Fashion It Girl and Yale MBA grad Nell Diamond lived on three continents before the age of 8. Some 20 years later, the young millennial found that the plush, perfectly made bedding from the grand hotels of her youth were almost impossible to find at a reasonable price. She started Hill House Home to offer the D. Porthault experience to the 20-something set: direct-to-consumer luxury bedding at an (gasp!) affordable price point. Made from 100% Supima cotton and manufactured in a family-owned mill in France, the bedding is couture-level at a bargain, starting at $250 for a set. Robes, pajamas, and mini pillows are also offered in the mix, with table linens and artist collaborations coming down the pipeline, all before Diamond turns 30.
Describe your style in 6 words or less.
Always a little bit overdone.
What inspired this career path for you?
I’ve always been obsessed with bedding. The bedroom is like the jewel box of the home — a little sanctuary that says so much about how you want to live your life. I really believe that if you love the space you wake up in, you’ll be a happier, more productive person. My mom used to collect the most intricate, delicate linens from places like Porthault and Pratesi, and I always coveted them. I wanted to find a way to create beautifully designed bedding and embroidery at a more accessible price point, with an easy, fuss-free online shopping experience. When I was in business school, I spent two years figuring out how to make this happen, knocking on doors and calling up factories to convince them to work with me. I worked in finance before business school, and I had this idea in my mind that I wanted to create a very modern, design-focused e-commerce home brand and I just couldn’t shake it.
What is your go-to source for inspiration?
Instagram and Pinterest! I go deep — all I need is one good account, and I can dig myself into a blissful inspiration hole. On Instagram, it’s all through tags and the Explore page, and on Pinterest, it’s all about the “Related Pins”.
Who do you look up to in the world of female entrepreneurs?
Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx is my ultimate icon. And her Instagram stories are amazing. She has the most adorable kids, and is really candid about her life and her journey. Oprah, obviously, is a queen. Sheryl Sandberg’s first book, Lean In, motivated me in a way I’ll never be able to truly express, and her most recent book, Plan B, was incredible and brave and, once more, profoundly inspirational.
There’s also an amazing community of female entrepreneurs in New York whom I’m lucky to know; Claire Olshan at Fivestory, Leandra Medine at Man Repeller, Molly, Meredith, and Valerie at La Ligne (we share an office building!), Alison Chemla at Alison Lou, Indré Rockefeller at Paravel, Barbara Bush at Global Health Corps, Daphne Oz… there are more I’m forgetting I know. I’m very lucky to surround myself with such amazing examples of female leadership.
What have been the highlights and challenges of starting your own business?
The highlight is talking to customers, helping them style their rooms. We’ll get feedback after a few months of living with our bedding, and people are just so happy. That’s the best feeling. They tell us they love their rooms, and that they can’t wait to get home and be in their beds. We truly created our products and our site and our brand out of just an idea, so to see and hear about our physical products living in peoples’ homes, making them happy — that’s amazing.
Start-Ups are also 24/7. We launched in January 2016 and I found out I was pregnant in March 2016, the same month that my only employee left to start a new job. There were a few months where I was so nauseous from morning sickness I couldn’t even sit up in bed, and I really had no choice since there was no one else. If I wasn’t on the phone with customs clearing our shipments, or speaking with our warehouse to make sure orders went through or any number of the logistical things it takes to run a business, there was no one else to do it. I always say that if I had worked for another company in that time, I would not have been able to do it. But because I’m so passionate about our business, and how it can bring so much love and happiness to peoples’ homes, it’s worth it. Now I have an incredible team around me, and lots of support. I went into labor at work, during a photoshoot, and then I was literally at the hospital answering customer emails. My team was like, “Nell! Stop! We got this!” and they did. It was bittersweet — they didn’t need me! But I was also so proud of how they were able to take on the challenge of start-up life, with all its’ intense highs and lows. Some days we’re ironing 100 pillowcases for 6 hours straight in our office on Canal Street, and some days we’re negotiating huge contracts and feeling like bosses. It just depends on the day!
What advice do you have for other women who want to start their own companies, or grow into top leadership positions?
Ask for help. Ask anyone and everyone. At dinner parties, on the train, in a coffee shop. Talk about your ideas, listen to other peoples’ experiences. There’s a tendency — at least for me — to think we can do this alone. But we are so much better together.
Tell us your favorite design related word, phrase, or quote.
I’m obsessed with the word “Extra.”
Which blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without?
I live for my Podcasts. My favorites right now are “How I Built This,” “Hidden Brain,” “The Economist” and “Dear Sugar.” I listen to them when I’m walking or getting ready in the morning.
What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
We’ve been laser-focused on our core bedding collections, which are all-white and designed to match anything and everything. We added accent colors and symbol embroidery last year, so you can mix and match and put your personal touch on your bed. This year I’m excited to introduce our Limited Editions, where we’ll have a little more fun with pattern and color. We started with a really chic, wide stripe in Percale (the “Slim Stripe Collection,” inspired by Slim Aarons) that can be rotated in with our core bedding, and we’ve got some fun stuff in the pipeline along similar lines. I’m also excited to expand our accessory and gift verticals. Our Monogrammed Mini Pillows have done really well as gifts, and we’re working on fun stuff like Sleep Kits and more Pajamas and a few other things I’m not supposed to talk about for Holiday 2017.
What do you love about Viyet?
I’ll have to pick just a few favorites! First — the emails! It sounds so strange but I love Viyet Emails, particularly the Designer and Interior Spotlights. It’s such a great way to get inspired and think about how to style and use different objects. Second — customer service. Everyone’s always willing to go above and beyond, even for crazy requests. And finally — the selection. It’s rare to find so much great stuff in one place.