The Ugly Truth Behind The Pretty Interiors On Houzz

The last several weeks, there has been much buzz in the interior design community regarding the giant home furnishings website, Houzz.


Most of you are most likely familiar with Houzz, but if not; Houzz is a website and online community about home improvement, decorating, landscaping etc. It was started by a husband and wife, Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen in 2010; their corporate headquarters are in Palo Alto, CA.

Over time, Houzz has grown into a business worth four billion dollars. At its core are some 200,000 interior designers who’ve uploaded millions of images from their own portfolios that are shared in millions of idea books.

Plus there are profiles from auxiliary businesses; anything having to do with the business of home building and furnishings.

Some love Houzz.

Some don’t.


My Own Houzz Story


Like a lot of things, I’m not sure how I first heard about houzz, but I do know that I’ve had a profile on it, since 2010.

In the beginning, I recall it as being a charming idea that would undoubtedly help me grow my business as we were slowly coming out of the deep recession of ’08-’09. So, I put up a few photos from my portfolio and wrote a little blurb and waited for the phone to ring.

It never did. And I’m not saying that this is their fault; but I received no phone calls from my profile.


Then, in late 2012, the calls did start coming!


However, not from potential customers, but from marketing folks from houzz urging me to sign up for their “pro program.” This is a paid program for which houzz promises far more internet exposure. I don’t remember how much it was then, but these days the pro program is $3,500 a year my sources tell me.

After the first call or two, I started getting an uneasy feeling, especially after the woman snidely said:


“Well, I guess that you’re not ready to grow your business.”


I guess not; not with you!

Eventually, they got the message and the calls stopped.


After that experience, I was dubious about houzz and their true intentions, but I just went about the business of growing my brand on my own platform– this website.


While a few interior designers DO get jobs from houzz, mostly one hears about the plethora of “tire kickers” wanting ONLY free advice.

A few years ago, houzz started selling furniture.


I did notice this but didn’t pay much attention to it.


But, things started heating up (to put it mildly) When early last month, Houzz purchased a young start-up company called Ivy. (Now called IvyMark) – purportedly for from 30-40 million dollars.


Ivymark is an interior design management system started by two young, ambitious women. Lee Rotenberg and Alexandra Schinasi all the way back in 2016. They have about 2,400 designers who pay about 700 a year for the service.

The outcry in the interior design community has been nothing like I’ve ever heard before.

Hundreds of designers who have been using Ivy to build their businesses, said that they feel phenomenally betrayed as now houzz has all of their private client information. It was all over social media.

And that is when my curiosity was piqued.

I needed to know more about this situation and share my findings as I did with Restoration Hardware.


(At this time, I would like to recommend that you put down your coffee/tea/wine and SWALLOW. It will become clear in a sec.)


The interior design community, in an effort to assert their position and gain some control has created a petition which after my research, I do urge you sign; this is the link to access it.


I’ve vowed that if I see something, (big) I’m going to say something.

However, I’m not one to rely on hearsay and speculation.

And I figured if lil ol’ me was going to take on the GIANT HOUZZ, I would need to beef up, grow some balls and arm myself with slingshot, T-square and the facts.


"Davida" taking on the giant houzz



 Damn. That’s a good lookin’ lad! ;]


The biggest complaint that I’m hearing from interior designers is that they are afraid that houzz has been using them this entire time for Houzz’s gain, but at the designer’s expense.


And they believe that Houzz’s merger with Ivymark is the proof.


I began my research by looking at the Houzz trade program.


Houzz claims that they care about designers.


Well, duh… of course they do, because without designers, there would be no houzz!


But let’s investigate the Houzz trade program.


key benefits of houzz trade program

Trade pricing: I do not have a trade account, but I have sources that do and I asked them to look into a few random pieces and get back to me with the trade discount.


Folks, in every case looked at, the discount to designers is 3% and usually only for REINVESTMENT WITH HOUZZ!


Please notice the wording. There ARE thousands of products and if only one of them has a 50% discount, then they are telling the truth.


Referral “Bonuses”

They give your client 5% off and you also get 5% that you get to REINVEST at houzz.


Honestly, guys, every time I read this, I feel sick


But, let’s put this into some concrete terms and the way to do that is to look at the products I sent in for trade pricing on houzz.


The first is this Chesterfield sofa found on multiple sources on houzz. (houzz is a storefront, they say NOT the vendor.)


houzz elegant sofa leather linen canvas $8130


Uhh… it’s NOT linen, but whatever, that’s pretty expensive for this piece.


houzz 118" circe sofa - four hands $8179 rip off price

I found the same sofa at another Houzz vendor for more money. They turned the image around, but it’s the same piece.


houzz club chesterfield - four hands sofa $7728

Golly gee, but I found it again for a better price.


conrad sofa four hands $5756And again at an even better price. Plus, they saved me the trouble of looking up the source.


earn 3% houzz credit bullshit

Above is the designer “discounted” price sent back to me from my sources.


***Actually, no discount, it says. Designers get a 3% credit to reinvest at houzz.***


Really? As much as that?  Let’s see. 3% of $8,130 is $243.90 and it’s not actually money, in the designer’s pocket. The money can only be reinvested back at Houzz.

(I hope that my mortgage company will understand.)


Luckily, I have a designer trade account at Four Hands, the source of the Chesterfield sofa.


As an aside, Four Hands is one of about 500 sources in Laurel’s Rolodex and it is one of the approximately 180 Designer Friendly sources, where designers get a hefty discount off the retail price. To find out more about Laurel’s Rolodex and how it can put more $ in your pocket, click here.


I rarely do this, but it is necessary to make a point. Below is a screenshot from my Four Hands Designer Account which lists the designer’s price. There is no other way to convey the truth.


(To be clear, this is not rock bottom wholesale. The vendors on Houzz are all purchasing from Four Hands, I am presuming at full wholesale and giving a hefty cut to Houzz.)



Whoa! My trade price is nearly HALF of the first two sofas and all Houzz can manage as a “discount” to the trade is a measly 3% that can only be reinvested?

I would have sold this sofa for about $5,700 and would have made $1,500 in my pocket.  Designers need to understand how this works. No worries. Some of this took me a while to get too.

Exhibit #2


reclining sofa sold on houzz for only $63,999

I looked up the most expensive sofa on houzz. A double-barely-leather-fugly-recliner

WHOA! 64k??? That’s some large for a cheesy recliner. For that kind of dough, I expect it to come with George Clooney, plus–it needs to massage, wash/blow dry my hair, tidy, dust, vacuum, do laundry/put it away, make dinner, do the dishes/put them away AND pay my taxes for the rest of my life!

Reclining sofa 2 seat sofa on Amazon for $649Oh phew! I found the same recliner on Amazon for 99% less the price  found on houzz.

And, I actually put the $63,999 recliner in my cart on houzz and yep, that’s the price. I am wondering what would happen if some foolish person actually bought it? Would Houzz find the error and correct it?

I would chance it, but I wouldn’t want to get smacked with a “restocking fee!” haha. Think not?

Please read the following reviews

Houzz reviews on sitejabber

Houzz reviews at the Better Business Bureau


I chose another piece that I have a trade account with from Currey and Company.


Currey and Co. whitmore chest on houzz - no discount just a 3% credit houzz furnitureThe Whitmore Chest from Currey & Co.

Currey & Company is one of my favorite designer friendly sources in Laurel’s Rolodex.

And once again, we have the whopping 3% that can only be reinvested.

From my designer’s price list. I would sell this chest for about $1,500. I would show them the piece on houzz and tell them that I can get it for them for 10% less. That will make them happy.

Therefore, through houzz, it’s $50.70 to the designer, that can only be reinvested vs. $500 in the designer’s pocket, if purchased directly through Currey & Co.


***Note to designers: Get Laurel’s Rolodex. $199. FREE LIFETIME UPDATES. Open your OWN accounts.*** You’ll make more money and save your clients money too! win-win-win!

I found this cool opium table on houzz.


ming dynasty coffee table from Belak sold on houzz 4929


It’s from a vendor called Belak. Very strange, but this table does not look like his other tables.

And once again, we have the miserly 3% designer insult.


Belak Furniture ming dynasty coffee table $3,300

But, I was shocked that Mr. Belak is selling the table for $1,629.00 Less on his own website!




Belak’s opium table reminds me of the one we did from Safavieh a few years ago.



Overstock Safavieh opium rectangular coffee table $135

I found it on Overstock for $1,352, but it appears to be understock haha, right now.



Safavieh square opium table

This is the square version, also out of stock. But it is verrrry close to Belak’s table for a lot less $.


15 years ago, I sold an authentic antique opium coffee table to one of my loveliest clients ever.


Pound Ridge Living Room featuring an antique opium table from Pierce Martin now at Palecek
I found this beauty at the D & D Building and fell instantly in love. Oh, it was perfect for my client in Pound Ridge!

“How much?” I gingerly asked the salesman.

“It’s an antique- $2,100.”

So, there it is; an antique gorgeous opium table for $2,100 vs $4,900 for something which is indistinguishable from a Chinese import.


While we’re on the subject of opium tables, I did a little experiment.

I asked on Houzz…

“Where is this table from?”

Houzz gave me an answer, of sorts.

using my image to sell furniture on houzz


The next day, while perusing my page, I see a price tag on MY client’s table on MY photo and that houzz is attempting to sell merch to the public using MY image. And actually, all designers’ images. This is what they are doing now. (notice Belak’s table in the lower left as a suggestion)


Does Houzz have a legal right to do this?


Yes, they do. It is clearly stated in their terms and conditions that they can use our images for any purpose they wish.

Is it an ethical thing to do?

I’ll let you be the judge and I will also ask:


Do you think it is HELPING or HURTING interior designers for Houzz to use our images to sell merchandise to the public? (please reply in the comments)


More evidence of houzz using designer’s images to sell product. These are known as keywords, if you don’t already know. Please notice that there is no mention of “Laurel Bern Interiors” anywhere!

Sorry, not feelin’ the love.


Food for thought.

If EVERY designer took their images down, there would be no houzz; no idea books; no way for Houzz to sell furniture.


A few weeks ago before I knew that I would be writing this post, I was looking for a good General Contractor near me.

