Bungalow 5 is one of the top furniture brands that isn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue. That’s because it is one of the few that has chosen not to sell directly to consumers. Still, Bungalow 5 has been incredibly successful, celebrating twenty years of business in 2021.
While this is a different approach to sales than much of their competition, especially when considering how much the direct to consumer market has grown in the past two decades, general manager John Roudabush sees this choice as an advantage. “At first, we noticed that our interior designer peers needed help sourcing our type of furniture for their clients,” he tells me. “We chose to focus on serving the business of designers to connect us to customers.”
I recently spoke with Roudabush along with several other principles to discuss how Bungalow 5 has evolved over the years as well as how the industry has changed.
A Smart Vision
Founded in November 2001 by Roudabush, Luca Rensi, who is the assistant general manager, and Marina Lanina, who is the head of design— the goal of Bungalow 5 was to fill a void in the marketplace. “As an interior designer, I couldn’t find forward-looking and interesting designs at a mid-market price. Those designs and items were reserved for wealthier clients, and most of those items were sold in design centers that the general public couldn’t access,” explains Rensi.
Truly innovative, it was one of the first brands to bring furnishings to the mass market made from cerused oak, colored lacquer, and grasscloth. This was very different from other options at the same price point. “Competitors at the time largely sold brown furniture. Everything was walnut or mahogany, which is lovely but not unique,” says Roudabush.
The strategy was simple. “From there, we began focusing on more sophisticated colorways, including being one of the first brands to introduce a large collection of white lacquer. It was all something you had never seen. It was an attempt to bring those affordable unattainable things into the mainstream spotlight. Allowing customers to find something a bit more fun and playful, and giving them the options to expand while decorating.”
Today’s best-selling products are quite a bit different. This includes occasional pieces such as the Edward Lounge Chair in Black, mainstays like the Meredith Extra Large 4-Door Cabinet in Navy Blue, and chic accessories like Olive Statue in Gold.
Being Direct To Business
In the early years of Bungalow 5, the company sold to larger direct to consumer brands including Crate and Barrel. The executive team felt this aligned with their goal of bringing a unique design to customers. However, this has changed.
“We [choose] to focus on serving the business of designers to connect us to customers. Since then, we’ve found that trade shows and working within the industry drive success in disseminating our products and new brand information,” says Roudabush. “The designer clientele is also very tuned in to the business portion of the industry and therefore knows more when it comes to supply chain issues and logistical aspects of the brand.”
Twenty Years Of Business
While so much has changed in the past two decades, a lot has remained the same. Lanina tells me, “Our designs are rooted in traditional proportions and sizing. We have anchored ourselves with a few rules that keep our items true to our initial vision of making unique furniture accessible. Over the years, we have maintained our tailored look throughout our designs even as we introduce new finishes and colors.”
Still, Bungalow 5 has done anything but remain stagnant. “In the beginning, our pieces were playful, colorful, and appropriate for decorating secondary rooms in a home (such as a children’s bedroom). Our designs have matured over the years and are now used as principal décor,” says Lanina.
As time has passed, they’re been able to leverage their ability to use finer and more exotic materials, creating more detailed products. Bungalow 5 has also been able to offer additional customizations for hardware.
From a business standpoint, there have been many changes. Not only has the product line expanded, but the customer base has as well. While the company started selling mostly in the Northeast region, they now serve customers nationwide with showrooms in Manhattan, Dallas, Atlanta and High Point, North Carolina.
Impact Of Covid
One of the biggest challenges every business has had during this time is Covid, which Roudabush says has impacted the brand both positively and negatively. “Early into the pandemic, we shifted to design more products to support consumers suddenly working from home. We saw that the home had to become a sanctuary as people were spending so much time indoors, and we wanted our furniture to elevate and support that experience.”
While there was an incredible amount of growth during the initial lockdowns, the pandemic has also created my supply chain issues. “Right now, there is a worldwide delay with shipping due to COVID’s impact domestically and abroad on logistics,” explains Roudabush.
Bungalow 5 is currently in the process of opening up a larger showroom in the Flatiron District at 933 Broadway. It will have a ground-floor entrance along with a large outdoor deck to allow for future in-store events and collaborations. It is slated to open in early spring 2022.