Growing up as twin brothers in Los Angeles, Jordan and Steven Neman spent their lives learning to prioritize and express their individuality. Today, they’re the co-founders of California-based furniture brand House of Léon where they aim to bring that very same ethos into how you design your home. After feeling fatigued by repurposed styles and a lack of individuality in the furniture space, the Nemans launched House of Léon in 2021 to connect their consumers with quality, Pinterest-worthy furniture at an affordable price. With just two collections under its belt, the Ojai and Kyoto collections, the brand has built a global consumer base and inspired a new generation of furniture lovers through their youthful approach to home styling. Below, Forbes speaks with co-founder and designer Jordan about starting a furniture business from scratch, and the unique void House of Léon aims to fill.
Forbes: How did House of Léon begin?
Jordan: Before the pandemic, I moved back to LA after working as a real estate project manager in New York City. I wasn’t loving living there, so I decided I would move in with my parents to northern California. I posted my apartment on Instagram to see if anyone would rent it, and people went absolutely crazy for it. I rented it the same day, but I still had many people reach out and ask if I could make their home exactly like the photos. Because I didn’t love what I was doing for work, I was willing to try to get creative and just started doing it for free for friends and family. I would give them Pinterest pictures and say, “pick a vibe, and I’ll help you find the affordable version of it.” Two years later, I had basically scoured the entire Internet and learned about every piece of furniture available. But what really bothered me was that they weren’t offering anything different from one another – they were all buying from the same manufacturers and repositioning the products to match the same look under their own brand. No one was doing anything interesting. I approached my brother Steven, who was working as an asset manager at the time, about it and said I wanted to start a furniture company to bring cool, unique designs to the market. He instantly said he’d quit his job and join me.
Forbes: What was on your Pinterest board at the time?
Jordan: Half of it was homes, and the other half was furniture. I loved a lot of stonework and plaster walls, which are really in line with today’s style. The things that drew my eye ranged from organic and modern but mixed with some vintage pieces and some mid-century modern.
Forbes: How would you describe House of Léon through your lens?
Jordan: We want House of Léon to be an access point to a range of different styles to help people express themselves in their homes. People express themselves with fashion. Same with makeup. But there’s no home furniture or home decor company that helps somebody make their house feel special, almost gallery-like, and proud of their pieces. So how do we bridge that gap? Especially now as everyone’s becoming more design literate through Instagram and everyone has affinities for different styles. How do we help get them what they’re looking for?
Forbes: Going from real estate to building a furniture brand is a considerable jump. Was there a resource you and Steven turned to to prepare yourself to enter an entirely new industry?
Jordan: My biggest piece of advice for anyone starting a new business is to interview as many people as possible. Our first step was talking to our friends who worked for furniture and accessories companies or friends of friends in manufacturing and importing. We made sure it wasn’t just furniture professionals. We talked to around 100 people about their field and compiled a Google document of notes and reflections that Steven and I still refer to today. It was our version of field research.
Forbes: What do you hope to accomplish with each design?
Jordan: I always want to create something interesting for the eye of the viewer. I’ll use our Valley Side Table as an example. I learned from a dear friend of mine and the brand, interior designer Maude Etkin, that levels create interest in the eye of the viewer. When your eye is drawn to different levels, whether it’s a tall tree in a room, that makes people think a space is interesting. So when we were designing the side table, I wanted something that draws your eye to new areas, which is why it’s tiered and has the magazine rack in between. It’s so simple but beautiful together and draws your eye to different points in the room.
Forbes: During the pandemic, the furniture industry saw a dramatic boom with people working from home and wanting to re-invigorate their spaces. What was your launch strategy to cut through the noise of the industry?
Jordan: We utilized social media to get the word out and took our time to understand where we fit the needs of our customers. The first step was to learn what people wanted before making a big effort with inventory. From the start, we ordered small quantities. Some companies start with just a couple of products, but we wanted to launch a full line and come out swinging. We, of course, still made some major mistakes with numbers, but you learn as you go what people gravitate towards so you can make better decisions.
Forbes: Was there a critical insight that allowed you to get to know your audience quickly?
Jordan: On the day we launched, we had about 120 people share the brand on social media. People were quickly invested in us because we had spoken about it in our circles and extended circles – we were grateful that so many people shared. We also had an event about a month later with almost the same amount of guests, but we got 4x as many people to our website that night then we did the day we launched on Instagram. It was an important moment to see where our customers are at. Our customers care about the real world. So moving forward, when considering our marketing dollars, we want to put a heavy emphasis on events so that we can meet our customers and they can see the product in person.
Forbes: Your Instagram acts as a mood board of sorts – it’s an aggregate of your product but also your lens into the interior design world where you feature other works and projects you admire. What was the intent behind making the brand’s platform feature more than your creations?
Jordan: There’s so much out there to admire. I never assumed that our content was the only one we should offer people. Other people are doing such amazing work. Why not share and be part of a community rather than utilize Instagram just as a selling platform? At the end of the day, people don’t even want that. The idea is for you to come to our page, be inspired, and find what fits your design tastes. If it’s somebody else’s work, so be it.
Forbes: You just released your second collection, the Kyoto Collection. What was the inspiration behind your latest release?
Jordan: Our collections will always be inspired by different areas or concepts around the world. This collection is the cross between Wabi-sabi minimalism and Scandinavian modern. Wabi-sabi is a bit darker – it has a lot of black undertones, and the accent color of Wabi-sabi is red. Scandinavian modern is a lighter colorway with clean, polished edges and clean wood. We blended them and what you get is this incredibly comfortable collection with colors like charcoal, a watercolor black, brown, and a natural. It’s very simple but still keeps the interest and the funk that you get from our first collection. Everyone is so focused on neutrals these days, which is understandable because you want to make sure it feels clean and balanced to the craziness in the world. But to me, Wabi-sabi takes that idea of neutrals and elevates it. It’s a sleeker, sexier take on this neutral idea rooted in finding perfection in the imperfect.
Forbes: Is there a mantra that you and Steven have share while building a new business?
Jordan: Right before we launched, I was absolutely freaking out. We had so much to do, so many things to think through, and then launching was just the beginning. One day, Steven turned to me and said, “Jordan, one day at a time.” I can’t believe how much that mantra has helped me take things daily and not overthink the future.
View House of Léon’s latest collection here.