It's been seven years since Houzz, the brainchild of wife and husband team Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen emerged out of the frustrations they experienced while renovating their west coast ranch house in the US. The site now has 40 million users a month worldwide, says Andrew Small, managing director of Houzz UK and Ireland, with the Irish site, Houzz.ie, officially launching this week.
Houzz has done its homework in advance, and with 150,000 Irish users browsing every month there’s a clear interest here.
As a nation of home improvers 68 per cent of Irish homeowners on Houzz have completed a renovation project, or are planning one within the next 12 months.
So what are Irish users looking for? Forty four per cent plan living room changes while 31 per cent are planning to do something with their kitchen.
Almost half of renovating homeowners, 48 per cent, said they were able to make renovations in 2014 because they had finally found the financial means to do so.
Of those, 89 per cent have been able to fund the project from savings or personal funds with just 11 per cent paying for the project with a credit card.
“From day one the mission has been to deliver the best technology and experience for home renovation and design by addressing every aspect of the process,” Adi Tatarko, Houzz co-founder and chief executive explains.
The site has become an incredible resource for the decor community, offering users the chance to talk directly to professionals before engaging them, to forensically examine before and after pictures of rooms and larger renovation schemes, to tour gorgeous homes around the world from their armchairs, taking in the 9.5 million photos offering interiors ideas.
It’s also an addictive window onto how other people live. Many of the homes are polished and presented in a way that could only work in your wildest financial and decluttering dreams but many more are exactly like the home you inhabit and it is this similarity that is the real catnip to users.
But there is more to Houzz than simple passive house envy. You can talk to others that are at the same refurbishment stage as you and gain experience from their seasoned dealings with builders, suppliers and other professionals.
“By applying technology to the sector we are changing how people decorate,” Small says. Gone is the sheaf of magazine pages torn from publications. Instead you can try connecting directly with any of Houzz’s million professionals worldwide.
Decor superstar Kelly Hoppen has a presence. So do organisations like the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI). Many brands also have profiles, including Anthropologie, Made. com, B&Q, Bo Concept and Heal's.
One of the most popular searches is for space and storage and here the site excels, listing big-budget ideas next to small affordable ones, while the pantry porn on offer is endless, ranging from simple real-life solutions, like the one posted by Jonathan Williams Kitchens that was viewed 116,000 times, to showroom-like display units.
“Most of what we do is offer real-life solutions to problems people are facing,” Small says.
The extensive image library allows users to create a visual wishlist, something Houzz calls Ideabooks. Dublin-based Denise O’Connor of Optimise Design asks her clients to create and share these with her because it helps them to communicate ideas to her. For Deirdre Hardiman of Hepburn Design it’s the breadth of the photo references available that has her returning again and again.
“When I am explaining a concept to clients and they can’t visualise it I open Houzz and instantly have thousands of images to show them.”
But the site is so vast hours of your time can be sunk into finding “just one more image”. There are buttons to narrow the search but one man’s idea of contemporary can be another woman’s shabby chic.
The site’s professional posters pay a premium to be listed and, while many offer comments, they also suggest the products that they are selling.
Last year the US mothersite (houzz.com) created local sites for Australia, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and the UK.
Now Tatarko welcomes the expansion here saying: "We're thrilled to provide Irish users and home professionals with dedicated local content. We also look forward to connecting Irish professionals and homeowners with our community around the world." For more information and to browse, see Houzz.ie Next Saturday, April 16th, at 1pm Houzz UK and Ireland CEO Andrew Small will explain How to Houzz at 1pm at the Irish Times Theatre at the Permanent TSB Ideal Home Show which runs from Friday, April 15th to Sunday April 17th in the RDS.