Detroit company Floyd is disrupting America’s throwaway furniture culture.
By Karen Dybis
Photography by Erin Kirkland
When Detroit’s most innovative home furnishings company recently held a company retreat, Floyd employees gathered at the Cranbrook campus to brainstorm new projects, delve into fresh ideas and gain inspiration from one of the region’s most forward-thinking landmarks.
For Kyle Hoff and Alex O’Dell, longtime friends turned business partners behind Floyd, establishing their company headquarters in Michigan made perfect sense when you consider the state’s design heritage. Living among the legacy of Eliel Saarinen, Florence Knoll and Harry Bertoia is one of the many reasons they wanted to set up a business here.
“Michigan is the home of some of the greatest furniture companies in the world,” O’Dell says. “For us, it’s been a truly inspiring place to build our furniture company.”
And built it they have. What started as an online enterprise, Floyd now sells its across the United States and internationally. The furniture is direct to consumer with free same-day delivery in cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, places where its ready-to-assemble style is taking on big names such as Ikea, CB2 and West Elm.
Floyd’s only retail storefront, known as The Floyd Shop, opened spring 2018 in Detroit’s Eastern Market district on Division Street. There, its whitewashed brick façade opens up to a 3,500-square-foot work and display space with an open-office concept. What started as two friends now has more than two dozen employees who work together at wood communal tables to come up with new products for their loyal customers. They want the Shop to be a community space where design is a key topic of discussion; to that end, they have hosted several events so far.
One of Floyd’s mottos, “The New Modern,” is an apt description of a furniture company and design studio that emphasizes simplicity, sustainability and intuitive design that fits everyone from college-age Gen Z nomads to retiring baby boomers looking for quality and timeless design. Prices range from around $160 for a side table about $1,200 to $1,600 for a sofa.
Hoff, by trade and an Ohio transplant by way of Ann Arbor, arrived in Detroit in 2013 with some worn-out Ikea furniture and the hopes of turning his first design, a flexible clamp piece known as The Leg, into a full-fledged enterprise. O’Dell, a public policy wonk from Frankenmuth, saw The Leg and its potential. Together, they launched Floyd as an alternative to American society’s throwaway furniture culture, which puts an estimated 9.8 million tons of furniture in U.S. landfills every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Leg got its start on Kickstarter, the design lab of millennials like , who are 31 and 28, respectively. By the time the 2014 campaign ended, some 1,395 backers had pledged over $250,000 to bring The Leg to the masses. It was a huge vote of confidence and a sign the market wanted good looks plus reliable products.
Today, The Leg has a roomful of friends, including The Sofa, The Bed, The Desk, The Side Table and The Table. The goal, Hoff and O’Dell say, is to create furniture worth keeping. What sets Floyd apart from the industry is each of these products can be taken apart, moved and rebuilt quickly and easily, making it much easier and economical when moving from one location to another.
If you’re going to invest in Floyd, its founders want you feel like you got something real out of the deal.
“Furniture is a very intimate part of your life. Like a table. You start your day there, you share stories there, you eat there, your kids do their homework there. There’s so many meaningful, important things that happen there,” Hoff says. “We want people to really appreciate the furniture in their homes.”
Lauren Kase was Floyd’s first employee; she’s the head of brand marketing and communications. Kase says the company has a passion for Detroit and design that inspires her and everyone around them. She saw their Kickstarter, got an eyeful of The Leg during Corktown’s Ponyride holiday open house and moved to Detroit from Philadelphia to join the Floyd team in 2015.
“It was the eve of the birth of the direct-to-consumer company. I saw the vision, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Kase says. “The Leg was something that belonged out in the world.”
The Floyd Shop has several new projects in the works: Its next product in is The Bookcase, a mix of wood and steel that honors the company’s namesakes — Hoff’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather, all steel mill workers. Underbed storage and seating are also on their collective minds for 2019.
Floyd customers are key to the company’s design process, Hoff says, helping guide the process so the product meets their expectations for ease of use, style and quality. Having a mind for customer feedback through platforms such as Instagram helps keep everyone engaged in the products, Hoff and O’Dell say. But they’re also mindful of the importance of the investment world, raising $5.6 million during its latest funding drive.
It’s not all work without play. They’re definitely having fun — they’ve put up billboards across the street from Ikea stores around the country to poke fun at the retail giant. Floyd’s offer was a mix of cheeky and serious: “Eat their meatballs; buy our bedframe.” Hoff says they haven’t heard from Ikea about it, so they believe their competitor indeed has a good sense of humor.
Ultimately, the duo believe they are in the right place at the right time to make the furniture they love, much like Charles and Ray Eames, who are among their biggest heroes when it comes to modern furniture design. The famous couple’s creativity — taking the material in a World War II military helmet and turning it into their classic molded plastic chair — highlights what Floyd aspires to be now and in the future.
“It’s more than does this product look good,” Hoff says. “Does it fit with how people are really living today?”