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Made it: Chloe Macintosh on branching out from her multi-million pound interiors empire to Soho House

Five years after founding multi-million pound online interiors empire, Chloe Macintosh is branching out. Dipal Acharya visits her Kensington home to meet Ms Made.com
She may have made her name helping Londoners furnish their homes in style, but Chloe Macintosh still had to put up with the inconveniences that come with doing up a house when she bought her five-bedroom Fulham property in 2009. Originally two separate Victorian terrace houses, it had been crudely joined like Frankenstein’s monster by a previous owner. ‘It was a fixer-upper,’ laughs the 40-year-old co-founder of the online furniture emporium Made.com.
It took eight months of heavy reconstruction to fix, with the help of the design consultancy Bureau de Change. While Chloe, her husband Alastair, an executive director at Exane BNP Paribas, and sons Felix, ten, and Elliott, eight, lived in a small flat in West Kensington — ‘it reminded me of the studio I grew up in with my mother and sister in the Marais’ — the house was gutted. An elegant corrugated oak stairway was installed in the atrium and the kitchen and dining space was given a modern feel with the addition of glass bifold doors and Slim Aarons prints on the walls.
Macintosh's airy house in Fulham is testament to her love of minimalist design
Objects were lovingly sourced from Kempton Market or the antiques shops lining Columbia Road. ‘The key is not to buy everything in one go,’ Macintosh explains. ‘You change and your home should reflect that. If you buy it all in a rush, your home will look dated. You have to give it time to transition naturally.’ The house provided the perfect backdrop to classic design pieces such as a Heerenhuis dining table and an Ercol chair. And if the ideal sofa or dressing table wasn’t available? Well, she designed it and then sold it on Made.com (the Fonteyn dressing table and Mortimer sofa have become two of the site’s all-time bestsellers).
This summer Macintosh stepped down as creative director of the company she founded in 2010, with entrepreneurs Ning Li and Julien Callède, and backed by Brent Hoberman (of Lastminute.com), though she remains an investor and ambassador for the brand.
Now that we’re accustomed to buying everything online, it’s easy to forget that five years ago Made.com was a bold proposition, with its aim of selling unbranded, minimalist furniture with only a website to serve as its shop front, building its reputation by word of mouth. While sectors such as fashion and travel were quick to join the e-tail revolution, with sites such as Net-a-porter and Lastminute.com leading the way, the interiors market had been slow to react. ‘Companies like Habitat didn’t even have a website at the time — or if they did, it looked like an online catalogue,’ she recalls.
Macintosh didn’t have a hard tech background — she trained in architecture at Beaux-Art in her native Paris and worked as an associate partner at Foster + Partners, the firm behind London’s Gherkin and the Battersea Power Station redevelopment. Not that it mattered: ‘I have a Joan of Arc approach to life: anything you want, you have to fight for. Strong, young females — from Antigone to Anne Frank — have always inspired me and been a big part of how I think.’ 
But her philosophy worked — the absence of a bricks and mortar shop and a strategy of bulk-ordering pieces online kept costs low. It also allowed Macintosh to champion bright young designers. ‘If you want to positively disrupt the market, coming from a non-traditional field is an asset.’ Made.com has been a huge success: revenues grew by 63 per cent last year, hitting £43m. 
Macintosh’s love of Bauhaus and Mid-century modern style is evident in her home, but she brings a wit to it with flourishes such as the glass pendant lights over the dining table from Cow + Co, which double as aviaries to house her collection of porcelain birds. She’s also proud of the madcap Shark Fin chair she designed in collaboration with Philip Colbert, the man behind fashion label The Rodnik Band (Vogue Japan’s Anna Dello Russo also has one).  ‘The interiors industry can be so snobbish and exclusive. Integrating more commercial pieces doesn’t mean lowering your standards, it means bringing more people in.’ 
Having a young family often poses a challenge for design-conscious Londoners. ‘It’s a very British thing — abandoning your adult life to turn your home into a kid’s playroom for years on end. In France, kids play in one room and that’s it.’ Her solution was to create a concealed breakout space behind the dining area, which houses a cinema and folding ping pong table, and install some multicoloured ceiling lights in communal spaces — her husband’s proudest contribution to the house — to lend a retro party vibe.
So what’s next for Macintosh? Most recently, she’s been working as a creative adviser for the Soho House group: ‘Everyone loves their trademark aesthetic but you have to evolve. Nick [Jones, founder of the group] recognises this and it was one of the reasons he asked me to come on board.’ While advising on design and branding, her first project will be the launch of Soho Home in 2016, an online homeware store that will allow members to buy pieces they see in the Houses around the world.
Macintosh says she came to London as ‘three minorities: a woman, a French immigrant and an entrepreneur’, but with new global tech ventures on the horizon, a picture-perfect family home and that Joan of Arc drive, the future looks set to be a major success.

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