DIY Design

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Combining modeling technology with an online marketplace, the new British site mydeco.com allows users to design virtual rooms with real 3D products to see how their style choices gel before they make one purchase. Launched in beta in February, Mydeco was founded by Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane-Fox, who were also behind travel site lastminute.com.

The new site is home to myriad home goods retailers and also provides editorial content to educate users on design. While "empowering" users with such information, Mydeco CEO David Kelly says the site's 3D Complete Room also lets users visualize their home decorating ideas. They can build rooms to their specifications, based on a floor plan or an existing template, then drag-and-drop to furnish and decorate it with 3D models of real products, which, of course, can be purchased through the site. Partnering with retailers from mass market brands, like the U.K.'s John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, to independent designers, Mydeco presents goods catalogued by style, room type or product category, so that, in one search, items from budget to high-end and brands known and unknown show up side by side.

As of late August, Mydeco drew more than 500,000 visitors monthly and partnered with more than 700 retailers, says Kelly, who's come up from eBay, Amazon.co.uk and lastminute. Mydeco's business model is based on 12.5% sales commission on product sales, click-based fee structures for retailers looking to drive traffic, sponsorships and advertising. And in September, heading into its official launch this fall, Mydeco acquired more than $13 million in second seed investment to put behind its design-for-all concept. In addition to investors, Mydeco has the backing of pillars in the interior design community, including Philippe Starck and Terence Conran, who co-chair its creative advisory board.

The advisory board has infused what Kelly calls "democratic design" into the company's ethic. In addition to disseminating Web-based interior design tools, users can also get a cut of the profits. For example, if another user likes your design and purchases an item from your room, Mydeco will give you a piece of the commission.

"We have the opportunity to use new technologies and the internet and new methods of connecting with each other to allow design to become much more accessible to the individual," Kelly says. "I think Philippe Starck talks about how he wants to be the last celebrity designer, which is a wonderful concept. Because at the end of it, it would mean that we've empowered home owners around the world to be their own designer or to feel comfortable about doing design themselves because they are able to network with so much information and inspiration from other people."

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