And of course. Up popped Houzz. I figured that houzz would be a good place to look for a good GC to renovate my bathroom.

I clicked on the link and filled out the form, incognito.

Excitedly, I waited for all of the wonderful GCs to pop up.

But, there was only one.

Are you ready?

They sent me back–



I tried it again.

And once again, they sent me back, ME. Just me, not anyone else and I ain’t no building contractor in any way shape or form.

Then, they sent emails to ME wanting to know if Me was interested in possibly taking a job with ME.

I wrote back,

“No, you freaks, I’m not interested. That Laurel is a bitch to work for!!!”

They sent me another email asking me if ME got in contact with ME!

When I wrote those idiots to tell them of their lunacy, I got crickets.

And THEN, they sent me a final email wanting to know how the “support” was?


A Disturbing Finding on Houzz


Last year when I did a post on Mark D Sikes, I asked a question of my colleagues.

What I wanted to know was how much is the Santa Barbara sofa designed by Mark D Sikes for Henredon.

A wonderful colleague, Patrick Landrum  (he claims that we were separated at birth) ;] said that he found the Santa Barbara sofa on Houzz. The retail price is $8,000.

That sounded about right except that Patrick said that the sofa was not attributed to either Mark or Henredon.


So, I went over to houzz and indeed, not only was this company using Henredon’s imagery, they were claiming that it is THEIR design.


Eco First Arts Rip off - sold on Houzz - Santa Barbara Sofa - It is really Mark D Sikes' sofa for Henredon
Where’s that damned slingshot?!?

It’s NOT their design. It’s not THEIR Santa Barbara sofa and It’s NOT their right to use Henredon’s imagery to SELL copyrighted designs. If only, they had credited Henredon, all would be fine. Or even if they left it blank. But to put that THEY are the manufacturer is WRONG.



But, it’s not only Henredon that Eco First Arts on Houzz is ripping off.



This Bunny Williams sofa has also been filched. AND those chinless thieves who stole it have the temerity to charge an additional $2,400 over Bunny’s price!  Love Bunny!


Billy Baldwin – There is only ONE licensee of Billy Baldwin furniture and it is not Eco First Arts.

It is the Billy Baldwin Studio formerly known as Ventry.



I contacted the designer of this sofa, Kimberly Denman; she wrote back:



Good morning. Thank you so much for making me aware of this situation. It is so frustrating! I have reached out to HOUZZ three times with no reply from them. They seem unconcerned with such situations. I would love to hear the whole story and maybe if we all band together we can do something.

My pieces are being copied by different people. I am sure not at our quality, but it is very maddening. I even have a Los Angeles designer who memo’d our Themis dining chair “to show a client” last summer… twice – I just saw an EXTREMELY similar chair in her line, just released at High Point. This is a well known designer who is more than an acquaintance of ours. Some people have no shame and unfortunately it seems there is no way to protect our designs.

Hopefully we can talk more soon!

Kimberly Denman Rebuffel


To be clear, I am not insinuating that Houzz is involved with any nefarious activity. But they NEED to know what their vendors are up to. Don’t you think?

Well, there’s much more but this is long already, so I’d like to sum things up and make some recommendations based on my years of experience, both as a designer and blogger.


I don’t think that designers have much to worry about at this point.


Clearly, Houzz doesn’t have a handle on things– yet.

But that doesn’t mean that they won’t.


And I don’t like what Alon Cohen said:

designers are not really business people-Alon CohenSeriously?

Therefore, I urge everyone reading this if you have not yet, to sign the petition.

This part is mostly for designers and my recommendations


Take your badges down. I realize that this is very difficult to do because we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that they are beneficial, but they are the opposite. The best of… badges are only benefitting houzz not you because you are giving them a powerful backlink from your website.

THAT is exactly why they always appear on page one in search results! Isn’t that rich? Please believe me. We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot all along!

However, when houzz links to your website, they are using a NO FOLLOW tag, which is telling google to discount the link and not give you back any Search Engine Optimization  (SEO) credit. (aka: link love)

This has been corroborated by two Web Geeks. I don’t expect normal people to understand this, but the rel = “nofollow” is what tells google to discount the link back to our websites from houzz!


An excellent post about nofollow links written by Amy Lynn Andrews.


no follow link on houzz for me

And above taken from the Houzz website source code is the nofollow link for me.

(I learned a lot of geeky things from my wasband, a techie)

And to learn why this code is even worse than I realized, please read this enlightening comment by Website programming expert Ken Lewis


Should I remove my profile on houzz?


It depends on your situation. If it is yielding you work, I suppose it would be okay to leave it up. But ideally, it is always best to use your own website to promote your business. What if Houzz went out of business?


Please remember the golden motto.



STRONG BRANDING through your own website, not houzz or anyone else!


Houzz has been the low-hanging fruit. It seemed to be the perfect solution for busy designers to get some internet love.

Sorry, not buying it.


Please read about the Settlement over privacy violations by Houzz


“I have an Ivymark account and really enjoy the platform. Is it a mistake to stay?”


I can’t make that decision for you, but I do have facebook screen-shots which show both Ivy girls, (Lee Rotenberg and Alexandra Schinasi) putting Houzz in a negative light. And then they did a merger with them?





Plus, I think that many will find listening to Nick May’s Podcast (The Chaise Lounge) where he interviewed Lee Rotenberg quite enlightening. I did. It is episode 193 that says Greg Durrer. The first 30 minutes is the interview with Lee.

If you are looking for a great project management system, I would go with My Doma Studio. (no affiliation, but reputable and user-friendly)

In closing, I encourage designers and everyone with a business and website to take control of your businesses and not on the back of someone who might turn their back on you!

Next month, I am going to be presenting an easy-to-follow guide that explains in non-geek terms, everything I’ve done to accomplish this website. It is not only for designers but anyone who wants to learn everything I wish I had known six years ago about starting a website and blog!


***But, if you’re a designer, a wannabe designer or just love hangin’ with designers, I have some more wonderful news.***


Laurie Laizure who started the awesome Interior Design Community on Facebook is making a bold move. The right move. She’s in the process of taking her platform off of FB and onto her own website!

Her new interior design community website is in Beta and all are welcome to sign up. I just did that.


And please, please share this post on facebook, twitter, pinterest. Share the link with friends. We need to get the word out. And please don’t forget to sign the petition.


Dear Houzz, Please don't underestimate the interior designers...

If you need a graphic for social media, I created this image which is on my instagram.

And of course, you may pin it to pinterest, facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or wherever. Please be sure if it’s not automatic to link back to this post.

Much Love,



289 Responses

  1. Houzz has absolutely zero integrity in doing what they originally set out to do which is help home owners help each other by giving honest opinions and sharing their experiences with various designers and craftsmen. In 2014 I worked for a designer who was notorious for getting her jobs mixed up, she was overall very disorganized and a terrible email communicator. (Ex. She would email a carpenter with the subject line “update on Smith kitchen cabinet project” and then when the carpenter responded she would -within the same email thread- ask about the Jones dining room built-ins). A few of the carpenters who made her custom furniture pieces left exactly that feedback on her Houzz profile. A month later she had deleted that profile and set up a brand new one so that she wouldn’t have negative feedback on her page. If Houzz were actually a legitimate company they would require some sort of business identifying information that would prevent a person from being able to manipulate their account in such a way to avoid homeowners being able to make an educated decision on whether or not a contractor is a good fit for their home projects.
    It’s such a shame because the underlying intention is so good. A renovation can mean that you have a pretty up close and personal relationship with some of the people working in your home so people have the right to hear what other homeowners have experienced with inviting someone into their home like that. I completely disregarded Houzz after seeing that. They’re garbage.

  2. I only decided to research HOUZZ when a simple transaction went terribly wrong and I found your blog (Laurel Bern interiors). Suffice to say, I learned the hard way that HOUZZ is not the seller but a simple middle man, sort of like a broker and not involved in any aspect of the design, manufacturing, distribution or delivery of furniture (in my case). As a HOUZZ customer service person in the Philippines told me, HOUZZ is like a shopping mall, you go into various stores and purchase product, which is fine if it was disclosed up front by telling me, the prospective buyer. They should tell you up front, “Hey, we have nothing to do with the furniture business except we will broker a deal for you with a designer, fabricator, manufacturer, distributor and logistics/delivery company and make a nice fee and if any part of this process goes awry, we’ll help a little but it’s between you, the manufacturer, distributor and the shipping company… good luck!”. To add insult to injury, they don’t even have an email or address you can send a bonafide complaint in the hope that a real person (not their online bs chatbot) could help you. When I read a little history about the company, I came to the conclusion that the husband and wife team that started HOUZZ and still manage it are way in over their heads and are probably a couple of geek technology nerds that don’t know anything about running a good solid business that is customer focused but they sure can write code and build a website without alot of fancy marketing jazz. They suck!

  3. This is kind of a rant, and I haven’t read all the comments because there’s hundreds of them, but I was searching the internet for something similar to my issue which is how I found your blog page.
    I don’t want to put my business name or anything, but here’s my story with Houzz:

    My wife and I manufacture our own products with our bare hands. Made to order. Nothing is stocked because everything is custom. It’s just us in our garage. We own the federal trademark to our business name and we do everything ourselves: packaging, customer service, website design, photography + retouching, marketing, advertising…everything.

    We started selling our products on Etsy in 2013. We were invited to sell on Houzz as “Vendor” by a Houzz buying agent in 2015 or 16 I think (I’d have to check for sure). They made it sound exclusive; invite only. It sounded great. Basically we sell our products on the Vendor page, Houzz covers all the shipping costs, returns, and customer service. The vendor page is edited via a csv spreadsheet that the Houzz buying agent has to verify before it’s posted, which is archaic and ridiculous, so we never really edit the front end but whatever. All I have to do is make products + ship them out when I get an order, then accept them/refund the money if they get returned.
    The pricing is not in our control though, essentially we sell each product to Houzz for a predetermined price, then they mark it up with a ~100% price increase, or however they see fit. For example, I sell one of my products on Etsy and my official Website for $89, but you can purchase the same thing through our Vendor site on Houzz for $149. They keep whatever profit they make off of it, and I don’t care. That’s their business. I still got my set price and brand exposure through the Houzz marketplace, just like Etsy…until now, May 2018.

