Blueground’s director of design talks exclusive furniture

We learn from Jessica McCarthy about the design vision and process behind the latest modern furniture collection by Blueground

Keenan Wong

By Keenan Wong

a gorgeous blueground apartment with custom furniture

Blueground, as more than a furnished housing provider, is in the business of making people feel at home wherever they choose to live. With contactless viewings, digital bookings, and a simplified move-in & move-out process, we’re all about modernizing and easing up the relocation process.

So once you step into one of our fully-furnished homes, no decor or functional detail is overlooked.

With the latest Blueground for Home furniture and decor collection, we’re offering our proprietary expertise in furnishing and allowing it to reach cities outside of our current portfolio.

From design magazine-worthy side tables to lovable throws, head online to our e-shop to purchase these exclusive interior design elements for your next home refresh.

When interior design goes global

Always lovely to sit down to chat design with you, Jess! Tell us briefly about your journey in design and what brought you to Blueground.

Well, I have always had a passion for design and fashion. My degree was mainly focused on movie set design and retail design and I was the visual merchandiser for a large luxury retail brand first thing out of college. The transition happened organically from fashion to design as the two tend to intersect. I then went into home staging and worked in custom upholstery.

From there, I became the Creative Director for Decorist, an online interior design platform, which was the first of its kind.

As a team, we created a business where we could scale interior design quickly and effectively. Blueground was the natural next step for me in my career given the company’s global reach.

Jessica McCarthy with her dog in a bay window

I also saw so much potential in the brand and how the business could be improved through a new design direction.

What was the catalyst for you and your team to embark on designing and sourcing your own furniture?

We needed to fill a gap in the industry.

When sourcing products, everything we loved was either not cost-efficient, or it lacked comfort and functionality. We also have such a specific style for the Blueground brand, and everything we were finding was either too trendy or too traditional. We wanted an in-between that represented us. Our goal was to create beautiful, functional pieces that were classic, yet elevated.

I see what you mean, it must be hard to find those individual pieces that together ‘spell out’ Blueground. And so what was your muse or inspiration for this Blueground for Home collection?

This collection was inspired less by a person or place, but more by a feeling. We really wanted to go back to our Greek roots, with calming colors, organic textures, and materials but also wanted something luxe, sculptural & elevated.

Essentially a collection of modern furniture that has never been created before. We wanted our guests to walk into our apartments and feel as if they were transported to somewhere completely different.

Our goals were for each piece of furniture to be able to stand alone and tell a story, and together create a functional and usable space.

How does sourcing furniture directly fit into Blueground’s global expansion plans?

We have an incredible sourcing team based in Turkey that builds relationships with all of our different suppliers and manufacturers across the globe. Months of preparation go into sourcing or designing the right piece of furniture before it actually is placed in our apartments.

If we are unable to find a piece of furniture to fit our needs through an existing supplier, we work directly with our in-house Product Designers in Turkey to custom-design a piece of furniture. Our goal is to create a wide variety of upscale furniture pieces to differentiate our apartments globally.

Tell us about how your global team works in order to pull off the complete look?

We have an amazing team called our “Remote Furnishing Team” who work directly with the Operations teams in each city. They remotely design each new apartment which is a great way for us to control quality and make sure we have a consistent look and feel throughout all our apartments.

Amazing! What an operation. How is this core collection different from your previous work on the Bespoke apartments?

We originally created our Bespoke concept to start seeding an even more refined concept for our design. It was selective & purposeful with the intent to test out trends, products, and décor concepts. The insights from guests were incredible, which then led to a more robust endeavor with the Core Collection.

At a larger scale, we wanted to start taking our apartments to the next level with modern upgrades that were still timeless and consistent by the market. Bespoke is supposed to be the most elevated version of our design aesthetic, truly aspirational, rule-bending, and trendy. The Core Collection (available online in our Blueground for Home store) is much more classic, allowing our apartments to showcase a refined look that holds true for the long term.

