Italian Startup Takes Interior Design Online With Crowdsourcing Model

When companies or public entities need an architect or interior designer, they solicit proposals before deciding which company or person best fits the bill.

Now, an online application founded by two Italian brothers is offering that same opportunities to everyday homeowners.

“Until recently, [people in Italy] looking to renovate their homes or offices had only two options; do it themselves or hire an interior designer, at huge cost,” wrote entrepreneurship expert Alison Coleman in a Dec. 3 article for Forbes. “Now they have a third; CoContest, an innovative crowdsourcing platform for interior design that puts customers in direct contact with interior designers all over the world.”

Market Opportunities

The venture arose, Coleman explains, because of unusual circumstances in Italy’s architecture and interior design industry. The sector “literally priced itself out of its own market,” leading to a steep decline when people stopped hiring designers altogether.

Filippo Schiano di Pepe had been trying to work as an interior designer for a few years when he became frustrated that even young, skilled designers couldn’t find clients. He enlisted the help of his brother Federico, a law graduate, and together they launched CoContest.

By encouraging homeowners to try a new approach, “many talented but often out-of-work architects have an opportunity to win new business,” Coleman writes.

How It Works

Homeowners are given the opportunity to launch a contest, choosing a timeline and budget for the project. Designers then have a week to submit proposals, being paid only if they win. Homeowners receive plans, renderings, furniture lists and cost estimates to then complete the project on their own.

Prices range from $250 for closet plans to $2000 for a complete house, club or bed-and-breakfast design.

“I’m not sure that this is a type of trend that will catch on here in the states, especially because an interior designer home is still very attainable for Americans,” says Gary Kapner, COO of Creative Wall Coverings & Interiors. “Right now, the market is such that most homeowners want to hire one designer who can give them a couple design samples.”

The website currently supports users in Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and English. It has hosted bids on design projects in 28 countries, most of which are in Europe. The brothers hope to gain a greater foothold in the Latin American and U.S. markets soon.

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