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Interactive interior design website offers consumers, designers
and manufacturers a new way to create their "dream home."
ennifer Gilbert is poised to
revolutionize the residential
interior design industry.
Last May; she launched Doodle Home
(doodlehome.com ), a web-based inte-
rior design company. And last month,
the company's e-commerce database
debuted, adding the missing link to an
ongoing mission to create an online
After graduating from Michigan State
University with a bachelor's degree in
interior design, Gilbert, 43, worked on
a few residential projects before mostly
putting it aside to marry Dan Gilbert,
chairman and founder of Quicken Loans
in Detroit, and raise their five children,
ranging in age from 5 to 15.
She also is working toward finding a
cure for neurofibromatosis through the
Gilberts' Neurofibromatosis Institute,
and serving on the boards of various
nonprofit organizations, including ORT
America and the Israeli and Overseas
Committee of the Jewish Federation of
When her youngest was approaching
kindergarten age, she began itching to
get her hands back into the design pot,
so she collaborated on several multimil-
lion-dollar projects as well as working
on her own Franklin home.
"I was going online a lot, and I real-
ized that the industry was so antiquated
and fragmented:' she says. "Sourcing
products is overwhelming. The Internet
has so much — it's a sea of information
— but there wasn't one place where you
could discover, be inspired, get informa-
tion about specific products, create your
own looks, then follow through and
"I started thinking about how to make
it more efficient. The whole concept of
Doodle Home is to simplify the design
So Gilbert, as founder and CEO,
teamed with Fernando Prieto, the com-
pany's president, whose automotive
background offers a fresh perspective to
the interactive and immersive technol-
ogy. They compiled a staff of 10. Doodle
Home quickly moved from Quicken's
former Livonia offices to another Dan
Gilbert purchase, Downtown Detroit's
Madison Theatre Building.
February 9 • 2012
Doodle Home's Style Finder presents users with interactive images to help identify
their personal design style.
Jennifer Gilbert, founder and
CEO of Doodle Home, says her
own design style has evolved:
"I love mixing materials, layering
and texture, butt try to keep a
main focal point so everything's
The building was originally designed
in 1917 as part of the Madison Theater
complex by architectural luminary
C. Howard Crane, who also brought
Detroit the Fox Theatre, State Theatre,
Orchestra Hall and Detroit Opera House.
Gilbert had a hand in renovating it,
along with Southfield's Neumann Smith
Architecture, into its current incarna-
tion as an entrepreneurial tech hub.
The building is completely occupied
by companies such as Skidmore Studio
and Detroit Labs, which are commit-
ted to making Woodward Avenue a
technology and Web-centered cor-
ridor of growth and activity known as
Doodle Home is more than just a web-
site. Whether you're a do-it-yourselfer, a
design professional or a manufacturer
of luxury goods, Doodle Home caters to
all, allowing each to create and visual-
ize finished designs. For the consumer,
members (joining is free) can browse
Doodle Home's Look Book, a collection
of pristine professionally designed spac-
es, like the pages of a favorite decorating
magazine. But these images are inter-
active and have all been designed by
award-winning decorators contributing
to the website. Users can link to specific
pieces within the page, or have similar
pieces suggested to them, purchase the
pieces and connect with the designers, if
There's a Style Finder, where members
are shown a series of interactive images
to help identify their personal design
style, from Cool Minimalism to Country
Fresh to Not Your Mother's Traditional.
Gilbert's style is Edgy Glam. A Color
Finder allows members to utilize inspi-
rational images to create a customized
color palette. And layers soon to be
launched include a Floor Plan Maker, a
3-D Virtual Room Maker, Mood Board
Creator and Designer-DNA, all to help
consumers plan their space.
"The more a user interacts with the
site, the more we learn about them:' says
Gilbert. "While they're going from the
Style Finder to the Color Finder, we're
cross-tagging and linking. If they want,
they can browse everything. But we're
trying to narrow it down for them and
curate their experience."
Today, she explains, consumers are
watching do-it-yourself shows on TV
and browsing the Internet, which makes
everything seem easy and accessible.
But it can also be overwhelming, and
Doodle Home adds to the mix access
to the design professional, who might
be able to help the consumer put it all
together or tweak the design.
"There's a new community of enthusi-
asts, who might be very knowledgeable,
but need a little hand-holding:' she says.
"Even if they have good taste, access
to great products and want to be very
involved, the designer puts in the last
mile that makes it a finished space."
Designers stand to gain as well.
Doodle Home's team vets designers,
both local and national — among
them Birmingham's Jill Schumacher
of Rariden Schumacher Mio and Los
Angeles' Hillary Thomas of Hillary
Thomas Designs — who submit pro-
fessional photos of spaces they have
designed to create a virtual showroom.
When the consumer has interest in
a space the designer created, it creates
potential new business for the designer,
who is offered national visibility. If the
member purchases a product from a
link on the designer's space, the design-
er earns a commission.
And manufacturers of luxury home
goods, from accessories and lighting to
textiles and furnishings, have a high-
end, thoughtfully designed and easy-to-
use platform from which to display their
wares, which might have previously only
been seen by members of the trade.
"Each piece benefits the other," says
Gilbert. "Everybody wins."