The design process from idea to scale

Walk us through the design process for a piece of furniture or a decor item. For example, how long does it take and who is involved?

The design process starts out collaboratively as a team, deciding what gaps we have in our collection. Through cross-market research conducted and guest feedback on everything from color, texture, and design embellishments, the team gathers and prioritizes customer insights. The next step is for the Design team to create an inspiration deck that may include photos, sketches, fabric, and material choices.

We then work with the Sourcing and Product team to decide if we want to source this item or design it in-house. We make this decision based on cost, if something similar already exists that we can tweak, or if we want something very exclusive to just us. Once we decide on the direction, we either go through our different suppliers to source the product or we work directly with our in-house Product team who creates the design.

Once the item is manufactured, we go through a review process by receiving samples to be sure the item is up to our standards. This may take a few rounds of iterations until the manufacturer gets it right.

We plan the release of the piece of furniture based on how long that process can take, which sometimes can take up to a few months.

How does your team bridge apartment furnishings in cities as diverse as Seattle and Istanbul?

Our goal was for us to create a line of contemporary furniture that was timeless enough in style to work in any city across the globe.

As the collection continues to evolve, we will be adding custom art, wallpaper, and fabric to distinguish each city from the next.

Shopping the look online

2020 has seen another big leap in online shopping, specifically for product categories previously sold mostly in stores like furniture and furnishings. What would you say to someone who is hesitant to purchase a large piece of furniture online without having seen it in person before?

For us at Blueground, when sourcing all of these pieces, we went through an intense vetting process specifically related to comfort. You can rest assured that each item listed for sale has been tested by our team to be sure it is comfortable and durable for years of use.

If you are still hesitant, I always recommend looking at the fill of the upholstery. Foam or artificial material is always going to be on the firmer side compared to down or feathers which will be softer.

apartment in Tribeca NYC with stylish living room

Who was the customer you had in mind when opening up the online store?

We were so inspired by our own Blueground guests who so often requested to purchase our furniture after staying in our apartments. We wanted to provide our customers the option to create the same look in their own homes!

And with all of us at home more these days, we’re already online so it’s the perfect opportunity to speak to our audience.

It’s not too often that a furniture designer has such a tight relationship with a global audience. Speaking of listening and adapting, how do you see our relationship with our homes change in the age of indefinite WFH?

It’s going to become so important for everyone to separate their home from their workspace in order to be as productive as possible. Creating a proper office space or desk setup will allow you to separate your work from your fun!

And lastly, tell us about your favorite piece and the story behind it.

I love our Fence bookcase! It has such a beautiful and sculptural shape and was designed for function and style. The shelves are the perfect place to display your favorite pottery while the drawers hide away eyesores. My favorite detail from this piece of storage furniture is the leather drawer pulls, the perfect organic contrast to the harsher shape of the bookshelf.

We also had the opportunity to work with a few local artists to design our own exclusive line of art and wallpaper.

When sourcing art and wallpaper to go with our new Core Collection of furniture, I had noticed a gap in the design industry when it came to this topic.

There was nothing that truly fit within our new aesthetic. I ended up connecting with a local artist and designing from scratch a collection of artwork and wallpaper for each market. This is also a great way for us to differentiate one city from the next and add a punch of color and pattern into our units.

Shop our online store

Are you looking to refresh your living room, bedroom, or home den?

Allow Blueground for Home to give you a classic and refined look, with the addition of a few timeless decor pieces, or a full furniture set overhaul.

Check out our online store, which includes free shipping across the U.S. with more countries being added regularly, and bring Blueground’s professionally-led interior design to your own home.

Keenan Wong

Keenan Wong

Keenan Wong is the former Content Marketing Manager at Blueground. He loves contributing expertise around relocations for expats on the move, and neighborhood advice for those looking to connect with their new area. His favorite trips involve a bike with panniers, and his favorite meals involve small plates and good friends.