WorkOf, a new online marketplace dedicated to small artisan brands located in the New York-metro area, wants to change the way interior designers and consumers connect to independent, locally made home décor by fostering real connections and direct access for both sides.
John Neamonitis and Charlie Miner
The idea for the company came in 2013 when founders Charlie Miner and John Neamonitis, colleagues at a financial research firm on Wall Street, were walking the BKLYN Design show and realized that the energy and excitement around the event was temporary. They saw that interior designers wanted an easier way to source independent design, and consumers were interested in furnishing their homes with locally made home décor—but neither had a reliable destination to source these pieces. Inspired by the original work at BKLYN Design, they decided to build an online destination that would continue to support these designers long after the show was over.
Since its launch in January, the start-up has grown to include more than 40 designers and makers, including Chen Chen and Kai Williams, Calico Wallpaper, Souda and May Furniture, that collectively brings more than 300 objects to the website.
This reporter chatted with the entrepreneurial duo to learn what the industry can expect from them next.
Ply Series Chairs for sale on WorkOf
Given your financial backgrounds, what attracted you to the design world?
The inspiration to start WorkOf came from Charlie's experiences traveling and working with his uncle, renowned furniture designer Tucker Robbins. Charlie saw first-hand some of the difficulties emerging designers face in marketing their work and building an audience for their brands. At the same time, John had just finished furnishing an apartment and was exhausted by the process of finding unique and authentic pieces.
But the overarching theme here that we both feel pretty passionate about is that of supporting local artisans and communities. With WorkOf, we want to provide the medium for people making beautiful things to be able to pursue their craft. In doing so, we hope to cultivate the next generation of Made in the USA brands.
Why the name WorkOf?
With the name WorkOf, we wanted to create a brand that we felt would do justice to people who have dedicated themselves to their craft. WorkOf is less about a singular entity, and more about a community of makers. It's a brand we are growing to represent independent designers, makers, and artists across the country.
Pier Credenza for sale on WorkOf
What was missing from the market that you think this site now fills?
When we started WorkOf, there was no centralized marketplace for skilled makers. And that's a very clear distinction we will always make—WorkOf isn't for hobbyists or weekend crafters. On the consumer side, we're witnessing this change in tastes and a move away from big retail brands to smaller, independent ones. We wanted to put them all in one place and make discovery easy.
How do you go about choosing who is listed on the site? What are you looking for?
We screen on a variety of factors: creativity and uniqueness of the works involved, photography, and craftsmanship to name a few. And then we look for people who have dedicated themselves equally to the business side of their craft—if they can meet demand and fulfill orders in a timely fashion.
Kreten Side Table for sale on WorkOf
What is the business model?
Right now we take a 20% commission on anything that is sold on the site.
Who are the team members behind Work Of?
We have an amazing team of tech developers, designers, stylists, photographers and interns that work with us to produce the beautiful web experience you see now as well as periodic offline events and pop-ups.
Do you plan to do events offline to foster a relationship with the maker community and consumers?
Yes, we've done four offline events/instillations since January—our launch event at 61 Local in Cobble Hill, The Architectural Digest Home Show, The WorkOf Apartment at Industry City for NYC x Design and the Lounge at WantedDesign in Chelsea.
We are planning our 5th installation for later this month at Simon Pierce in Greenwich, CT. We are staging a 500 square foot storefront space as a NYC Studio Apartment with interior designer Kelly Mittleman. The installation will feature work from 15 makers on WorkOf.
We absolutely plan on doing more in-person events, with a pop up sometime this fall. These events are important because they allow consumers to see the pieces in real life and they also bring the community of makers together. We've had some really interesting exclusive products and collaborations come out of the in person events we've done.
Are there plans to expand to any other cities?
Currently, all designers on WorkOf are located in New York City and surrounding areas but the company plans to expand to West Coast in the coming months—and the rest of the nation shortly thereafter.
How can interested companies and designers get involved with the site?
They can apply at www.workof.com/apply! We'd love to hear from them.