New year, new e-design concept. Today marks the debut of Tald, an online platform aimed at an age-old industry matchmaking challenge: connecting a great designer with a great client. “There’s a massive gap in understanding between clients and interior designers—[clients] really don’t know where to start,” says founder Emily Shapiro. “That’s the gap we’re bridging.”
Tald (the name is an acronym for “Things a Little Differently”) emerged from a pandemic pivot. In the early days of Covid, Shapiro abruptly left a career in commercial real estate and her home city of New York. “We originally had a flight booked to visit in-laws in Atlanta, and we just canceled our return flight, and that was it,” says Shapiro with a laugh.
With her newfound free time, she launched an e-commerce site (also called Tald) dedicated to selling the work of independent makers and brands—many of whom produced home goods. Shapiro found that interior designers were her biggest shoppers and began collaborating with them on photo shoots. Soon after, consumers looking for a designer reached out and asked for some matchmaking help. She saw an opportunity and began bootstrapping a new venture.
“I had this domino effect of people coming to me seeking advice,” she says. “I quickly came to realize that [clients’] requirements were so widely varying—both the technical and the design. … So, in comes ‘Tald 2.0.’ [The goal] is to create this connection between clients and designers [with a better] understanding of both sides of it.”
The mechanics behind Tald are straightforward. Shapiro’s site hosts designer portfolios that would-be clients can freely browse, search and sort—whether it’s by location or more dialed-in aesthetic choices (one of the platform’s search options is “No Vintage Please”). Designers are also free to list project minimums or fee structures.
If clients are intrigued, they can book a 30- or 60-minute video consultation session à la The Expert, or inquire about a full-scope project. According to Shapiro, one of the key components of the platform is that it keeps things simple. “We’re not reinventing the wheel,” she says. “We’re not getting in the way of designers running their current processes. We’re looking to provide the right clients and save designers time when they’re vetting new clients.”
To be listed, designers pay annual dues to Tald—at launch it was $1,100, but Shapiro says new members will pay a higher fee (she declined to provide an exact figure). The site also takes a 20 percent cut on video consultation sessions. It does not take a percentage on full-service projects.
As part of the package, Shapiro says she’s looking to boost the matchmaking process by investing in targeted marketing efforts on potential clients in key zip codes. Tald will also look to place its member designers in press coverage and publish editorial content to draw in a consumer audience.
Tald’s debut class includes 32 designers spread out across 15 states. Westport, Connecticut, designer Steph Viesta of Studio Seva says she’s intrigued by the prospect of connecting with clients in other markets for virtual consultations. She was also attracted to the idea that the platform will help educate a public that is largely ignorant of both the cost and value of interior design.
“By being on this platform, I [hope to] have a bigger reach and exposure and tap into people who would have never known who we were,” says Viesta. “Being able to educate the consumer and provide a little bit more transparency to the industry as a whole is a huge takeaway for me. … When clients walk into the design world, they often don’t have insight on costs and what quality furniture and design is worth. To be able to share [more about] this with people feels very rewarding for me.”
Shapiro says the near-term goal is to grow Tald’s network of designers. There’s no hard-and-fast criteria for joining the platform, but she aims to bring on professionals with design bona fides and a clear perspective and aesthetic. Beyond that, she’s considering other verticals and features to enhance the offerings down the line. The only thing off-limits? “We won’t do anything that competes with our members,” she says.