Community//

Agnieszka Wilk of Decorilla Online Interior Design: “Funding was a big learning curve for me”

Funding was a big learning curve for me. In Decorilla’s early days I spent a lot of time researching how to get funding, and honestly, I wasn’t very good at it. Luckily, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I have since seen many of our competitors raise tens of millions in […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Funding was a big learning curve for me. In Decorilla’s early days I spent a lot of time researching how to get funding, and honestly, I wasn’t very good at it. Luckily, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I have since seen many of our competitors raise tens of millions in funding but try to grow too fast without getting the product and service right — which has meant them going under.

Meanwhile, we were focusing on testing, iterating, and getting our services to be top-tier. The processes taught us to carry a sense of responsibility, to manage our cash flow, and put quality before quantity. It’s certainly not easy to get organic growth right, but I did learn to slow down in my business processes and do what’s right rather than what’s fastest.


As a part of our series about “Homes Of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Agnieszka Wilk.

Agnieszka Wilk is the CEO of Decorilla Online Interior Design, a service that connects customers with vetted professional interior designers who create curated 3D and VR spaces based on customer style preferences and budget. Decorilla also serves clients in-home in 20 major cities across the US for 80% less than traditional interior design.

With a team of over 300 interior designers and over 170 furniture partners, Agnieszka has led the company to be the first interior design firm to offer virtual reality to clients. Her passion for design drives her to relentlessly explore how technology can make interior design more accessible and engaging.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

When I was seven I immigrated from Poland to Canada and saw my parents work incredibly hard to learn a new language and create a new life. They taught us that nothing in life is easy, and you have to work hard to reach your goals — that has always stayed with me.

I moved to Seoul after high school and quickly found that my finance background didn’t fit well in South Korea’s male-dominated industry. Being both a woman and a foreigner, I was offered an HR position but I knew this wasn’t what I really wanted to pursue.

I focused my energy into decorating my apartment and discovered the financial and time costs of a trial-and-error approach. It led me to think about how there’s a lack of online interior design resources to support these kinds of projects. I’d always had a voice in my head saying that I should be an entrepreneur and once I began nurturing this business opportunity, I took the leap.

Today, I run an international online interior design company and know that even though it hasn’t been an easy path, it was definitely the right decision.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Funding was a big learning curve for me. In Decorilla’s early days I spent a lot of time researching how to get funding, and honestly, I wasn’t very good at it. Luckily, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I have since seen many of our competitors raise tens of millions in funding but try to grow too fast without getting the product and service right — which has meant them going under.

Meanwhile, we were focusing on testing, iterating, and getting our services to be top-tier. The processes taught us to carry a sense of responsibility, to manage our cash flow, and put quality before quantity. It’s certainly not easy to get organic growth right, but I did learn to slow down in my business processes and do what’s right rather than what’s fastest.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

The biggest tipping point for me was when we finally launched Decorilla. I had started working on the concept over a year before and I never imagined it would come together so well. We hosted a launch party for the event with demos and information about the company and quickly found that people were genuinely interested in what we had to offer.

The moment was big for me because I knew that we had developed a working product that both customers and designers love. Getting to that point was so important for me, after that, I knew everything would fall into place.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My co-founder Joshua van Aalst. A friend who went to MIT with him introduced us and I showed him the prototype of Decorilla. He immediately got it and understood the vision. He knew all the technical work we still needed to do, but he never doubted for one minute that Decorilla didn’t have a future.

I really appreciate him for that, and for showing us the technology we needed to make the vision a reality.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

When I was starting to think about the business concept and the problems I was having with decorating my own home, I initially thought that I needed software to help me just visualize everything. That was the initial business concept, but after reading ‘The lean startup’ by Eric Ries, I realized that I should look at my own cash flow situation more and think through a business model that wouldn’t require too much money upfront — this way, I didn’t run out of money so fast and could survive without external capital. It’s important to think about which business model will work best for you and your situation.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

People break down into two groups, motors and anchors. You always want to surround yourself with the people who push you forward, not hold you down.

I think it’s important to remember that you also become more like the people with who you surround yourself with. If you want to make a positive difference and keep a clear head, you have to surround yourself with positive people who inspire you and push you forward.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future.

Sustainability plays a huge role in building the houses of the future. Eco-friendly options like tiny homes, cabins, and even tree houses are becoming more popular. Alternatively, urban homes are being built with light-saving, energy-efficiency utilities, which is win-win for people because their bills are lower and there are fewer harmful environmental effects.

