We wanted to warm up the metal with color and texture.”
As is all too common, the collection was meant to make its way to market in 2020, didn’t, and took a back seat until now. Just last week, Sight Unseen hosted an in-person event to give a preview of the pieces before launching the line on the brand’s 1stdibs store, where they will be available for purchase moving forward. (Each designer receives royalties from the sales.) Naturally, Singer and Khemsurov want the line to be profitable, and they’re ready if it is. “Our philosophy from the very beginning of Sight Unseen has just been to try everything,” says Singer. “We’re hopeful that it will sell—and if the line does well, we have more designs in our back pocket.”
Homepage image: Magna Chair by Charles Constantine for Sight Unseen x Bestcase | Sean Davidson