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After years covering design for publications including Architectural Digest, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, WWD, and yes, this one, you would think New York-based Alicia Brunker would feel right at home in one of the city’s many boutique furniture showrooms. “It’s uncomfortable though, especially when you’re young,” she said. “No one talks to you. They don’t think you’re serious about buying.” While the oft-performatively cold service might seem par for the course in the world of fine art and high design to many, Brunker, who is from the user-experience focused digital generation, aims to make the interiors world more accessible to millennial buyers.
Last week, she launched The Scope—a thoughtfully curated online design platform that serves as both an e-commerce site and a private members club for its featured makers, with a journal called Discoveries soon to follow. At launch, The Scope’s site features the works of eight designers, from a recycled rubber trivet by Slash Objects ($24) to a walnut and pewter table by Christopher Gentner ($25,000). To be featured, designers have the option of choosing between three tiers of membership which allow them varying amounts of editorial coverage, photography, and private events with “press and seasoned collectors.” Regardless of tier, each one has a magazine-worthy profile, which teases the prospective buyer with the artist’s inspiration and unique fabrication process.
The Scope is certainly not the first to sell multi-brand furniture online—the behemoth in the field being 1stdibs, which just last year made a move into the contemporary market. Yet while the breadth of her wares might not be sweeping, Brunker aims to make her mark through the illuminating descriptions that accompany each and every piece. “Whenever you click on a product [on other sites], they give you the specs and the dimensions and the materials, but they don’t go into anything further or deeper,” she explained. When browsing The Scope, a hopeful collector can fall for the slab of pewter Christopher Gentner has fashioned into a coffee table and learn whether it’ll fit through their front door, yes, but also how Gentner achieves that striking molten finish.
The works on The Scope work beautifully together—something Brunker said wasn’t completely intentional but makes sense given that each line fits her “refined but a little eclectic” taste. Indeed, the pieces edge towards sleek without being “all clean lines modern,” each with a moment that hints at the human hand, like Eny Lee Parker’s hand-thrown, bulbous ceramic tables, or the natural materials they highlight, like Konekt’s stools, each finished with a thicket of horsehair. Anna Karlin was quick to sing the praises of Brunker’s approach. “I think it’s pretty rare how she’s starting. She has some really great designers on board,” she said. Karlin’s whimsical glass Juliette vessels, which have already garnered much attention from the interiors world, are sure to be a site best seller.
While the natural choice for Brunker might be to lean into the Scandanavian-focused taste of many of her target wealthy millennials, her journalist’s eye has her seeking something a bit further flung. When we caught up with Brunker, she was in talks with a Moroccan rug designer, and toying with the idea of an event celebrating Chinese designers to question the idea of ‘Made in China’ being synonymous with mass-produced. “I want to constantly be educating people instead of giving them the same old,” she said. “I want to be a little unexpected.”