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How this desperate homeowner turned an empty house into a design masterplan

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How this desperate homeowner turned an empty house into a design masterplan

WATCH  |  As new renters and homebuyers know, it can be a challenge -- not to mention expensive -- to decorate. Hiring a pro can be costly, but this Denver startup is poised to rock design.

"Home is personal. It's where you sleep, laugh, love, entertain, cry..." Havenly CEO and co-founder Lee Mayer said.

And it can be incredibly difficult to make it, well, a home. Especially for young people entering the workforce with not much cash to spare. A bauble here, a new velvet couch there and you're out a couple hundred bucks.

A few years ago, Mayer was in a similar budget and style dilemma.

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Havenly CEO Lee Myer (Credit: Circa)

"I moved, and I had this moment of incredible desperation where I'm sitting on the floor of my empty place," Mayer told Circa. "Add insult to injury, you turn on the TV and there are these gorgeously decorated homes."

After calling several interior designers, she realized her budget was too small.

"This is how my sister got involved; she was doing the same thing. And we were like, there's got to be a better way to get your home decorated, to shop for your home," Mayer said.

So, in true millennial fashion, she and her younger sister, Emily Motayed, co-founded Denver, Colorado-based Havenly in 2014. Motayed was recently named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 list of entrepreneurs reshaping retail.

One new feature Havenly offers is free design chats, aka quickies. 

The e-commerce startup matches consumers with freelance interior designers from Havenly's roster. 

It all happens online. You take a style quiz, compare mood boards, and then the designer works to find the perfect decor items for your home. You can pick from three fixed-price packages: the Quickie (free), Mini ($79) and Full ($199).

Based off your budget, the designer sends you curated purchase suggestions from their selected vendors. Havenly has a budget calculator in case you don't know where to start.

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2017_3_17_nistor_havenly-045 (1).JPG (Credit: Havenly)
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With the Mini, you get a designer, one custom concept board and product suggestions. The Full includes everything mentioned as well as a 3D room placement visualization and extra time to revise with your designer.

We wanted this to be ... fun, quick, delightful.
Lee Mayer, Havenly

Havenly places the orders and handles exchanges for you.

"We wanted this to be really accessible, but also fun, quick, delightful, just remove the friction from the home furnishings buying process," Mayer, whose background is in finance, said. 

The average cost of hiring an interior decorator in America is $4,500, per Home Advisor.

Since it debuted in 2014, the Denver firm has attracted more than $13 million in venture capital funding. It has gone from two employees to 60 and counting. And it is helping flip the interior decor market from in-store and costly to online and affordable.

There are thousands of interior designers in the U.S., and the industry has grown nearly 8 percent since 2012, according to an IBISWorld report. But there are no dominant companies in the space. With its mobile-first approach, Havenly could snag that title.

Though, Havenly is not without rivals: There's Homepolish, Decorist, and Laurel and Wolf, to name a few popular competitors. These brands are competing for consumers and funding.

Havenly also earns money from the sales of furniture and decorative items.

According to TechCrunch, freelance designers get paid a portion of the revenue from the projects they work on. At two years in, Havenly was seeing about a quarter of its customers come back for more help.

With more millennials expected to dip their toes in home buying, the global online home decor spaced is poised for growth. According to Sandler Research, in 2015, online home decor was worth $39 billion.

As more customers get their shopping fix on mobile, Mayer says Havenly has to keep up its data-based approach. "My whole theory around e-commerce is it's moving into this personalized arena," Mayer said.

Ultimately, Mayer believes, what consumers want is a highly-curated experience.

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Havenly HQ (Credit: Circa)

"If I can get everyone before they buy anything designed for their home, come to us first, that for me is what success looks like," Mayer said.

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