    It came to our attention that our products are no longer donning our own business name as the Manufacturer. They’re also not appearing at all in the product descriptions or anywhere else associated with our products. It appears Houzz decided they were selling so well that they don’t want to direct traffic back to the source of the product, where customers can find it cheaper, they want all traffic to stay within Houzz. Not that I can blame them, they want their money, but not being transparent about the manufacturer and removing my name from my products without my permission is unacceptable and actually hurts my brand by making my products seem diluted or imported. I’ll reiterate, we make everything to order, by hand, and I’m the only person who sells my product.

    So we just called our Houzz buying agent.

    They told us that our products were chosen to be placed under “white label” brands that lump multiple types of the same product under one fake brand name to help them “sell better” with better marketing (mind you we currently make 5 figures a year by selling through Houzz). My products are on Houzz right now with FAKE product names, FAKE descriptions, FAKE manufacturer names, except using MY REAL photography. These brands that supposedly are selling my product are purely fictional Houzz brands made to build it’s own name while masking mine out and hiding me in the back end.

    We weren’t asked for their permission to do any of this, and we weren’t told they were doing it either. We don’t even really look at the front end of the site as I mentioned earlier because we have no real control over it, but I’m glad we did.

    I am about to sacrifice my additional income channel, remove all of my products, and demand that they remove my photography from all of their pages on Houzz. I haven’t struggled to build my brand and sell my hard work just to stagnate under their umbrella “white label” brands.

    1. Oh Tim,

      That is a horrifying story, but I’m not at all surprised, as it seems that many of the brands are fake including the one that I hi-lighted that claims that everything is “eco-friendly,” even if the design and imagery belong to a company that does not make that claim.

      In other words; it’s all effed up.

      But good for you, for pulling out of there. I believe with everything I have that you are doing the right thing and that in time will be doing much better without them. Thank you so much for sharing all of that!

    2. Hi Tim,

      I am sure there are MANY designers who would love to hear more about your company- have you considered working with a company like Steelyard or Designer Inc, who both have much more honorable intentions and work with the trade?

  4. Thanks for the great post Laurel ! I’ve been dealing HOUZZ and some copyright infringement issues – bloggers are helping themselves to some of my product photos [ light designs ] and the descriptive titles. The number of bloggers infringing are growing steadily and all the infringements are coming from my HOUZZ site. After 6 months of attempting to “ take down “ through the DMCA and HOUZZ legal department I’m no further along. My suspensions are this – HOUZZ is instigating this by advertisement revenue to the bloggers therefore facilitating the infringements. It all leads back to traffic for HOUZZ. WayFair is a heavy advertiser on these bloggers sites as well. And these sites are not written for content but strictly SEO. It is a blight.
    …… “ more internet tactics to build themselves up, at others expense “

  5. This is a subject of conversations everywhere in the design industry. I write content for a local architecture firm, and we had a screaming conference call with our Houzz rep last fall, who stuck robotically to her talking points about Pro status while we repeated, again and again, that we weren’t getting what we paid for, i.e. higher listing in search results. I logged in incognito and did a search for DC architects. I counted multiple firms that came up in the listings two, three, four, FIVE times before our firm came up once, on something like the fifth page of listings. She never acknowledged that problem or agreed to fix it. So we canceled. We were lucky though — because the firm had been on Pro status for a long time, we weren’t bound by the most recent terms, which state that you must notify houzz in writing at least 30 days before the end of your contract if you don’t wish to renew. If you don’t send that letter in time, you are locked in for another year. If you want to cancel early, that’s fine — you’ll lose Pro status immediately, but you’ll be charged four months in fees as a penalty. I’ll also repeat the howls of many, regarding the price tags on all the pictures. The interior designer in this firm had a gorgeous family room up there, for example, with a beautiful coffee table by Century. They slapped a price tag on it, and up popped a dozen cheap knockoffs. I understand that designers agree to this terrible treatment under the terms of service, but I can’t believe companies like Century, or Henredon as you reference above, aren’t suing over it.

    1. Oh Jennifer, I’m so sorry to hear this and I wish I could say it was even a variation on a theme, but it feels like I’m hearing the same story over and over… I appreciate your sharing, because there’s strength in numbers.

  6. Thanks, Laurel. They have been a telemarketing thorn in my side no matter how I try to get rid of them. Signing.

    1. Thank you Mary Beth. We’re not finished by any means. This post was merely a means to get the word out, but there are 100s if not thousands of designers behind all of this.

  7. Unfortunately, a monster has been created, founded on the premise that is DYI Design by means of taking Design ideas (IP) for free from here and there, cutting and pasting, putting them together and hey presto we have “a new way to design your home”……so wrong, so bad…..that their very slogan unabashedly undermines the essence and value of the professional design industry, upon which ultimately they have significantly benefited without any serious care or giving back is borderline corporate criminal activity.

    It’s actually genius that they can simultaneously flip us the bird and get us to contribute in both time and money and give away our IP & content for free, for no guaranteed return for ultimately their exclusive profit/benefit. Ultimately if it were legit and fair, the “Users” would have to pay a subscription service to access the ideas/material that the designers upload, from which in return for say adds to idea books or “impressions” whatever, the pro’s receive a respective return/royalty…..unicorns & fairies…oh stop dreaming! It’s similar to the Napster debacle that killed the music business. Just sit back and watch the train wreck. I agree, possibly the only way to shut this down is to literally have all us designers make a united stand & pull our visual content out……Appreciate your efforts in calling this out Laurel.

  8. First of all, I have to say thank you for all the research and spelling it out for those of us who are non-techie to understand what has been happening.

    Second, I hate to admit it, but I fell for Houzz, hook, line and sinker! I did it all – loaded all of my non-watermarked photos, spent hours and hours refining my keywords, put the badge on my website, worked hard at answering design dilemmas. And I saw benefits, as that’s how some of my best clients found me. I didn’t succumb to the Pro program until three years ago, when the leads slowed down. Meanwhile, I kept interacting with the Houzz community, answered questions, offered free advice. Eventually, any viable leads disappeared. Even with paid ads I was no longer showing up searches. Now, hearing about the Ivy/Houzz buy, I finally knew something was up – no way was a company like Houzz buying a 2 yr old company like Ivy for the reasons Houzz (Emily I think?) stated – to make things easier for the design community. Now I knew Houzz was as bad as my gut was telling me – just took me a long time to realize it. I’m in the process of making some changes with Houzz, and have signed the petition. It sucks to be taken advantage of.

    Lastly – I like the idea someone posted about sending your article and the petition via Twitter to Ashton Kutcher @plusk, has anyone done that to your knowledge? Might be worth a try, but only if it’s many, not just a few. Power in numbers.

    Sorry for the long post, but thank you for bringing light to this unethical, or at the very least, questionable, behavior by Houzz. And I can’t wait to read your blog about blogs!!

    1. Hi Suzie,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story.

      There has been outreach to the news media by the Interior Design Community, but it’s a little slow going.

  9. I was on Houzz some years back, and quit when I started getting harrassed. For posting a few things. One fellow lost his mind and in a few hours went from raving to offering to take me to court for making a mistake in my post regarding a product from a specific place that apparently he had a lock on from ONE of many sources for similar product. No time given for me to reply. I was supposed to be there and respond instantly. That was the capper of several bits of trolling and hostility. I wasn’t even a business, on there, yet. Some friends I made there stayed a while longer but all left too. One forwarded me your site and your attempt to take them on. Go Get Them! They were smelling then and this is just past terrible. Need to take it to mainstream news.

    1. Hi Dee,

      That is such a horrific story! There’s no excuse for someone behaving that way. They should be banned from the site, but no. That’s not going to happen.

      We got the message long ago. WE don’t matter.

      As for me taking them on. I was asked if I would do this on behalf of the interior design community, a private group for the interior design trade. They and another group, interior design revolution are the ones who penned the petition.

      Quite frankly, with everything I’ve heard since this post came out, it’s too nice.

      And yes, the mainstream media has been contacted, but nothing has happened as of yet. Thank you so much for your support!

      The best we can do is to keep getting the word out!

  10. Thank you SO much for this post, Laurel. I, too, have experienced the frustration and depression of NOT ONE LEAD from Houzz after being locked into a contract and spending thousands of dollars I couldn’t afford to be one of their designer “pro’s.” I didn’t understand how it did them any good not to pass leads on to us until I realized that THEY’RE making money by selling the products themselves – – the one’s WE would be selling. If we had those clients that they’re not referring to us. It’s sure left a bitter taste in my mouth.

    I just signed the petition, deleted about 7 projects off my Houzz site, (although they’re keeping my photos), deleted the Houzz app off my tablet, removed the badge and link from my website, and unsubscribed to all their newsletters. I’m afraid to completely delete my account because it sounds like they may enjoy serving up a little retribution. And they may not allow it anyway. But the “no follow” thing really concerns me.

    Thanks AGAIN for all your research and your great blog posts. Always inspirational and fun to read!

    1. Hi Julie,

      Oh Julie,

      I’m so proud of you! They’ve really done a number on us, but ultimately, I believe 1000% that you are doing the best for yourself and your business.

      You can ask them to take down your account. There’s nothing they can do to you. I’ve heard something dumb like if someone clicks on one of your images it takes them back to the ghost of the person. Soooo? Who cares? If anything, it just makes them look bad that people got fed up and left. If enough of us do it, it’ll be like holes in Swiss Cheese!

      And you are very much IN business. Keep working your blog. If you’re interested, I’m releasing a guide that spells out exactly how I grew my blog from nothing to one that’s read by millions every year. Believe me. No one is more shocked by that than I am!

      And the incredible thing is that nothing happened for the first 19 months!

      1. Someone commented that if they take down your account they somehow insinuate that you’ve gone out of business. But what the heck? No one comes looking for me on Houzz anyway, so why would I care?!! I’ll go in and delete all my projects tomorrow and then ask them to take down my account. And be done with them.

        And I would love to read whatever you have to say about your blog. I worked like a DOG on mine – – once a week for a year and a half with absolutely no results. Not one client, just a few nice comments once in a while. Very, very discouraging to work that hard for no reward whatsoever. I recently cut back to once a month, and I’m actually working on it right now for tomorrow. Yes, please, I’d love to read your guide!!

