Frustrated with the cookie-cutter clapboard of IKEA, but pleased with the pricepoint, Rachel Cohen and Andrés Modak chose to fill the gap with their own kind of company. Enter Snowe, the Everlane of home goods that offers chic essentials from serving-wear to bathroom decor that’s ideal for the millennial decorator. The couple dishes on where it all began and what you need to host the parfait summer soiree.
How did you become interested in home decorating?
Andrés: I grew up in a family of architects and interior designers, and I spent a lot of time in fine arts. Growing up, I moved from country to country, like Australia and Asia, and would be absorbed in the design and art. It helped me find my own take.
Rachel: I started my career in real estate and always had a love for design. I’d insert myself in certain design projects, but it wasn’t my core function. When Andres and I graduated and moved to New York to set up our own place, we were going to large retailers that had products in our price range but they were ubiquitous in design. We would walk into friends’ apartments and they’d have the same thing. But the higher-end boutiques were completely out of our price range. That’s where the need for Snowe came about.
Who helms the design?
Andrés: It’s a bit of both of us. We’ve worked with a few collaborators and advisors, and we work closely with our manufacturing partners. But the design perspective is ours. We also have a head of product who is doing product development and overseeing parts of design.
What’s the aesthetic?
Andrés: It’s about the love of functional design. We make sure to look relevant and contemporary, but at the same time incorporate practicality and materials that last and are easy to take care of…things you can throw in the dishwasher and use every day.
Rachel: Neither one of us was entrenched in design in our careers, so we weren’t aware of the way things had been done in the past. A lot of our approach is figuring out if every detail is absolutely necessary, and how there can be function and purpose.
What were you surprised to learn about the design industry?
Andrés: That people weren’t asking questions. Like why is it that I can never find what goes together in my linen closet? We started to think about the commoditized nature of home goods. We all care so much about the food we eat, but why not the plate that we’re eating the food off of? Why can’t it be from an amazing store where they use high-quality porcelain? By asking those questions we are able to uncover a lot.
What’s a FAQ from customers?
Andrés: We get a lot of questions about color pairing. So we’ve sent customers swatches with free shipping and free returns. It seems to be the hardest thing for people to wrap their heads around.
Is there a service out there that’s similar to Snowe?
Rachel: There’s a few mainstay apparel companies that create great essentials, like Theory and Equipment. They’ve done such a good job at building a brand of staples, and we take inspiration from that. Home is complex for people, and we try to get them to think about it in the same way as getting dressed. You have your jeans and white T-shirt and then you can dress it down or dress it up. The comparison that we often get is Everlane.
Andrés: Another fun parallel is Mr. PORTER and the way that they approach merchandising. The way they talk about products is very similar to the way that we talk about home.
Who is your customer?
Rachel: Our main customer is a female in her early 30s, though we’ve tried to appeal to men as well. Typically a home goods audience is 90 percent female, but ours is 30 to 40 percent male. We want to stay gender neutral. It’s the customer who is coming to an age when they start to care a little bit more about their home and entertaining.
Andrés: They’re upgrading from IKEA or another mass market brand, and they’re ready to set up their first home. Snowe has been doing really well with the contemporary consumer who wants to connect emotionally to a brand.
What’s in the name?
Rachel: We get this question often. We chose Snow and added the “e,” thinking that it could come across as a proper noun and a name that we could personify. What we love about it is the subliminal connotation of “snow”…tranquility, softness, and serenity, a blank canvas that acts as a foundational base for your life.
Andrés: If you look at a lot of other brands in the home space, most of the names are very utilitarian, or they’re a little ubiquitous. We wanted to pick something that was a little more human and connect with our customers in a personal way.
What are some special features of the products?
Andrés: It’s a combination of things, including the quality of the materials that we use. They’re premium grade. For example, our flatware uses the highest grade of stainless steel available, making it insanely stain and scratch resistant and durable. It’s designed around very ergonomic principles, too. Our bath linens have incorporated technology that allow them to be insanely absorbent, so you have a plush, luxury towel that dries twice as fast and is 60 percent more absorbent. It’s those little things that make everyday living more enjoyable.
Because everything is made to last, are you going after new or repeat customers?
Rachel: It’s a combination of both. We want to have multiple categories to become a destination that customers can return to. We’ve seen a very high repeat purchase rate from our early customers because they loved the quality of one category, like bedding, and come back to try another, like bath.
Andrés: People are growing and evolving over the course of their lifetime. In home, you don’t go by the same principles as fashion, which is switching things out constantly. The frequency of purchase is less but people add things as their family grows, they buy a second home, they entertain more often. We’re always releasing new products.
You’ve also created a magazine to support the site.
Rachel: The magazine is to provide content and tips around the categories that we have. Similar to Mr. PORTER, we supplement our products with fun content.
Andrés: One of our marketing team members oversees it. She comes from media, and used to work at Martha Stewart Living. We also work with some talented freelancers, and bring in different voices to represent what our variety of customers want to hear.
What’s the ultimate goal?
Andrés: Without giving too much away, we’re building the home destination for the contemporary consumer. The next generation of customers, including us, want very different things from customers in the past. Today, customers engage with brands in different ways, and don’t shop through one channel only. We want to change the way people think about their home.
Plus! Andres and Rachel’s tips for summer entertaining
Embrace clean whites…
Rachel: How to do whites the rights way is a question we get a lot. For us, it’s layering neutrals with different textures and adding pops of color. If you have a tablescape with all white dinnerware, we say embrace white linens for a crisp, clean summer look. You can keep it neutral with green and white organic flowers and plants, or you could add pops of color with accessories or different bouquets.
Andrés: When you speak to anyone in the food space, it’s unanimous that cool whites make food pop. In the summer, the produce is a variety of amazing colors.
Make your bathroom a sanctuary…
Andrés: We have a rectangular platter that we use for serving but we often put it in the bathroom to hold hand towels for guests. The bathroom is another great place where whites and neutrals can create a calming effect. Towels and shower curtains are a easy to swap.
Keep it cool…
Rachel: Color can have a really profound effect on the sensory experience, particularly in hot temperatures. A space that’s very white and clean has a cooling effect and it’s rooted in a lot of design that come from places that get very warm in the summer.
Offer cocktail concoctions…
Andrés: When we’re barbecuing, we love to offer fresh, fun cocktails. We use carafes instead of pitchers so they’re pretty on the table. We’ll put out herbs and fruits and a couple of liquors and alcohols. Often we’ll pair gin with a really herbaceous combination and fresh fruit. We’ll guide guests with signs, but let them mix and match to make their own cocktails. It invariably ends up with people competing and talking about why their cocktail is best. It’s fun, it game-ifys it!