New York-Apartment Therapy’s Small/Cool 2022 experiment has done more than set home design trends—it’s been a case study of how pandemic-induced virtual experiences, combined with post-event surveys, can inform decisions and create a successful event. Every weekend between April 22 and May 15, the lifestyle blog and home design and decor brand host Small/Cool NYC in a raw space in SoHo.
The physical space was all about “inspiring our audience to live more beautiful, happier lives at home,” Lauren Murphy, senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy at Apartment Therapy, tells BizBash — just apt for a post-pandemic world and an evolving workforce.
Murphy noted that the home design theme was chosen with working from home in mind, and relied on people’s active need to “see and touch home items before they buy.” “After all, these are the things that you’re going to look at, use, and probably sit on every day — we knew this topic would resonate,” she added.Photo: Ricky Snyder, Courtesy of Apartment Therapy
The Small/Cool Experience showcased 12 different home design trends in 12 separate 120-square-foot rooms.
“Our editors have predicted the biggest home trends of 2022, and one designer has been hired to use as their inspiration,” Murphy explained.
With a list of “40+ brands and retailers to choose from to organize their space,” highlights included the “Memphis-Deco” room, designed by Jessica Davis of Atelier Davis, with funky, striped wallpaper, zigzag mirror, and swivel chairs. Green, velvet. Meanwhile, Sourya Venumbaka’s “Bespoke Style” room showcased a unique floor plan, modeling how a small space could be a living room and office when split in half using an artfully decorated shelving unit. Photo: Ricky Snyder, Courtesy of Apartment Therapy
Guests were encouraged to make reservations, but the live event was also open to passersby, welcoming more than 3,000 people in the first weekend alone, eventually reaching the attendance goal — Apartment Therapy’s Key Performance Indicator (KPI) — of 15,000.
Murphy attributed the success to “a combination of free and paid social promotion, SMS and email and influencer marketing to spread the word”.
The set of efforts came in response to last year’s Small/Cool post-event survey. “One thing was clear: Our readers were eager to see the spaces in person after taking a virtual tour,” Murphy said after the 2021 hybrid release. “Based on qualitative feedback, we felt completely confident that readers would be excited to attend the IRL event.”Photo: Ricky Snyder, Courtesy of Apartment Therapy
And for Apartment Therapy fans who haven’t had access to real-life experience, the brand has kept the hybrids from last year, which have also been adapted after lessons learned from two years of virtual programming.
“Seventy-five percent of virtual event attendees have made or plan to make purchases through the Small/Cool website, and the same number said they were satisfied with the ability to shop in rooms online. So, when planning for 2022, there was no doubt that shopping should be a must. To be a major component of the program again.
Cue QR codes in each room, which were linked back to Apartment Therapy’s e-commerce site for purchase. In fact, no items can be purchased on the site, but the codes pulled out a product list of at least 20 items per room, which Apartment Therapy fans can use discount codes to purchase or listen to an audio tour from each designer. A certain piece that made people stop and check? An almost all-white $7,000 two-level sofa that fixed the black-and-white “Wanderlust Fulfilled” themed room, designed by monochrome interiors expert Miles Wells McDermott. Photo: Ricky Snyder, Courtesy of Apartment Therapy
Murphy noted the hybrid and adaptive experience: “We kept the shopping components that readers loved and made some changes based on things they told us they didn’t. For example, we reduced the number of hotspots in the 3D tour and simplified the navigation experience based on what we heard.”
The best part about digital inclusion? “It allowed us to bring a local event to the national level,” Murphy said. “So even though we were able to open our doors to a large audience of IRL this year, we kept the mixed element in tact for a different reason — to allow our readers anywhere across the country, or even in the world, to see and shop the spaces.”
Five major sponsors were introduced: BEHR Paint, Chasing Paper, Toyota Motor North America, Yogi® Tea (which held two midweek workshops in partnership with Toyota Corolla Cross) and Ashley, which was used to decorate Alvin Wayne’s Take It Outside The room in its entirety. The event — which included a package bar for Mother’s Day and a “Small/Cool Haikus” event for National Poetry Day — also benefited Habitat for Humanity New York City and Westchester County, a nonprofit organization that works to transform communities by building affordable housing for families in need.