How a design enthusiast turned her passion into a successful business
Claude Home (named after the aforementioned ex), Holladay’s vintage furniture online retail platform and art gallery, is the result of this simple formula; in just three years, he has amassed 140,000 Instagram followers and has become a go-to source for interior decorators and design enthusiasts. The company mainly works with French and Italian shippers and resellers, from which Holladay, 25, sources collector’s furniture, upholstered it and sells it for a profit. Typical Claude Home offerings include sofas and leather chairs from Sede like Herman Miller and Vladimir Kagan. But alongside these mid-century modernist heavyweights, Holladay also sells artwork and furniture from emerging contemporary artists and studios. “As a young, creative black business owner, this is fundamentally important to me and my business model,” she says. Avoiding traditional practices, she searches Instagram and often presents herself to creators with the inviting and direct message “I’d love to sell your work.” Claude Home’s diverse list of artists includes Kieu Tran and Abid Javed, both of whom specialize in biomorphic surrealist sculpture; Le Minou Studio, a maker of clay nudes; and self-taught actor and painter Gordon Winarick.
Surprisingly for someone with such a flawless eye, Holladay has no formal training in fashion or design. Instead, the San Diego native learned on the job. After dropping out of high school at 18 and moving to New York City, she worked in retail before quickly moving into fashion, first as an intern for stylists and then as an assistant. There came a time, however, during the long hours and late nights, whether working for iD magazine or as an assistant stylist elsewhere, when Holladay realized she had lost her love for fashion and needed a new direction. “I had a moment where I questioned everything and had no idea what to do next,” she says. But she credits those grueling four years for honing her conservation skills and learning problem-solving skills.
His interest in design dates back to a particular period of his childhood. Her mother, Terry, a former professional tennis player, bought a house to renovate near the beach when Holladay was 5 and spent the next eight years renovating it. Holladay helped out as soon as she was old enough, painting walls, choosing tiles, and shopping for furniture, which became her favorite activity.
Claude Home’s sky-high popularity came as a pleasant surprise to Holladay, but it also made her wary of the potential pitfalls of identifying too closely with a particular aesthetic – a scroll on the store’s Instagram reveals a runway without End of organically shaped sofas and mid-century pieces, with little color in sight (except beige, black, and wood, naturally). “The trends are really tough,” she says. “I try to stay away from them, but it’s almost impossible not to make your house an Instagram post. These iconic 1950s designs are everywhere.
That said, Holladay believes she has found a neglected niche in the market, one she hopes to tackle with her own line of furniture, which will release this month. “I try to fill this gap with classic furniture that is solid but not overly kitsch,” she says. The pieces will include a loop pile sofa, a travertine coffee table, a red pine dining table, two walnut dining chairs with upholstered seats, and a walnut stool. “It’s like Tobia Scarpa meets Gerrit Rietveld,” she says, still a connoisseur.