Likewise, in the remote revolution, homes are becoming people’s remote work spaces, so there is a greater need for homes to have access to the internet and digital services as standard. Shared housing is also seeing an increase in popularity, as people bring the co-working model to their residential homes.

Digital services are equally being incorporated in the building process itself: companies are utilizing drones, robots, and smart devices to automate how homes are constructed. In turn, these technologies can help reduce waste in the construction industry, build more homes, faster, and lower on-site risks to workers.

Can you share with us a few of the methods that are being used to make homes more sustainable and more water and energy efficient?

People’s health is a top concern for interior designers. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people are more conscious about their health, designers have to choose materials that have a positive impact in people’s homes.

California has been a leader in ensuring people use healthy products and many of our clients across the country request that our designers follow Californian standards. For example, there are laws in California about formaldehyde-free kitchens and bathrooms, to better protect people and their health.

There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?

Smart homes embrace the Internet of Things and use a variety of connected devices to improve or automate processes in the home. For example, smart lighting can detect when a person walks into a room and turn on, it can also adjust the lighting according to the time of day. Smart locks can allow people into the home based on facial or voice recognition, and smart thermostats can set temperatures, provide energy reports, and remind homeowners to change filters.

Not only is this technology modern and helps people with easily-forgotten tasks, but it is also extremely beneficial for people with limited mobility or people who live alone and are vulnerable.

Aside from Smart Homes, can you talk about other interesting tech innovations that are being incorporated into homes today?

Kit Homes: Full-service prefab homes are an exciting trend that has seen a big uptick this year. What started as shipping container home designs, has now evolved into highly custom floor plan options with up to four bedrooms and an array of styles.

Window technology: Our designers love helping clients select “smart windows” for their homes because not only do they reduce electricity bills, they block UV rays and ensure the longevity of interior furniture and materials.

Can you talk about innovations that are being made to make homes more pet friendly?

Smart homes are just as beneficial for pets as they are humans. There are a number of smart devices that pets can wear which allow them to enter and leave the house as they please. There are also smart pet cameras that can monitor animals while the owners are away, detecting movement or sounding a high-pitched alarm to deter animals from jumping on furniture. Not to mention, there are specialized pet entertainment systems, where owners can speak to their pets remotely, set a timer for their food, and even play a game of fetch.

How about actual construction materials? Are there new trends in certain materials to address changes in the climate, fires, floods, and hurricanes?

The recent forest fires in California have made it all the more important to address how homes are built. Fire-resistant building materials are essential in a number of fire-prone areas, and things like wire glass, metal, and concrete are being used to protect homes from possible blazes. However, the layout, backyard, and sprinkler installations also need to be taken into consideration when fire-proofing a house.

For someone looking to invest in the real estate industry, are there exciting growth opportunities that you think people should look at more carefully?

Subconsciously, we all seek out nature and a connection with organic elements. Because of this, designers use natural light, natural materials, textures, colors, and patterns, as well as plants and views of nature to create fully optimized homes.

Let’s talk a bit about housing availability and affordable housing. Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

Covid-19 has made the housing crisis all the more visible across the United States. It has also brought to the light the problem with income inequality and how there is a lack of supportive housing units that keeps homeless people on the streets. Many people are a few paychecks away from being homeless and once they’re evicted, they can’t get work because employers require an address before hiring. Because of this, inventive, low footprint, multi-tenant housing is the future of getting folks back on their feet.

Is there anything that home builders can do to further help address these problems?

By building smaller and avoiding excess square footage, budgets open up and allow for little to no shortcuts. Higher quality materials can then be considered and selected and will yield a higher return on investment.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m passionate about eliminating food waste and inturn getting food to those who need it. I’ve read that the world’s one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that’s wasted in the US, UK and Europe.I’m starting small and local, by making a conscious effort to reduce food waste at home and I also volunteer with City Harvest New York City. But I’d love to see more education and efforts fighting against waste and ensuring those in need are being fed.

How can our readers follow you online?

instagram.com/decorilla

facebook.com/decorilla

pinterest.com/decorilla

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

“It’s important to have the time to focus on projects” With Agnieszka Wilk & Candice Gerogiadis

by Candice Georgiadis
Community//

Agnieszka Wilk: “Taste the deliciousness of the moment”

by Phil La Duke
Community//

Devin Shaffer of Decorilla: “Don’t sound desperate”

by Tyler Gallagher

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.