Paynes Gray is the influencer’s furniture boutique.
During such an uncertain time, with many people losing their jobs, it’s important to highlight entrepreneurs who have turned lemons into sparkling lemonade. Chelsea Marks, who is the co-founder of Paynes Gray, couldn’t be a more inspirational example of this. If you haven’t heard of Paynes Gray, it’s time to get on board with this online furniture retailer that specializes in on-trend design in a range of prices, that’s also easy to shop. If you want to choose from the best of everything, it’s the ideal place to outfit your home. Paynes Gray offers pieces for every room in the home from sofas to coffee tables, desks, media centers, and great options for outdoor living. Every single piece is high quality, hand-selected, and undeniably chic.
A Smart Move
Prior to launching this venture, Marks and her business partner Wanita Stoltzfus-Bell were working for a boutique furniture retailer in Southern California for a decade. Stoltzfus-Bell was the webmaster and handled digital marketing, while Marks worked in a range of positions. After starting in the shipping department, she worked her way up to customer service, product management, purchasing, product curation, and marketing. “Between the two of us, we really have a ton of experience in all aspects of the business and a love for design and furnishings,” she tells me.
Paynes Gray’s outdoor furniture.
In 2018, that retailer went bankrupt and the women decided to do what they love and start their own business, building the kind of site they would want to shop. “When you are shopping Paynes Gray our hope is that you aren’t having to filter through a bunch of ugly ones to find something you enjoy,” says Marks.
Curating Is Everything
With so many places to buy furniture online, what sets Paynes Gray apart is that while they have a good generous selection, it’s also a curated inventory. Every item is truly unique and chosen for a specific reason. But for Marks, choosing the right pieces are more than about aesthetics. “The challenge of creating a space that has great design while offering comfort and function is exciting to me. But really my love of design seeps into all areas of my life. Whether it’s my home, my clothing, the website, marketing, social media— I’m always trying to present a polished product that incorporates great design and function,” Marks explains.
Payne Gray Dining Room
While the brand has evolved out of a transitional aesthetic, its current inventory reflects seven different styles including transitional as well as bohemian, modern, mid-century modern, coastal, rustic farmhouse, and industrial. Marks typically picks furnishings that would work well with those aesthetics, partnering with reputable brands to ensure they are offering quality products. While pieces are offered in a variety of price ranges, it’s not fast furniture—these pieces are meant to last for years.
Paynes Gray Loom Chair Collection
Some of Paynes Gray’s most popular items, especially on Instagram include the wood and fabric Loom Chair collection. These pieces have a coastal influence but look great in virtually any setting. Bar stools, club chairs, and outdoor versions are also available.
They also have a great selection of accessories and décor. “The Regis Marble Tray sells well because its style is versatile and is offered in three sizes,” says Marks. This piece is perfect because it truly integrates into whatever decor style you currently have, even the most modern or traditional rooms. It’s a simple, yet stunning piece that looks good on a bedside table, coffee table, or even to upgrade a bathroom vanity.
Beige Hathaway Rug
Another popular item is the recently introduced Hathaway rug collection. This affordable rug collection is available in six colors, but Beige is one of Mark’s personal favorites. It’s a perfect example of a neutral.
Marks’ approach is to start with transitional anchor pieces, then play with design trends by adding smaller decor accents. “For instance, buy a neutral, well-made sofa and coffee table with simple frame design. That way you have long-lasting pieces that you can style with different pillows and rugs as your design taste changes over the years.”
She also suggests thinking long term when it comes to choosing the right pieces. “It’s always tempting to splurge on that blush velvet sofa or leopard side chair but I always try to think long term. In three years am I still going be in love with that blush velvet? Probably not.”
Collaborating With Influencers
Working with influencers has certainly increased brand awareness and sales for Paynes Gray. “It’s brought non-decorator customers that may not have found us otherwise,” says Marks. While the brand has teamed up with home decor influencers, they also collaborate with fashion and other types of social media accounts. However, like any other business, the right fit is essential. “We have influencers that we follow because we are genuine fans. From our end it’s usually organic— if we see someone we enjoy is moving or starting a new home project, we may reach out and see if we can collaborate. [But] influencers often reach out to us or often we get pitched influencers by their management.”
Paynes Gray has collaborated with some of the top influencers on Instagram including Claudia Oshry (Girl With No Job), Lauren Elizabeth, Lindsie Chrisley, Danielle Moss (co-founder of The Every Girl), Gretchen Rossi and Kameron Westcott among others.
“The non-home influencers, if picked correctly, can bring you tons of customers that aren’t necessarily home decor enthusiasts, but enjoy aesthetics and want to buy the new trendy pillow that they see all over on Instagram,” Marks explains. In terms of what products followers are influenced to buy, the entrepreneur has seen customers choose either the same items or other products with a similar aesthetic to what the influencer posts.
This also helps dictate the content Paynes Gray shares on social media because the brand’s following on Instagram tends to skew younger than their typical customer. “We’ve noticed certain items and price points work better on Instagram. So, we tend to showcase more on-trend, eye-catching and/or affordable items. We typically get great feedback and lots of inquires about the products we sell.”
But, Marks sees the benefits of working with influencers about more than just a quick hit. One of the goals of collaborating is to establish long term relationships with new customers. “We hope they have a great first experience with us so next time they need a rug or a dining table they’ll think to shop here,” she says.
Social media has also changed how the brand and its customers communicate. Calling or sending an email simply isn’t how many people in the millennial or Gen Z demographic choose to start a conversation.“We often get DMs about order questions or items they’d like to purchase but are currently out of stock. But, it’s also a really great place to connect with customers.”
“The last two years have been a whirlwind,” the entrepreneur tells me, “I’m really proud of how far we’ve come so quickly. We’re all about quality over quantity so we’re focused on growing steadily rather than trying to blow up.”
They plan to continue to partner with well-known brands and quality manufacturers. Three new brands will be introduced in May and June. But overall, for the long term, Paynes Gray will evolve with the trends.