        1. Yes, that’s what I heard too. But of course, you ARE in business. Houzz is a website. You also have a website. But they think they own us. And they really don’t. However, with that nofollow link, they are making it harder for us to get google to take notice of us. But it’s not impossible. Hang in there!

  11. Laurel,

    I am not an interior designer (maybe an aspiring one in my mind), however I use your blog, etc. to help choose paint colors, etc. You have been immensely helpful! It upsets me that a company would, in my thinking, take advantage of the designers and steal their designs and images.

    Because of this, as a consumer, I am not going to order from houzz. Luckily I have not at this point but I will also continue to refrain from purchasing from them. I found they carried the drapes I needed to finish my room but I was able to find them at 50% less elsewhere.

    Thank you for keeping us informed!


    1. Hi Wendy,

      They are taking advantage, however, from a legal standpoint, they aren’t actually stealing. In their terms and conditions, it basically says that they can do whatever they want with the photos we upload and that we have given them an irrevocable license to do so. But who reads that stuff? And who would take it to mean that they can tag our pics with little price tags, letting people know where they can buy something that looks the same (but isn’t) and is usually of far lower quality.

  12. Wow, Laurel, what a great article! I’m going to share every way I can, and I’m going to close my account with Houzz and unsubscribe. No more! P.S. I love your Davida! You are too clever! 🙂

  13. Thank you for this information. I am an ASID Interior Designer in NJ. A few years ago I signed up with Houzz and had a similar experience to the one you described, i.e. paid a monthly fee which resulted in no referrals, only suggestions of additional services I should consider signing up for with Houzz. At that time,I spoke with a Houzz representative, described my dissatisfaction with the company and told the rep that I no longer would continue monthly payments. Of course, at that time, the rep told me I could not cancel the payments. It took a few additional phone calls which ultimately resulted in the cancellation. Thank you for enlightening the professional Interior Design field.

    1. Hi Maureen,

      These are the types of stories I’ve heard over and over. But what’s to stop someone from calling their credit card company and saying, “I’m being held hostage by houzz who won’t let me cancel my monthly membership which is why I’m coming directly to you.”

      If one no longer wishes to use a service, then how can they force you to stay? It’s not like a phone book (remember those?) that live on for at least a year. No, everything would come down.

  14. Laurel, I will stand with you & fight the fight. I signed the petition. I have always wanted to be a interior stylist/designer, but afraid to pull the trigger & JUMP! I found your blog a month ago (trying to decide on what was the right couch to buy, thank god it was Lee Industries, my first love when I was 18 yrs old).
    I believe, that copyright/patent infringement of the photos/products is BAD. Give credit where credit is due. I believe the same about your observation on furniture. I know people have to make a living & have to eat. For example, last weekend I purchased a gray velvet chrome base swivel lounge chair from all places, Habitat Restore for $20. It was in perfect condition, except the seat needed to be adjusted (it was crooked or I was drunk, not sure which). I looked it up online, the manufacturer was Noble House Furnishings. WestElm was selling for $750 – $900, Target was $550, & Walmart was $268. Not feeling duped, but now thinking, do I go back to my roots, thrift for everything and have it reupholstered/refinished? How is one to know, in the case of this & in your example, getting a “fair price” & where the original source is from??? (Target & Walmart did give credit to Noble, I can’t remember about West Elm.)
    With the evolution of HOUZZ, PINTEREST, ETSY, INSTAGRAM, & FB have decreased my confidence in their integrity. I have always thought, as a consumer for over 30 years, there has always been a grab for the ever elusive “demographic analytics” that was being produced. With you enlightening me about IVY/HOUZZ, magazine publishers, Constant Contacts(very 1980’s) & SalesForce, are not new to the playing field of using folks’ data in nefarious ways. After taking a fabulous 3-day course on “How to use Instagram for Your Business” by Buzzing Creatives last spring, I learned that the exposure on IG is staggering. It has over 500 MILLION DAILY ACTIVE USERS. I have watch how some designers/business people, use IG as their own blog platform. One person stated, they don’t have time to blog, so they use IG. The founders at Buzzing Creatives shed light on how to use IG/PINTEREST as a marketing tool to reach more people. Not sure if IG is being looked at more & more as a marketing tool to grow a interior design business, or any business (just ask Buzzing Creatives), in tandem with one’s own website/FB/Pinterest/industry publication/word of mouth.
    It would be an interesting topic of discussion from the interior design masses. I love what you do, your sense of humor, and I need to hire you for some therapy sessions for my husband on what a real leather recliner should be! He likes the FUG-LY one!

    1. Hi Steph,

      Thanks for all of that. And yes, it all can be confusing. One reason I do the hot sales pages is that I’m linking to sources that give fair retail prices. Of course, everyone wants to get a good deal.

      Not sure if you saw, but I’m coming out with a guide in about a month that goes over which social media platforms give designers the biggest bang for their buck and which ones you don’t need to pay as much attention to. It is all about all of the things that have worked for me.

  15. Hi Laurel,

    Wow, I am simply blown away, aghast, and totally unnerved by your Houzz blog post! I have been ‘paying’ for my Pro profile for the last 3 years, and yes, it is expensive as you stated in your blog.

    I am Canadian, so I pay $200/month USD, which calculates to roughly $265/mth CAD. SO you would be fairly accurate in your annual calculation – mine equates to $3180 CAD per year.

    This is also, the lowest possible investment option from what I have been told.

    I have until Dec. 2018 before our account is up for renewal. Do you happen to know if I can break my contract early?

    We find that for the $$$, we should be rolling in leads by year 3 and this is simply not been the case. We have acquired a few jobs here and there, but your post has been a real eye opener.

    Thanks for your feedback, and I hope to hear from you.

    Best Regards,

    Cindy Lutes,
    Certified Property Stylist
    Total Home

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Did you read the comment from the woman who suddenly got a ton of leads a few weeks before her contract was up. Quite frankly, if it was me, I would cut my losses and split and begin working in earnest on my own website. If it makes you feel any better, I lost an investment of about $7,500 when I created my little online shop that died a quick death in September 2013. I did everything backwards!

      1. Our industry was duped by both Houzz and Ivymark. I had both, but luckily got out early. We need to band together as professionals. Join ASID, IIDA, IDS and other professional Interior Design organizations. So we can stand together in a professional manner.
        Make smaller buying groups with your designer friends so we have real buying power. We have done this since the 90’s in our area.
        The strange and wonderful thing is I was alerted early on by someone wanting to buy from me on Houzz that they were redirected to someone else’s site. People are not stupid, they will catch on to the fact that Houzz is not a good deal and not an honest company.

        Ivymark already has been exposed and we shall see what happens to them. When I dealt with them I knew they were very topical and did not fully understand the interior design business. They were also dismissive and evasive when asked real questions. They sold their product from free to thousands of dollars to get the book of business to sell. (Luann Nigara has an interesting podcast on this)

        Interior designers are an amazingly powerful group of people who need to take back our power and let these retail sites serve the people who do not want a designer. Many people know and others are catching on to the fact that hiring an interior designer is a great idea on many levels including purchasing.

        The world has changed and we all need to keep up with it. Thank you for your enthusiasm and information regarding the details.

        1. Hi Joanne,

          Thanks so much for this wonderful comment!

          Are you on Laurie Laizure’s Interior Design Community? She’s on FB, but there too, she’s created her OWN platform with a new website:

          Unfortunately, at this time, ASID is on board with houzz.

          Buying groups are a great idea for vendors who won’t sell individually. But my rolodex is filled with some 180 vendor/manufacturers who do sell directly and often at rock bottom wholesale. Or at least as in the case of Four Hands, a very handsome discount off the retail price.

  16. This was an awesome read. I like houzz in general, because it allows my company to show thousands of our finished custom sofas and custom sectionals to our existing and new clients. While we looked into it at some point, we decided NOT to sell our product on houzz. The biggest red flag when talking to the houzz team for us, was that “houzz dictates the sale price”. Weird, right? That would be super inconsistent with what we show on our website. So the same sofa we advertise as starting at $533 at would all of a sudden be sold for $whoknowshowmuch (could be $63,999 eeeeeekkk…. lol). That’s just so strange. Anyway, this was extremely informative. Thank you !!

    1. Hi Eva,

      I’m glad that you’re not selling on houzz, but you are squelching your brand’s own SEO.

      Sorry, can’t put the link up, but you too are being put through a tracking link and then nofollow code on houzz.

      This tells google to disregard the link to your website. Thus diluting your ability to get noticed in local searches because they took your keywords to use for themselves.

      Hope that doesn’t come across like I’m picking on you. Not at all! Because it was me too, before they took my account down on Monday and tens of thousands of other designers and shop owners. Building contractors don’t have the nofollow designation because they are trying to get the retail and design business.

      1. lol, i didn’t think you were picking on me. i understand how houzz works, and for now it works for us. i figured out a while ago that the key words need to be specific to our own product and product names to not link with cheap china imitations of our product sold on houzz. i’m in the process of removing the key words for this reason. but the product headlines/names come up in local searches, so we do get leads from houzz and it’s still a nice platform to show thousands of our finished custom sofas and sectionals. i completely understand that it’s different for designers and i’ve never understood the benefit of a houzz account for designers. it’s lovely to get free advice, but we all have to pay the mortgage, like you said. anyway, thank you for this article.

        1. Hi Eva,

          Well, in the beginning, it was ONLY designers. And then the products started popping up. That is my recollection from eight years ago. But by 2013, I was completely done with them.

      2. oh one more thing i just came across the other day and maybe your next research project, lol.

        i wanted to see if our product pictures came up when searching for “custom sectional” on google. many of our pictures where featured… but guess what, not all of then lead to our website or houzz profile. one picture lead to this strange place

        sofa couch

        i can’t quite figure out what this is. they have many of our finished product pictures, but also pictures of other vendors. they don’t seem to want to sell our product or even a copy. it looks like this is just a website for cheap copycats to steal pictures to use as their own to sell imitation products? it’s so strange to me, but it would also explain all the same pictures used by different vendors on houzz.

