Here's how four online design companies made a tiny New York living room livable

By Megan Stein
August 24, 2017 11:52 AM

What It Is: Online interior designing
Who Tried It: Megan Stein, PEOPLE Home and Travel Associate Editor
Level of Difficulty: 6/10

Living in New York City has its perks: proximity to the best museums, unbeatable shopping, Shake Shack. But one thing it’s desperately lacking is space. My two-bed, one-bath apartment is certainly not the smallest I’ve seen, but the combined living room/kitchen leaves just a little to be desired (like legroom, for instance). My roommate and fellow PEOPLE editor Jeff Nelson and I struggled with how to make the eight-foot-by-ten-foot space, which contains our kitchen on one wall, feel homey with such a tight layout.

Enter, the growing roster of online interior design services, which pair users with a professional interior designer and help them outfit their space, completely online. With a bevy of celebrity clientele and a range of packages for those who have small budgets, like myself, I was curious about how successful these tools are.

To get the scoop, I tested four of the top options out there: Havenly, Laurel & Wolf, Decorist and Homepolish. Here’s how they proposed upgrading my impossibly teensy home.

A few notes: I provided floor plans, measurements, photos of the room and inspiration ideas to each service. I also answered questions on topics ranging from how the space is used to color preferences.

1.) Havenly
Price: $149/room for Full Package (Includes designer, 3 initial ideas, 1 design concept and two revisions, shopping list, concierge buying service, 2-3 weeks design time, 4 weeks post-design support, 3D room visualization, floor plan.)

Designer: Jessica Reynaud

Process: As one of the first sites I tried, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After taking their style survey, I was matched with a several designers and could then choose one based on their profiles. I was worried about picking the wrong person, and could see how someone who doesn’t look at celebrity homes for a living could feel overwhelmed. That said, my success with Jessica makes me confident that you can’t really go wrong. Based on my initial preferences, she presented me with three design boards. I chose a few things from each to give her a better sense of my taste and what I was looking for.


She was super open to listening to my opinions and even agreed to incorporate pieces Jeff and I already have and want to keep, like our ottomans and TV stand. After sending me a final design board, she created a 3D rendering which was a great way to imagine how everything would actually look.


What I’d buy: We loved the gold floor lamp. In fact, it’s on its way to our apartment right now!

Verdict: For a basic upgrade — which is exactly what I was looking for — this site checks all the boxes. Choosing a designer yourself is a little bit of a risk, but I felt like Jessica kept things within my tight budget and captured Jeff and my youthful aesthetic. I also love how Havenly has “Alternates” (see below for example) for many of the items, so you can truly personalize the design.


2.) Laurel & Wolf
Price: $149/room for the Classic package (Includes designer, 10 days design time, unlimited revisions, space planning, shopping list and floor plan.)

Designer: Nancy Schoolmeesters

Process: After filling out a design brief, I was matched with Nancy. She first created a concept board where I could give thumbs up or down on items and leave comments with my thoughts on each.

Laurel & Wolf

Based on my answers, she created a first go take on style board. Although beautiful, it felt like a lot of furniture, and there were a few pieces that didn’t quite fit.

Laurel & Wolf

I went back to Nancy who then revised the look based on my suggestions to create this final product. One aspect I really liked is that each item had a corresponding number, making it simple to critique certain pieces instead of writing a long paragraph where I might have forgotten something in the shuffle.

Laurel & Wolf

What I’d buy: Jeff loves this rustic TV stand, and I’d love to wake up to that leather pouf any day of the week.

Verdict: The initial concepts included large furniture pieces and light fixtures that didn’t quite take into account that I’m a renter, which I felt stalled the process a bit. But after clarifying, Nancy offered very clever ideas, like a visually light small side table and pouf for extra seating, that I wouldn’t have come up with myself. For larger projects, particularly for those who need guidance, Laurel & Wolf won’t disappoint.

3.) Decorist
Price: $299/room for Classic package (Includes two initial design concepts, final room design and floor plan, online shopping list, complimentary purchasing service, direct messaging with your designer.) I also received a 3D rendering, which is available for any project for an additional $199.

Designer: Baylee Floyd

Process: After providing the necessary info, I was matched with Baylee who turned out two style boards depicting rooms I would move into, like, yesterday.


I felt she really grasped my personality, and even incorporated art pulled from my Pinterest board, which was a cool surprise and made me feel like I had some semblance of taste. She provided lengthy explanations about why she chose each product, and from there I rated the two concepts and made tweaks.


After that, she presented my final board (above). Although some of the furniture pieces are probably too big for my space (for which my admittedly bad floor plan drawing is at fault) I honestly would buy everything in this room. She also incorporated our current ottomans and TV stand, which made it instantly more comfortable.


What I’d buy: “Ugh” really sums up Jeff and my outlook on life, and we look forward to incorporating that art piece into our gallery wall. We also love the updated bar cart.

Verdict: The 3D rendering (above) is unreal, and would be incredibly beneficial to those who struggle with visualizing. I can see how only having two concepts to choose from could be limiting, however they do offer more intensive packages for those looking for something a bit more involved.

4.) Homepolish
Price: Rates start at $130/hr (Includes customizable options depending on your needs.)

Designer: Crystal Sinclair

Process: Homepolish is still a virtual experience in many ways, but it differs from the other sites in that the matching happens through what they call a Queen Bee, who is your design fairy godmother of sorts throughout the process. I opted for a video consultation with Crystal — although you can do in-person as well — who asked me to walk her around the space so she could get a feel for it.

After chatting, Crystal presented me with a proposal that outlined the work, and gave a recommended design time frame. In this case, it was 10 hours. What really stuck out to me about this service was how I felt like I could easily communicate with her — she was very responsive, and definitely dedicated to making this small space totally gorgeous. From the initial call, she created a multi-page presentation that outlined her ideas. As with the others, I made some suggestions to her and she came back with a variety of options, with these two being our favorites.


Verdict: I love that you can pick and choose from different options as opposed to having one finished product, but I would have liked to see the design portrayed in the context of the room. Unlike others, however, we were sent multiple ideas for art placement, which is helpful because the struggle of a gallery wall is real. Crystal made it clear that if I needed assistance ordering, with delivery, or with anything really that she was available to make the process seamless, which I’m sure any busy homeowner would be #blessed to have.


What I’d buy: We haven’t ruined our current area rug yet and therefore can’t justify purchasing a new one, but if someone *happens* to stain it I wouldn’t be mad about subbing the black tassel one in as a replacement.

Overall Verdict: Each service has its strengths, and you really can’t go that wrong. My number one suggestion, however, is to be meticulous with measurements and photos. As you can tell, these layouts differ from one another, which is a direct result of my not submitting clear enough information. But overall, each grasped my style, took my small room (and strong opinions) in stride, and presented a group of designs of which my New York apartment is not worthy.