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GW Students ‘Design on a Dime’ with ZOOM Interiors
The fledgling company targets the web generation with quick, affordable and unique interior design.
July 15, 2013
For recent graduates and college students moving into their first apartment, interior design may seem like a daunting and costly task often better left for another day—or decade .
Enter ZOOM Interiors, the web-based interior design company and brainchild of George Washington University alumna Beatrice Fischel-Bock, B.F.A. ’13, and seniors Madeline Fraser and Lizzie Grover that seeks to eliminate the half empty packing boxes, bare walls and minimal furniture that plague younger adults’ spaces.
“Our mission is to provide unique, time-efficient and cost-effective design,” Ms. Fischel-Bock said of the company sprung from a dinner conversation during a semester abroad in London.
“We were talking to my mom about moving my sister into Boston College and how the students didn’t know how to decorate their rooms,” she added. “Bottom line—they were spending too much money.”
After designing a few friends’ spaces while abroad, the three Colonials, who clicked as classmates during interior design courses in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, returned to the States determined to start their business.
“We always took ourselves seriously,” Ms. Fischel-Bock said, noting that though none of their studies were in business, they all had family members in the field.
Since launching the company in February and website in April, they have made an impression on Washington, refining the early stages of their business plan through the School of Business’ Business Plan Competition and eventually designing more than 40 spaces.
“I think each of us knew that we wanted to go into business,” Ms. Grover said, laughing. “We just never thought it would happen so quickly.”
By May they were on a post-final exams red-eye to Los Angeles for a taping of “Home & Family”, a lifestyle talk show on the Hallmark Channel, to talk about their company during the show’s “graduation episode,” ironically causing Ms. Fischel-Bock to miss her own graduation.
“From the beginning we knew we wanted to offer a service that 18 to 34 year olds would relate to,” Ms. Fischel-Bock said. “When young people think of interior design they see something stuffy and overpriced, but ZOOM works because it fits into their budget and it’s quick, almost instant, gratification.”
To that end, they guide customers through the process of design, beginning with an online 39-question survey that assesses the needs and aesthetic of the customer.
“I always tell people, you can see a difference in style between a guy who reads ‘GQ’ and watches ‘Game of Thrones’ and a guy who reads ‘Time’ and watches CNN,” Ms. Grover said. “The questionnaire helps us figure out what kind of guy you are and what kind of style you want.”
Ms. Grover handles customers looking for modern, contemporary looks, while Ms. Fischel-Bock is a go-to for shabby-chic style and clean basics. Those who want an eclectic, artsy vibe look to Ms. Fraser.
The next step is putting together the ZOOM board, a digital look-book of the overall aesthetic, including any new furniture, accessories, color schemes or DIY installations.
Each item is priced according to the overall budget and approved by the customer.
“There is no better place to find affordable design than the Internet but the Internet isn’t endless, especially at a lower price point,” Ms. Fischel-Bock said. “We know how to spend your money, and what we can’t find, we make.”
Since the bottom line is cost-effectivity, the team tries to think of new ways to cut prices, mixing vintage items with low cost pieces from stores such as Ikea.
Ms. Fraser, the artist of the group, also makes affordable custom art pieces for different spaces and the entire team will work on larger installations such as 6-f00t by 4- inch clock, built with medium density fibreboard.
One future goal, aside from expanding nationwide, is to create a line of original art and furniture for the company.
At the end of the roughly three-week process, once new furniture and accessories are delivered to the company warehouse, the ZOOM team sends the customer out of the space for four to six hours, while they work, providing the wow factor seen on makeover television shows.
“We’ve gotten great feedback because it really is a transformation,” Ms. Grover said.
This plugged-in marketing works well with their key demographic.
“Once we posted photos of the first place we designed, we received two to three more customers,” Ms. Grover said.
As things take off for the trio—they were recently featured in the Washington Post— they are looking forward to assessing their success and mapping a plan for expansion and profit.
“We’ve given ourselves two years to see if this can work,” Ms. Fischel-Bock said. “Until then, we are reinvesting everything we own into the company because we want to build our brand.”
Ms. Grover agreed. “We want ZOOM to be synonymous with moving in.”