        1. Ahhh… well, what we have here is the ubitquitous rip-off website that’s filled with ads. And BTW, I added a nofollow code to ensure that they aren’t getting any linklove. But of course, if you click on the site, they’ll earn a penny or two from your page view. There are people who might have 50 of these kinds of meaningless sites that they put up using various keywords that they know how to make rank highly for. I don’t know what these ads pay but say, their 50 sites average 20 bucks a day. Yep. That’s 1,000 a day! If you notice there’s a disclaimer (with more ads) you do have the right to ask them to take your pics down.

          What can I say? It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Or as uhhh.. one not to swift woman I knew of years ago used to say doggie dog. lol

    1. It’s a great idea Kim, except for one problem. It would kill me. haha But never say never. I never would’ve believed 10 years ago that I’d be doing what I’m doing.

  17. I don’t even have enough time to get into how shady Houzz is. I think they started off meaning well but then saw other opportunities to throw designers under the bus and make more of a profit. I have been paying for the pro membership for a few years now. I have been paying $300-$400/ month and have not gotten a single decent lead for over a year now. I want to cancel my account but am locked in for another nine months per my contract. I complained about not getting any leads to my account manager and told her that I was not going to renew. Guess what? A month before my last contract ended, I started getting bombarded with new Houzz leads. I couldn’t keep up with them all. They weren’t very good leads but I started seeing real traction so I renewed my contract. As soon as I did, all leads abruptly stopped. Coincidence? I think NOT! Every time I complain, they use new tactics and lies to get me to stay. They have been VERY misleading about what my pro membership includes and where I will show up in a search. Don’t get me started. And then tagging my photos? That explains why they keep telling me to upload more photos. I stopped doing that a while ago. All people do is ask where they can buy things in my photos anyways. Ugh. So over it. I can’t wait to cancel at the end of this contract.

    1. Oh Lindsay,

      Thank you so much for your sharing. I’ve heard these nearly identical stories from designers over and over…To drive the point home because there are so many comments and I don’t know who has read what, but when they do the nofollow code (the behind the scenes coding behind everything that appears on a web page) which tells google to discount your link, they usurp all of those wonderful keywords from your images that you so kindly put up for them. You’re marketing for THEM, not yourself!

      It’s like handing the executioner the machete.

      And then, they have all of the keywords for your state, town, county and all of the interior design key words (search terms) because you and everyone else put those in too!

      So, that when someone googles “interior designers your town, county, state” you don’t rank— that is UNLESS you’re like me and you have traffic/internet juice coming in from other sources, hundreds of blog posts where you might have the ability to overtake those keywords– if one is lucky. It’s possible, but not for most designers who are still taking clients.

  18. Great post! To clarify the no-follow issue: this is actually worse for SEO than a no-follow link. Google is known to track no-follows and they could play some role, likely an indirect one, in SEO. In this case, it is a redirected link they use for tracking that is no-followed. In other words, they are linking from their page to another page on their site, and then on to you, and that entire process is no-followed. This virtually guarantees no value coming from that link. This is a minor technical point for most of your readers, but as a professional SEO this has been of significance to me since the early days of Houzz when they implemented this.

    1. Oh WOWWY WOW WOW!!! I need to link to this comment in the post. Don’t think I’ve ever done that before. That’s just how good this is! Thank you so much for chiming in with this extremely valuable information!

  19. Hi Laurel,
    Thank you very much for this article. I’ve taken a couple of days to digest this, and I am appalled. I’m in the process of launching my new color consulting company, and was considering creating a space on Houzz. The only problem was that they didn’t have a section for color consultants, just interior designers, so I was on the fence.

    Now that there are so many other options, based on your extensive research, I am going to pass. Thank you for doing this research for us.

    I can’t wait until you publish your guidelines for creating a blog. I think that yours is amazing, and a great source for my research.

    Michelle Marceny
    Principal Color Consultant

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Thanks so much and one thing I didn’t mention in the post is their new color app with Benjamin Moore. It’s a total farce! Why BM even spent time developing that app is a mystery. While the idea has merit, it’s impossible because of something called light and shadows. Sorry to sound so condescending, but it’s pretty elementary and being it’s their business, didn’t anyone tell them? Do they think that people won’t notice that the walls are actually yellow, not green as the app says?

      I did a post which photographed the white trim in my apartment and got hundreds of different colors and only in the brightest light, was it white and it was not the white that the trim is painted.

      Here it is!

  20. Not a designer but a consumer; however do know if I were you and if Houzz misrepresented and used an image from my design portfolio, I would be absolutely fuming. That said; good for you for exposing them but cannot help but wonder do the manufacturers themselves even care about faux descriptions or the ridiculous mark-up by vendors on their wares as surely it must blemish their reputation to a a degree and/or cause a negative ripple effect of distribution/sales? To conclude; I would hope that they do and will let HOUZZ know how they feel as well.

    1. Hi Brenda,

      Yes, people are fuming and some vendors are taking action, I’ve been told. A manufacturer generally doesn’t care how much you mark their product up, but they do if you below what we call IMAP – Internet Minimum Advertised Price.

  21. Wow-Laurel,
    You are brave taking on the HOUZZ giant! Look at all these responses you have gotten–I almost feel bad adding another one because I know you are committed to personally answering every one of them and you must be exhausted by now, LOL!
    What a great expose. I’m not a designer, but have loved looking at Houzz and reading the articles. But as others have commented, I, too, had noticed that the overall quality of the design photos and articles on Houzz in the last few years seems to have gone down a bit. Also, the “searches” I do on that site seem to be coming up with more limited images, or the same images–perhaps they are trying to mainly feature those who pay for advertising on HOUZZ, and/or perhaps not as many designers are posting on there anymore?

    Your explanation of their “do not follow” computer code was so interesting. I wonder if Pinterest uses something similar to prevent google searches from locating the original article/and or image, or at least keeps them from up before all of their posts? I usually prefer to go directly to the original source (except if I want to see what a particular designer had on their boards, but that has gotten harder to do these days.) And even when I DO want to click on a particular pinterest image found in a google search, the link often takes you to a seemingly endless scroll of related photos, and– good-luck finding the one you originally clicked on–it might take you five minutes of looking if you ever do find it! GRRRR…. I think Pinterest is totally ruined–it has become so hard to use. So sad that Houzz is going downhill, too. (BTW–I think their new logo is hideous and clunky–not what one would expect from a design savvy company! What do you think?)
    Thank goodness for blogs like yours!

    Thanks, Laurel! Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Phyllis,

      Thanks so much. Pinterest is completely different. But if an image comes from my website and someone clicks on it, except in unusual cases where I’ve searched and cannot find the source, the source will be here under the image and in the alt tag and name of the picture if someone saves it. If everyone did that, images would always be attributed to their original source.

      And if I’ve pinned it, the source will be there. The source doesn’t always show up in pins other people pin and they often don’t put the source in, even though they should. A little complicated. But yes, pinterest has also gone downhill because half of it is adds and almost everything else are paid pins that have little if any relevance for me.

      But thank you for the support.

  22. A link to your Ugly-truth post was included in a thread on what remains of the Garden Web (That Home Site) Decorating forum that was swallowed up by Houzz. It was up for about 2 hours before Houzz noticed and POOF the whole thread disappeared.

    There is now a post about the disappearing post! We’ll see how long that stays up.

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if random people started posting a link to your Ugly-truth post and just randomly placed it in the comments section of photos all over Houzz and in all the different forums!

    1. haha! That would sure keep them busy! I’m sure that they are reading all of the comments here as well.

      Guess they don’t want the world to know how they’ve been duping us all of these years. The one that really makes my heart ache is that nofollow tag they’ve been using for hundreds of thousands of websites.

      It suppresses their victims and allows them to rise to the top at their expense. And all of those key words they encourage designers to put in houzz to describe their images does the same thing. Houzz ranks high for those key words (search terms that people use to find stuff) and the designers are left thinking that they can’t compete with houzz.

      That is the reason why.

  23. Laurel – Thanks so much for your hard work on bringing this information to light, your article really opened my eyes to what a greed machine HOUZZ has become.

    Their latest fraud is that they have some deal with Benjamin Moore, where they identify the colors that were used in a room. The colors that they come up with are not even remotely the colors that are used, the colors are just something that their computer program generates. Shame on Benjamin Moore for being a party such design heresy.

    Getting off HOUZZ as soon as I post this comment.


    1. Oh, yes! I am aware of that one too. That was one of the items that I edited out because of the length; but, it’s as you said absurd in the extreme. I am disappointed in Benjamin Moore too. It’s not making them look very good, I’m afraid.

  24. There have been several posts up on Houzz in the last day regarding your blog entry here. Houzz removed them all. One friend tried to post the link in the Pro to Pro section in a post devoted to the Ivy purchase. The censors didn’t allow it through. She messaged me, and I tried without the link, but just mentioning your name. That evidently isn’t allowed either.

    You may be pleased to know that your account does finally seem to be terminated! It’s still in the Google search, but clicking it leads to nowhere.

    Fight the good fight! Petition signed.

    1. Well, now we know how to take our accounts down! Interesting that they have time to censor people, but they don’t have time to honor people’s requests to have their pro accounts taken down or accounts closed that are ripping off other designers.

  25. Great suggestion in lieu of Ivy to MyDomaStudio. But here’s where my resounding cynisim marches on…..Isn’t it a matter of time before mydomastudio sells out to a larger conglomerate for profit and then subscribers fall prey to yet another devil in disguise. It seems to me that the intital intent from most start-up businesses/websites which initially provide a useful service, start out with good intentions (wink–wink– giving them the benefit of doubt) but in the end, it is a race to gain subscribers, purely to increase the numbers to entice a sell-out. Maybe, even to Ivy/Houzz. Then where do we go? It seems to be a never ending cycle of good company gone mad. Mad for the allmighty buck! When will this madness stop?!!
    Can’t help it – cynic at heart.

    1. You know Kathryn, I don’t blame you one bit and this is precisely why this business is horrible for our industry. It incites cynicism and mistrust down the line whether warranted or not. Of course, there are never any guarantees. But I do know Sarah Daniele, the CEO who started My Doma and it was at least 5 years ago. She’s very hard-working and has an immense amount of integrity.

