Bone & Brass curates its way to success
Think of Bone & Brass as the anti-Wayfair. While Wayfair carries zillions of SKUs appealing to a broad range of tastes, Bone & Brass offers a tightly edited collection of home furnishings and accessories. The curated lineup works for the smaller online boutique.
“Honestly, I’ve built it to reflect me and my tastes. We can’t be all things to all people so I stay true to myself,” says Tracy Henning, owner of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based e-tailer. “Other online stores try to cater to everybody and all price points and that’s fantastic. … But that’s not what Bone & Brass is. I don’t try to compete with anyone else.”
Bone & Brass specializes in high-end furniture for living room, dining room, bedroom, office and outdoors, as well as lighting, rugs and accessories, from pillows and throws to artwork and mirrors to vases and serving pieces. Price points start at about $65 for a glass candle with essential oils from Grasse, France, to nearly $10,000 for a three-piece sectional upholstered in a top-grain leather.
“I think (the online store) has been successful by me staying true to who I am,” says Henning, who relaunched a site she’d once used for her interior design business as the e-boutique Bone & Brass in 2019. “In the past year especially, we’ve really built a following, almost a cult following. We’re seeing more repeat customers and really building a base. People know what they’re going to find when they go to Bone & Brass.”
Henning has long had a passion for home design and “anything beautiful.” “When I was young, I used to draw homes, and I contemplated becoming an architect,” she says. Instead, she became a serial entrepreneur, earning money doing friends’ makeup at age 14 and opening her first business, a salon and spa, when she was 21.
“I had 25 employees and we were doing $1 million in services a year,” she says. “I’ve had that entrepreneurial spirit since I was young.”
“I just kind of fell into design just because it was a personal love,” she continues. “That evolved into doing interior design for other people.” She still does the occasional design project and is working on a large one for a client in Dallas right now.
From interior design, Henning shifted into home renovation and then partnered with a land development company that designed neighborhoods. When the Great Recession hit in 2008 and home construction came to a virtual standstill, she returned to interior design.
Henning built her first online marketplace as a tool for her interior design business, launching it in 2016 as a way to help save time and streamline her business. “I could tell (clients) after our first meeting, ‘Why don’t you go through the site and take a look and tell me the things that appeal to you,’” she says. “You always find with design that when you start presenting options to clients, you either hit the nail on the head right away or you realize you thought you knew what they wanted but it was really something different.”
The original site, named after her business C2 Design and Development, served its purpose. But Henning realized it could be more and she hired a team to help her rebrand. The renamed Bone & Brass site debuted in 2019. (“Bone” signifies the structure of a home; “Brass” represents the layers of lighting, rugs, art and accessories — the “fluff, the pretty, the shiny” — inside, Henning explains.)
The evolution of the site from a taste-defining tool for her clients to an e-commerce site helps to explain Bone & Brass’ carefully edited product selection.
“When I built the site in the first place, I wouldn’t put anything on there that I wouldn’t have put in a client’s home. I’ve stuck to that,” Henning says. “… Obviously I could appeal to a much wider audience but everything has to be aesthetically pleasing to me, down to the way items are show on each page of the site.”
That said, the Bone & Brass site promises shoppers that “whether your aesthetic sensibility is eclectic, classic, exotic, formal, modern, Euro-chic or a blend that’s uniquely you, our assortment of furnishings and decor will enable you to express that preference beautifully.”
‘From purveyors worldwide’
The Bone & Brass team includes three full-time employees and a host of contractors, but Henning still approves everything on BoneBrass.com — from product selection to photography and descriptions. “I don’t have thousands of products on the site because there aren’t thousands of products that I love,” she says.
Still, the online retailer continues to grow its product offerings across all categories, but especially, right now, lighting and decorative accessories for both indoor and outdoor.
Even with many people returning to offices and resuming travel, Henning believes they are still spending more time at home than before the pandemic began. They may have bought larger furnishings in 2020 and 2021 but now are more focused on easier updates, like fresh accessories.
“Maybe you’re not changing your sofas and your sectionals and your coffee tables and your accent chairs again, but you’re changing your pillows, your rugs. So, my focus has been on increasing the products in those categories,” she says.
Home furnishings e-commerce is a highly competitive sector and one way Henning retains an edge is by not disclosing the names of Bone & Brass vendors. She spends a good deal of time sourcing products, and not only at the many furniture markets she shops. “I really try to find one-offs and manufacturers in different places where I can buy direct,” Henning says. “I spend a lot of time researching, and I don’t sleep a lot. It’s amazing what you can find at four o’clock in the morning. My saying is that it’s a curated collection from purveyors worldwide.”
Bone & Brass sells nationwide but customers are concentrated in California, New York and Texas, Henning says. The online retailer also does good business in the South, particularly Georgia. “And we do have a large male demographic,” she says. “I think that’s because I definitely have more of a male aesthetic.”
What’s in a name: Tracy Henning named her C2 Design and Development business after her children, Chloe and Cameron. When she rebranded her enterprise and e-commerce site as Bone & Brass, she consulted them. “They love the name,” she says. “They actually helped pick it. And that’s good because this will all be theirs someday.”
Tracy has decorating in her bone marrow! She always decorated her parents homes. When they went to their retirement residence, even there it was as beautiful as one could imagine!
Pictures and mirrors were hung perfectly and furnishings were like no other. It made living beautiful to the end.
“Tracy has decorating in her bone marrow” would have been a great headline. We should have thought of that!