Furniture, when bought new, largely exists at two poles: low-end and affordable or high-quality, long-lasting and loan-requiring. For NYC-based duo Stephanie Rales and Sophie Lavet, the process of purchasing essential pieces and accessories for their respective apartments became so cumbersome and costly that they decided to ideate their own brand, one that would fill evident gaps in the home goods market. Their brand, Russet (which launched last month) remains affordable despite employing higher-quality materials and clever construction methods.
Formed from FSC-certified wood, The Sidekick, Russet’s debut end table, ships in five pieces, and is assembled without metal hardware or tools. However, should one need a little extra help, Russet’s branded furniture mallet ships with the table (in a matching veneer, no less). The Sidekick measures out to 18 by 18 inches, and its chameleon-like design works with many styles. At only $75, it exists at a price point that’s rare for this level of quality, but for Lavet and Rales, attaining affordability was crucial.
“We wanted to find something that was in-between,” Rales tells CH. “But it’s not just about the price point; it’s also about the durability, the ease of assembly and the design. We wanted to go for something that was a little more contemporary, something that’s a little more foundational, and can work with all of your pieces.” Rales says the brand’s focus is on “functionality, the usefulness of the object, and making sure it works with everyone no matter how you want to accessorize it. This is your foundation, your core collection, your basics.”
On The Sidekick’s product page, a handy video details the steps for assembly, of which there are roughly three. If viewed from the right angle, the table appears supported by several systems and at least a few screws, but (with the exception of a few wooden anchors) there are no fastening materials hidden within. Simplifying assembly is just one of Russet’s foundational pillars.
“For most people, unless they have an unlimited budget when it comes to furniture shopping, it’s not very fun,” Rales says. “So for us, it’s really important to reimagine that entire experience, whether that is online or at a brick and mortar. We want to change the way that people go about purchasing furniture and therefore their association with the entire process.”
Plenty of direct-to-consumer furniture brands have cropped up with the intention of appeasing the millennial consumer, but by the time they’ve launched, prices often appear closer to the top end of the spectrum. Russet aims to maintain their affordability through seasonal launches and necessity-driven design. Plus, the founders hope Russet’s designs will last. Ideally, a college-aged person could afford one or more of their pieces and place them in apartments well into the future.
“The first collection will be about 10 to 12 pieces. We call them our foundational pieces. They’re super-simple; they’re supposed to be the foundation of your home,” Rales explains. “And by spending a little less on these items, you’re able to then spend a little more on those accessories that really enable you to customize your space and make it your own. We think that’s particularly important, especially with COVID when you’re spending so much more time in your home. That’s really your space, and you want to make it you and feel cozy. You want to have pride in your home.”
The Sidekick, Lavet and Rales hope, can be a table you are proud to display and repurpose in new spaces and ways. “This can be inexpensive, and it can still have longevity,” Lavet says. Available in three veneers they’ve dubbed 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 (or light, medium and black respectively), Russet’s debut table, at the very least, looks the part, but its stress-tested construction ensures durability.
“We didn’t want it to look like it was cheaply made. We wanted something that looked sophisticated, elegant, and nicer than what was currently out there. And we knew that was possible,” Rales tells us. “We think that everyone deserves this. Now it’s kind of like, ‘How do we make it reality?’ We’re hoping, at least with this first product, we were able to do that.”
Images courtesy of Russet