  26. I don’t use Houzz at all – tried it but was too difficult.
    Thank goodness Laurel that you have done an AMAZING job of figuring this out! I’m an artist not a designer. But think you all should band together ISID and ASID and any other designers and sue the pants offf them and give the $$ to charity if you can’t keep it.
    I hate that some are so greedy , nasty, unprofessional, selfish, repugnant, morally degenerates, nauseating, illegal even if it’s not totally illegal they are NOT DOING THE RIGHT THING! The H_ _ _ with them!
    I will pass this on to friends!!
    You go get ’em!!!
    Wishing you the very best! Phyllis

  27. This is a great post. I never wanted to even upload a profile on houzz. Sure enough, they literally stalked me to join their pro network. It was uncomfortable and unprofessional to say the least. The calls finally stopped after I explained to them that their platform in no way helps me grow my business nor do I feel that I am a good match for them. Thank you for a well thought out post.

  28. Thank you Laurel for outing creeps!! Very disappointed in Rotenberg and Schinasi for teaming up with these goons. All they saw was $$$, which I understand is important to live, but not worth selling your soul to the scum. I’ve signed the petition, and requested that Houzz take me off their email list. Love your blog, your ethics, and your loyalty to those trying to make a living doing the right thing.
    All the best, Michele Latham

  29. I agree with you about they’re scheming practices.I would be more than happy to discuss all the issues.The misrepresenting the truth for usage of photos, phone numbers, locking in other sites and unethical pricing to the public & professional. Read the agreement they have you sign when purchasing advertising. It’s only about them & what you do for them. We’ve dealt with pricing issues with customers for years. Fair pricing & don’t get greedy, Karma will prevail. Misrepresenting the brand, quality, & pricing to the consumer will back fire. Vendors will pull their goods when not represented properly. Reach out to the trade people has well.If they are knocking off their lines their would be backslash there as well. Design & products have been out there for many many years & their lead into the sales pitch is the reason they started the business is the owners couldn’t find anything. They simply want to take advantage of the system. Phone people know nothing about their products. Consumers are mostly about price & look. We need to show the public that knowledge is a value also.

    1. You’re so right Susan. Of course, interior design is sooooo much more than ordering furniture.

      But they’ll find out when the sofa doesn’t fit in the room, or the carpeting ends up being pink, not beige or the sofa comes with the wrong fabric on it and on and on…

  30. I’m not in the design business. I own a jewelry store. I read this post and am astounded by the way consumers are being duped! Not JUST in your industry but mine as well. I get sick of people coming into my store to get sized for the rings they buy off the net. They want me to tell them what a good deal they got. Well when that piece of crap you just bought starts losing industrial grade stones and the company you bought it from will not repair it or WILL repair it in a few months, don’t cry to me. Don’t ask me to do a rush job for you either. I service MY customers very well, thank you! That junk you are buying on tv is worth just about what they are selling it for. So Miss Laurel, I feel your pain! I am glad to see people speaking up! I don’t like their site anyway. I don’t like the layout and it all looks the same. YAWNING! Love your posts and love your style! You go girl!

  31. Laurel, as soon as I received this latest news I immediately unsubscribed from Houzz. Oh wait a minute, I did that last month also, and they still haven’t unsubscribed me, and I did it the month before that as well….UGH

    I didn’t know all about the info you have shared about them either, but I just smelled a rat and wasn’t comfortable. I am like some of the other posters…I loved Garden Web….I actually remodeled my kitchen based on the advice of Garden Web and it turned out gorgeous. Now it is lost to the Houzz stratosphere. Corporate greed knows no bounds or limits….

    Good for you Laurel for pointing out these things….never stepping into a restoration hardware again either. Keep on keeping on….the more the word gets out the better. Poor designers just trying to make a decent living and getting taken advantage of….what is this world coming to?????

  32. Laurel,
    Thank you so much for writing this post. I agree 100%. I think that HOUZZ is for the “wannabees” that like looking at XXX and making comments on the various forums. I do not think ANY professional that is successful would continue to use this site. HOUZZ is making money on ANYONE that they can. Thank you for “telling it like it is”. I respect and appreciate you.

  33. Hi Laurel,

    appreciate the tips. These big platforms like houzz, facebook and the rest can be so authoritarian. I understand that there need to be policies and rules but woe behold anyone who gets on the wrong side of them.


  34. I am a proponent of buying local. You can sit on it, feel it, touch it, return it, get service, and support the local trade and economy. I use Houzz for ideas, but never for shopping.

  35. I signed. I used to haunt Houzz with a group of online friends, some of whom were decorators and/or artists. I learned a lot. Now they are all gone.

    I knew something was up beyond what I could see/intuit.

    Greed is the motto of our newly remade country don’t ya know?

    This will be fascinating to follow.

      1. I have the same faith. Research has determined that the more you have, the more paranoid you become about someone taking it away from you. Hence, more and more greed.

        I agree that you are one gutsy gal who I am proud to know through the blog. I don’t comment often and sometimes miss posts, but there is gold inside your virtual pages.

        Sorry about your mom; a friend is going through the same thing.

        I’ve learned a great deal here and now I know why Houzz went down the drain.

        Making the world beautiful, one space at a time, is a misunderstood blessing we get from designers.

  36. Hi Laurel,

    I got on Houzz aout 5 years ago as an Art lighting designer (my own original lines). They also contacted me about becoming a Pro member. Of course it sounded good but I’m always leery of being charged before anyone proves what they can do first and Houzz never did. I never got work from them except one very squirrely ‘client’ (still don’t know if they were real) who wanted to use a piece of original lighting as a kitchen cabinet panel. I declined for number of reasons. So basically Houzz never helped with anything in 5 years. It does sound like an ever increasing scam that’s made a few very rich already. In a number of cases I was reading about furniture designers designs being credited to Houzz or other sales entities I’m wondering why is no one contacting their lawyers? THAT would get Houzz’s attention, especially if it were a number of lawyers from different first and they started using the term ‘class action suit’. Trust me, trademark, like copywrite infringement is no joke and you will not hear crickets if they start hearing legal action. Let’s do it.

  37. Laurel,

    Great investigative journalism! Kudos for rallying the troops. Between your expose of Houzz and the Guardian and NYT’s expose of Cambridge Analytica and FB, it has not been a good weekend for social media!

    After reading your post, I Googled around for news of Houzz’s latest- they are supposed to IPO this year. I found this video on Sequoia Capital’s website and thought you might enjoy seeing how one of the Houzz founders paints herself.

    1. “Create and live by your own standards.”

      I gather that she feels the need to defend her modus operandi for some reason?

      Thanks for sharing that Tashe. Quite telling.

  38. I have unsubscribed from their email list and I had an account (I wanted into a discussion on London Sky quartz) and deleted that as well (not an easy process). I never really understood why so many designers love them so much, happy to be off their list. Thank you Laurel.

  39. Several years ago, I tried to contact a designer through Houzz. It never went through. Instead I would receive a Houzz, in house, knock-off @ an exorbitant prices. After many complaints, I was assured that my contact information would be forwarded to the designer. Zip, nothing. By coincidence I came upon a article featured by Sunset Magazine, who featured her product design. I wrote her . She said that she never received anything from Houzz to contact me. She also related that she had several customers who said the same thing. She was very disappointed that her advertising budget was wasted. She said hopefully with the Sunset Magazine spread. that it would offset some her loses.

    1. OMG!!! Thank you for sharing that Michael! Quite frankly, I think that their entire setup is massively messed up. I mean, I don’t think anyone sits there and goes… Let’s see… how can we keep these designers from getting calls? And look, They sent me, ME for general contracting services! Outrageous! Obviously, it’s all a mess. That doesn’t give them a free pass however. It’s business and if a designer is paying for a service, they need to get their act together!

  40. Yes and I totally respect somebody protecting their livelihood! They don’t have to give away their work, artists have to work particularly hard to find boundaries. I feel mortified that I could have offended a designer showcasing their work, but also think Houzz set everyone up for this kind of “relationship”. I agree with you that being particularly cagey makes design seem unattainable (but hey, maybe that fosters the clientele they’re after??). I’m talking too much. Gonna go make pizza…

  41. I have mixed feelings about Houzz. I am in the business and have had an (unpaid) professional profile on their site since probably 2012. I invested a lot of time in tagging photos, writing descriptions and downloading my own images to ideabooks – I figured how it all worked and quickly worked my profile to the top of the list in my area. And being at the top of the list had benefits – there was a time I was getting so many calls that I was giving projects away to my friends. Two of my biggest clients came from Houzz – the most recent was 18 months ago and it’s the largest (square footage-wise and budget-wise) that I have had since I started my business.

    Did I get a ton of annoying calls from Houzz wanting me to pay for it? Yes. Did I get tire-kickers? Yes. Do I still get spam text messages asking me to stage (style) their new house? Yes. Is it irritating that Houzz tags my pictures incorrectly and tries to sell cheap knock offs to people? Absolutely! But do I feel like Houzz is STEALING from me? No – definitely not! I knowingly uploaded my work because they offered me a MUCH larger reach than my own little website could offer me.

    On the other hand, the ivymark issue is wild and scary – and anyone who is storing their business financial data on any platform that they pay a monthly subscription to should be rethinking that concept. Unless you totally control the access to your data, you have no idea who that information is, or could be, sold to.

    1. A common complaint from designers is they think that they can’t compete with houzz, but I have been trouncing them for the last four years. And I had a tiny fraction of the traffic I get now. The danger is… what if they disappeared one day? What if what they were doing DID start to hurt you in some way?

      But, I have found that people who live in less competitive areas do better with houzz. As always, stay informed, but understand that there are choices. But the safest is to always have ones platform on their own self-hosted website. I didn’t make that up. It is the consensus of every guru I’ve ever spoken with.

  42. Interesting into on how Houzz operates. I’ve been a member of gardenweb almost since they started and the changes made since they were bought out by Houzz (and before that ivillage) have not been for the better.
    As a consumer, I did some research recently and found so many bad reviews and complaints about customer service that I ended up taking my business elsewhere. Plus the item i wanted was less on another website.

  43. Hi Laurel…thought provoking as always! I was curious about the BBB reviews. Clicked through. 55 reviews. There were a few positives. ALL positives were raving about the pros HOUZZ had referred them to. All the negatives? HOUZZ shopping experience woes. Poor consumers. I hadn’t really considered having my clients order through them but if I had, this feedback would have definitely swayed me!

