Launching a Furniture Brand for Small Homes



Bootstrap the launch an award-winning furniture brand for small spaces. Design innovative furniture products, bring them to market, and build a thriving small business through strategic crowdfunding, manufacturing, marketing, and logistics.

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  • Founder
  • Creative Director
  • Ecommerce
  • Manufacturing
  • Operations
  • Logistics
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • PR
  • Customer Experience


4 years


As a designer and creator, I’ve always wanted to bring my own designs to market. That was the reason I started Otelier, a furniture studio creating clever space-saving and multi-functional furniture. 

Design Principles

Having lived in cities my entire life including San Francisco, Hong Kong, New York, and London, small homes are all that I know. And I am not alone. Unlike the boomer generation, most urban millennials and GenZers live in apartments rather than single-family houses. Yet, most furniture is still designed for single-family houses, or a version with smaller dimensions, without any thought to how people live differently in smaller homes. 

Furthermore, the majority of mass-market consumer furniture today is single-use, made at the lowest costs possible and intended to be disposed of in a couple of years. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans throw out 12 million tons of furnishings a year as of 2018 (probably more now). As a designer, I want to create an alternative to this wasteful consumer behavior, with thoughtfully designed furniture that is made to last and at a price point that is aspirational but still accessible.

Otelier is a play on the word Atelier, which is the French word for a creator’s workshop or studio. The O refers to sustainability and circular economy, a long term goal the studio is working towards. The benefit of starting my own design studio is that I can build a brand that embodies my principles as a designer. Otelier’s principles are:

Award-winning products

Otelier Height-Adjustable Desks and Tables

Our inaugural collection of height-adjustable desks and dining tables were designed for working from home, launched during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I first designed the Eat-Work Table for people like me—those who turned their dining tables into their office for lack of space in their homes. Unlike the ubiquitous wobbly standing desks seen in offices, the Otelier Eat-Work Table is a beautiful dining table made from white oak, with four legs for extra stability. All the mechanics and wires are hidden inside the table, which can be battery operated.  It has drawers to store laptops and work accessories when used as a dining table. In short, it was a dining table that multi-functioned as a standing desk. Later, I added a desk version based on popular demand.

The Otelier Height-Adjustable Tables won multiple design awards, including the San Francisco Design Week Award for Industrial Design, Good Design Award for furniture, best of Necon Silver Award, and HiP Award Nomination by Interior Design Magazine. It was exhibited at San Francisco Design Week’s Bay Area Made event in 2021.


The Quartet is a side table that transforms into four stools, designed to encourage people to have friends over, even if they have small homes. The original concept came from my own experience living in apartments, and the frustration of not being able to host dinner parties or movie nights because of the lack of seating at my small apartment. Plus, I didn’t want to have to find storage space for folding chairs or stacking stools. Yet, I love having friends and family over because the home is an intimate place for the closets of friends. So, I designed the Quartet.

The Quartet is designed to be inconspicuous. In fact, as a side table, one cannot tell that it is actually four stools, unlike other stacking stools. Made in white-ash hardwood, the Quartet is designed to be beautiful as standalone stools and when stacked together.  Details include handles for carrying the entire stack easily, FSC-certified sustainable hardwood, and each stool can hold up to 300 lbs per contract standards.

The Quartet has won multiple awards, including San Francisco Design Week Award for Industrial Design and Core77 Notable Design Award for furniture.

Design Process

Ideally, the design process starts with sketches and a 3D model, and then prototyping a couple of 1:1 scale model on my own. Building prototypes is a key part of the process because it allows for testing the product physically in real life.

After improving the design through my own iterations, the manufacturers then made a few more iterations of prototypes, further improving the product each time.

Crowdfunding with Kickstarter

Having an idea and design for a product is one thing, but launching a business is another. After lessons from the first product, I chose to crowdfund and launch the Quartet with a Kickstarter, which was no easy feat. It required about half a year of preparation, from prototyping to digital marketing, video and photo shoots, and setting up the campaign well before the Kickstarter launch. In the end, I raised $72k in 30 days to fund the launch of the Quartet, which was selected as one of Kickstarter’s “projects we love.” 

You can view the Kickstarter project here.

Building a Ecommerce Brand

Unlike my other design projects, Otelier required me to run the business as well. After Kickstarter, Otelier transitioned into a ecommerce brand built on the Shopify platform. Marketing is a huge part of ecommerce—from organic social media strategy, to paid digital ads, email marketing, SEO, and constant content creation—to drive customers to Otelier’s website. Likewise, operations had to be systematically set up to ensure efficient flow of inventory to customers, including logistics for import, warehousing, 3PL, and fulfillment, as well as online customer support.


Otelier’s underlying goal is to experiment with a more sustainable and relevant business model for the furniture industry. I was previously a LEED-certified professional, and brought my rigor in sustainability to Otelier.  

Our wood products are made with FSC-certified woods that come from sustainably managed forests, and finished with water-based finishes that have low or zero VOC emissions.  In general, we avoid using any plastic in our product or packaging, and only use it when there are no alternatives. And of course, our products are designed to last, made with high quality construction and wood, to avoid them ending up in the landfill.

To reduce the impact of carbon emissions from production and shipping, and to pay it forward, Otelier has become an Ocean Positive+ verified brand through our partner SeaTrees. This organization plants sea trees like mangroves, which absorb 5-10 times the amount of CO2 from the air compared with regular trees.  Furthermore, their projects support communities that live in these coastal areas.

To offset the trees used for the wood used in our furniture and to pay it forward, we partnered with One Tree Planted to plant one tree per furniture set we sell. We want to make sure that the world doesn’t have fewer trees because of our product.