Petrus Palmér is building a furniture brand for the next generation of consumers—and they’ve noticed. “I could name-drop any brand in Silicon Valley, and they’ve bought something from us,” he says without a trace of bravado. “Their designers have appreciation for what we do—the design, the products, the price point and the story as a brand.”
After spending the early years of his career designing for big furniture companies—from Ikea to high-end Italian brands—the Swedish designer stepped away to start his own firm, Hem, in 2014. “I love this industry, but I saw a lot of things I didn’t like,” he says. “I saw an opportunity to launch a new type of brand, with unique designs distributed in a modern way.”
“Modern,” at the start, meant online. Now, a few years in, Hem has begun to put its own stamp on the brick-and-mortar experience. Its New York pop-up in November—offering a mix of cash-and-carry accessories and an opportunity to experience the brand’s case goods and upholstery—actually turned a profit, and Hem has several more on the horizon across the U.S. and Europe. Yet long-term leases won’t be part of the equation. The cost, inflated by middlemen, is too high. “Our prices are based on great materials and great design, plus our own markup, but no one else’s,” he says. “The value you get is comparatively higher.” Instead, Hem has invested in a warehouse in Pennsylvania to keep shipping times under a week for American customers while maintaining all of its manufacturing in Europe.
“The mission of my professional life is to bring all of this beauty to a wider audience—the 10 percent who are ready to invest in quality,” says Palmér. “We’re not going to sell to the 99 percent like Ikea does, or to the 1 percent of the Italian design brands. We’re still a niche brand, but our biggest fan base is comprised of interior designers and architects. “If the most picky people are giving us their blessing, that tells me we’re doing things right.”