    Thanks for the read!

  44. I laughed out loud when I saw your face on David (my dogs looked at me curiously) but I quickly saw the seriousness of your post and became angry. I have a pro Houzz account and I have been hounded by to sign up for their trade program. I haven’t because it just didn’t feel right to me. I’m so glad my instincts were right. I’m going to sign the petition. Thanks for this informative post.

    1. They must have a note next to my name. Do not call Laurel Bern whatever you do. She has teeth. Ya betcha after so many harassing phone calls! I probably threatened to call the police if they ever called me again! Harassment and stalking IS a crime!

  45. Thank you so much for this Laurel! I’ve always had an uneasy feeling about the “we own your pics after you post them” thing. I also have never received anything from my Houzz profile. A few people looking for free advice. I’ve gotten the harassing phone calls about advertising (for a fortune!) too. It’s all ridiculous! I signed the petition and will be taking my Houzz badges off my website today! I’ve worked too hard to give them free advertising. Thanks for uncovering all of this and bringing it to everyone’s attention!

    1. I am heartened by yours and everyone taking this seriously. The badges, that is. It’s super important. You can put up a badge that doesn’t link to houzz or links with a no follow link, but you might need a techie for that.

  46. Great article, Laurel; I have hated Houzz for a number of years and at one point seriously ruffled some designer feathers with my critticism, which was not levelled at them, but at HOUZZ. I’m sorry I was proven right, but I do feel somewhat vindicated. I’ve had nothing to do with that site for a number of years, but did not remove my profile, because Houzz would tthen put up a notice that would make it look like I was out of business. Now that I am set to retire from design and am working with my last client, I recently took great pleasure in telling their obnoxious sales reps to go F***k themselves during one ol their frequent calls harassing me to pay them thousands of dollars to have my profile “boosted” in their searches.

    Because there are so few designers with positive things to say about getting leads from Houzz, I’ve been convinced for a long time that Houzz opened up their algorithms to a few designers in each region, so they would get business and then be defenders and ambassadors for the site based on their experiences. I may be wrong, but it is highly suspicious that there are so few pros with anything good to say about their sizeable investments with the site.

    I also have heard from a number of designers Who feel that the “leads” they got from Houzz after paying thousands of dollars, were fake. Each lead would never answer their calls, never respond to e-mail to discuss their projects, or otherwise present themselves as real people. This is just hearsay, but there are enough comments like this that certainly gives one cause for suspicion. I’m so glad that I never got involved with Ivy.However honorable those founders may have been when they developed the site, it seems pretty clear that as soon as HOUZZ dangled the mulit-million dollar carrot under their noses, their integrity went out the window.

    I don’t have a whole lot of faith in karma, but I hpe the current outrage of the design community can put a dent in the HOUZZ sham. Good for you for putting it all out there. Oh, and petition signed.

    Cheers, Robin

  47. Laurel, Interesting post; I’ve been enjoying your blogs. The post raises a question I’ve often wondered about: Why is/should a designer be compensated by a manufacturer when the designer is compensated by the homeowner on an hourly basis? $500 for a coffee table order seems out of line with the time spent placing the order, tracking it (if need be), and perhaps seeing it again at the time of or after delivery (presumably another billable hour). I really don’t mean this in a snarky way; what am i missing? Thanks.

    1. Hi Julie,

      This is actually a very good question. But designers charge in different ways. Designers are not compensated by a manufacturer. They have a right to purchase at a discount. A far deeper discount than you, the consumer can purchase at. I did not charge an hourly fee, only the mark up which 99% of the time was less than what they would’ve paid.

      But here’s the other thing. There were dozens of times that I LOST money. One time I lost $15,000 and believe me, we didn’t have that money to lose. I went into a deep depression. And there were many other times that I lost thousands as well.

      I think I linked to some of the posts about the business of interior design, but I’m actually about ready to fall on my face. no sleep last night and I haven’t stopped typing all day.

  48. This is so disturbing. I don’t really know why companies like this still do these kinds of things when they are already big and getting good revenue.

  49. Hi Laurel,
    Thanks for the research and share. I’m not a designer, just a consumer of good design. However, I signed the petition because companies like Houzz take advantage of the labor of so many people in order to gain their own soaring valuations and ensuing investments. It’s typical and disgusting. I won’t shop Houzz in solidarity.

  50. Very interesting thread.

    I would recommend that everyone post the letter link on Twitter and instagram and tag Ashton Kutcher’s @aplusk, as he’s a major angel investor in Houzz. I really think he would be interested in the designers response to the changes in Houzz’ business practices.

    Public perception is everything for a start-up like Houzz and seriously affects their valuation.

  51. As a non-designer consumer, I’ve been wondering about Houzz’s business model for a while. It used to be the go-to place for “pretty interiors” and inspo. But as other commenters have noted, Houzz needs to work on its image QC. Many of the interiors are looking brown, dated and stale. Pinterest, Instagram and blogs like yours are much more attractive places to go fantasize.
    Now that Houzz seems more interested in selling stuff, it is in competition with Overstock, Wayfair – even Amazon – and losing. Those other sites offer far superior search functions and way better customer service.
    I just signed the petition with enthusiasm, and hope that Houzz adjusts its scammy business practices, but I’m not sure it matters because it might not be a going concern in a year or two…

  52. I’m afraid I’m going to expose a great deal of naïveté but this post has been very helpful in completing the puzzle. I came to Houzz via gardenweb, during the time when I was planning for a home build. Coming from gardenweb, I straight up didn’t understand Houzz. It was like Pinterest with home inspiration but nobody was sharing any information and it was beyond frustrating – <— there’s the naïveté/confusion. I was a consumer on a forum where people openly shared ideas/sources/plans and when Houzz acquired it I thought it was more of the same. It was completely opaque to the average me that houzz’s intention was to connect ppl with designers! If anything, it created the impression that designers are out of reach, expensive, and definitely out of state. 😛 So I’ve definitely been the tool asking where something is from in an image, bc I simply thought it was an extension of GW with open exchange of info. then they started adding price tags on everything but even lil ol me, a consummate googler, could tell the prices were nonsense and so much of it just looked like a foreign market knockoff!! Aaaannnyyyway. All that to say, it’s embarassing because I felt like I was drawn into Houzz for something they wouldn’t deliver, couldnt deliver, and (as I haven’t visited them in almost two years?) won’t ever deliver. Plus their push notifications have haunted me beyond understanding (disable!! Disable!!!!!). 😛

    1. Hi Cathlin,

      I love your assessment because it gives designers more clarity about the problems here. And part of the issue is that many designers are reluctant to give out info which I think is foolish. It DOES come across as snobby, unaffordable and elitist. I respect a designer’s wish to remain exclusive, but then don’t have a profile on a site like houzz! How are people going to know their expertise or trust in any way if they won’t share anything? And no, they don’t have to state where everything in the room came from, but if it’s a couple of questions, the designer comes across as nice and helpful. win-win.

      It’s possible that houzz got this complaint, however, and figured they would save the designers having to answer these questions. Except houzz’s answers in both paint and furnishings 98% miss the mark and sometimes by a ridiculous amount.

  53. Thank you once again for another great piece of research, Sherlock Bern!! Signed the petition wholeheartedly. These companies forget they’re supported by actual “people” with these things inside their skulls called “brains”. Awwwww….”Ben”. I see the gaslighting and spin has already begun!! I’ve been reading and loving your blog for ages, but this time I had to jump in. Kudos, Laurel!!

  54. This and your RH post are so eye opening!! Thank you for sharing.
    This is not closely related, but I’m curious to learn your evaluation of Wayfair and Chairish. I know you have recommended products from both in the past. However, I have read so many negative reviews, especially about Chairish.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      Well, anyone who looks at my hot sales pages will know that I’m fond of both companies but for different reasons. Chairish is by far, the best and largest source for vintage furnishings. But sometimes the vendors do sell on other platforms. However, you can usually offer a lower price on Chairish. I have a whole new page of vintage pieces, mostly from chairish.

      I just looked up some of the reviews. Of course, people are apt to leave negative reviews if unhappy. Some of the people don’t seem to understand that if it’s a large item, it can take several weeks to receive. It’s not “bad customer service,” just the way things work.

      And both companies have a clean, easy-to-use website. Wayfair has great deals and very good prices. I’ve never seen anything way over-priced on that website.

      But just have to say… welcome to my old world. This is a very tough business. There is a LOT that can go wrong and it’s not that people aren’t trying or are incompetent.

  55. It does sound awful, and I’m so sorry that I’ve been a Houzz addict as long as I have! I recall you mentioning you didn’t like how they did business, so appreciate the thorough follow up. I will sign the petition and cease and desist all Houzz activities asap! But where am I going to find my interior design porn?

      1. Okaaaayyyy. I have been reluctant to use Pinterest, because I don’t know why. But you have a deal, I will delete Houzz and take up Pinterest, I never want to hurt the little guy, and it really sounds like that’s what’s happening on Houzz,

        1. Pinterest has gone through changes too. It’s full of ads but you can delete them and it helps. There’s something for everyone and some exquisite interiors that you would never find on houzz.

  56. Thanks so much Laurel for speaking up.

    I had contacted the Ivy team directly to share my grave concerns and that I would be leaving at the end of my subscription …

    Seems like you have to be a PHd to understand what the “internet” does to you.

    Very best,

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      I remember a time when it all seemed completely daunting. And while I would never call myself a geek, I know enough to be dangerous to those who have nefarious agendas. But I learned what I know over time as things came up. Most of it is not very difficult at all.

  57. Across all platforms,these shenanigans are going on.Sometimes monetized bigly (like Houzz or FB or Cambridge Analytics),sometimes small,sometimes just plagiarism for reputation. (end goal may be to monetize) There are bloggers copying the exact and sometimes very famous words of others as if they wrote them; a seller on e-bay of “spoonflower printed ‘Quadrille’ fabric; copies of purses done so skillfully that the experts can’t pick them out; every item under the sun available through Amazon or Walmart…including E.J.Victor. (When that last came up in a search,I howled. Can’t recall if it was laughter or with pain.) It is the Wild West and the Silicon Valley mantra “move fast,break things” is still ascendant no matter the reports to the contrary. For internet users and all consumers,I have coined a little phrase: CAVEAT EMPTOR. Just came to me this morning. Maybe when I saw something on Houzz at a wildly inflated price. Keep fighting the good fight,Ms. Bern. But save energy too for all the beauty that surrounds us and that you so often bring.

  58. I have just unsubscribed from Houzz, added my name to the petition, and look forward to someday hiring a great designer. Keep up the good work!

  59. Thank you for another well-researched piece, Laurel, as disappointing as it was to read. I haven’t been a fan of Houzz since it bought GardenWeb, which I found very helpful and an enjoyable place to spend time and learn more about interior design, kitchen design, etc.

    I hope one day you can do a post on Wayfair — not sure how the US version works, but the Canadian version,, has a number of items with made up model names and manufacturer names. I stumbled across this because while building a house, I got to know various light fixtures from the manufacturer websites. But I’ve found this for both lighting and furniture, and now just do a Google image search. The maddening thing is that at least for more remote areas of Canada, Wayfair is often the only, or the best-priced source, for certain home furnishings. And it’s hard to beat that free shipping. I just wish I knew why they’re making up model and vendor names.

    1. Hi Becky,

      I very much like the US Wayfair, now some Vendors do not divulge their sources and this is across the board on the internet. They are trying to avoid getting shopped and who can blame them? After a while, if you look long enough, you’ll get to know the product lines of your favorites and will recognize them.

      They are not claiming it as their own product, just saying private label or something. My trick is to put the photo in google images and usually, some vendor is carrying it and stating who the source is.

      1. Horchow doesn’t list the manufacturer, either, but when my furniture arrived (white glove delivery) the manufacturer was on the boxes 🙂

        At the furniture show in Las Vegas, I never did see that manufacturer over the years, but a lot of manufacturers don’t show at Vegas and are only in North Carolina (which of course were the companies I was looking for; the piece in my living room from Horchow was U.S. Furniture, but I also never saw Henredon or Lillian Vernon represented in Vegas).

        We also ran into another problem before, which was that some companies will only sell certain styles east of the Mississippi. If you live in the west, you can’t even order every item from their catalog! (And once in the showroom, which was rather disappointing; we went to order a piece and were told that there are no exceptions; they don’t ship that piece west of the Mississippi.) It seems that all of the good, classical styles are only for the eastern consumer. Apparently, people in the west aren’t allowed to have good taste . . . .

        Google imaging does work. You may eventually find the manufacturer’s site, and they can lead you to know who sells their products in your area.

        1. Hi Brandy,

          You bring up some great points. Private labeling is a practice that almost every online site does that carries multiple brands and that is absolutely fine. What isn’t fine is claiming to be the manufacturer (when they are not) and fraudulently making claims that something (the licensed product, not what they are apparently ripping off without a license to do so) is eco friendly and made from sustainable materials, whether it is or it isn’t by the licensed manufacturer which is not them.

          Plus, Horchow and other sites like Wayfair, etc are not screwing over designers promising them more clients and then making it so that they can’t rank as high as they should locally on their own websites in search results.

          About the last part. I have never heard of a company that won’t ship west of the Mississippi. But even if they do, all you need to do is ship it to a receiver east of the Mississippi, who does. And I used at least one delivery in North Carolina who ships all over the country. Ahhh.. that’s the problem. Companies to the trade almost never ship their own products, ANYWHERE. You have to arrange it with a shipper and there’s usually an interstate delivery to a receiver and then the local delivery. Shipping and handling is expensive!

          And I use google images about 40 times a week, or more. No exaggeration!

  60. Laurel ~ Fabulous article for the consumer and us designers. I am new to the design field (graduated at 50, (2) years ago), but old to the industry as my first company is a custom cabinet shop with my husband, (let’s be real I am just the book lady and pr gal, The Woodman does all the work) that has a Houzz Pro site, that will be severed this week.

    I have one experience with IVY as in Interior Designer, and it was awful. The sales contact was pushy, outright lied to me, then basically insulted how my business would grow because I was not going with IVY. I went with Mydoma, love them and was thrilled you gave them notice. Did I mention I love them!?!

    Now then let me get to the meat of Houzz and first hand experience having a Pro Site.

    For 3 years I have had a point of contact that was there to assist in helping you keep your account updated. I could count on once a year a phone call for signing a contract for the next year, reviewing my account and offering assistance. My contact would help with uploading pictures, which CANNOT be watermarked by your company. They would assist with key words and getting your client to leave a good review. The idea was how get the most from your Pro membership and how to get Houzz Pro of the year badges. Badges are given out based on pictures uploaded, and client reviews and free advice given.

    For two years they were great, it was easy advertising for us and great place to refer clients to as our website is way to complicated for adding information too. We are currently changing that. We were not expecting big projects out of Houzz, we used it as a platform to keep our name out there in the awkward market we live in. Eventually our company phone number was taken off of Houzz and they assigned us a number that rolled into our company line so that we could have a recording, follow up on information etc… I don’t like it, at all.

    This past fall I did not get my “sign a contract” call. I have heard nothing from Houzz. ZERO. When they bought IVY, dead silence to Houzz Pro community. No major announcement. Before late last fall I could count on being invited at least once a month to a Houzz Educational seminar. That is no longer offered.
    About a month ago the phone calls to us changed once again. It now gives me message, if I don’t answer, that I have missed a call from a potential client. Houzz had not reached out to us via email, phone or any other way to explain the changes going on. I am in the dark. If an inquiry is put in from a potential client and I do not respond within an hour through the site, I get multiple emails about the client I am missing, even when the inquiry comes in at 9pm on a Saturday. The qualifying questionnaire is far from qualifying and very vague.

    As Designer, the Trade Program is exactly what you described and how I found out about the lack of true discount was sitting with my website developer and having her price items as a consumer while I priced as a designer. A complete joke. What I have found is the amount of product now going through HOUZZ is astonishing. It is almost the Google of product finding, but then I find the source and laugh because I have trade accounts with the source and match for prices. My contract is a split on the savings. So if it retails at $1000 and I can get it for $500, my client pays $750.00. As a source for finding retail prices it can be helpful. That said I have watched their prices change on products within a (2) week span. LOL

    Needless to say Monday is coming and Houzz is going, and I signed the petition weeks ago through another platform.

    And Yup, I just gave TMI…

    1. Oh, not too much information at all, Suzi. In fact, these corroborations are exactly what I was hoping for as they augment and strengthen the points in the post. And great that you’re working on creating a content management system for your website. I had the other too and it just sat there. And that is death to a website. It needs to be constantly changing so that Google knows that something is going on.

  61. Laurel, thank-you for bringing this issue to our attention! Houzz must be held accountable for their dishonest business practices. I used your link to the Houzz Better Business Bureau account…OMG! The letters left by both disgruntled consumer purchasers and professional service providers were consistent in presenting a picture of a company with an unethical business model. Even the “positive and neutral” letters were actually negative reviews, as well. And yet the BBB still gives Houzz an “A” rating? I will no longer trust BBB, either.

    1. Unfortunately, BBB is a sham too. Actually with BBB all you have to do is pay for the “A+” rating. It doesn’t matter if you have any good reviews or not. Several years ago they called me about this and said they were selecting highly rated companies to be “Accredited”, you only had to pay $500 a year. When I didn’t sign up, they took all my info off their site. I found a “competitor”(and I use the term loosely) who has hundreds of negative reviews and complaints on there. Not one single good thing, but they have an “A+” rating. Money talks, sadly. The really unfortunate part about it is that consumers think these places can be trusted and are looking out for them and they are definitely not.

    2. I forgot to add that I have signed the petition and used the twitter link. Again, thanks for all you do to educate us!

  62. Dear Laurel, AMAZING POST!
    clear, well written and to the point.
    As a member of IDC, I too shared the petition and urge everyone to sign & genuinely hope something comes from it that changes the way Houzz uses us for their own financial gain.
    If you don’t mind I would add these thoughts to the Houzz situation:

    What started out as a great way to share our work and potentially be hired, is now a “hostage situation” of our images on which this platform makes money. With no permission from the designers, nor without any form of compensation.

    The “pretty images” people all enjoy, are a result of years of work and expertise, time and investment.

    Designers pay for the images not to mention the time in styling and taking them.

    Designers work out agreements with the photographers to allow them to be used.

    Houzz takes these images and tags them for advertising of brands. Brands that in most cases as designers, we do not support nor identify with, & in some cases they are brands that are blatantly copying those shown in the image. A “copy the look” sales pitch directed to the Houzz users – the consumers. The designers have no say, no shared compensation, and were Never even asked if this was acceptable. The brands that are being misrepresented also had no say.

    Ivy purchase : With all the purchases and client information stored in their database.
    Why have they made this purchase?

    Two reasons come to mind – 1/gain all the knowledge and access to purchases by region that designers have spent years!! (I MEAN YEARS) perfecting, and reasearching through countless orders, visits to trade shows, purchases that have gone bad, some that have gone well…)
    Endless amounts of $$$ crafting their trade, opening accounts, etc.. you get the point.

    This information is GOLD!

    The other reason may be to offer this platform to the consumer directly on Houzz, as a form of DIY tool – which would quite simply undercut the designers they are using to create a site to begin with!

    Leaving Houzz: many designers have complained, as I myself noticed the one time I tried, you are negatively impacted once you try and remove your entire Houzz library.

    So.. please sign this petition putting Houzz on notice.
    Asking them to pay attention and not “blackball” or hold our images hostage if we decide to leave the platform. They’re images that do not belong to them in any way!
    Thank you Laurel for your amazing post and solid research. This is a very tricky situation and hoping something positive comes from it.


    1. Wow! Thank you Jennifer and your comment really drove home the situation I merely touched on with the opium table. But that is happening to everyone’s images and every item IN that image. So, thank you for making that more clear. I only had a few pics up. I just took them down but can’t remove my profile without an admin. I wrote them. We’ll see. Maybe if I put up some porn and profanity, they’ll remove it? LOL

  63. I never liked Houzz–I found the search function clunky and found little variation in their images. As for why Ivy sold to them, that’s probably an easy guess–money. This post was a nice expose (no accent available alas!).

    1. Definitely all about the $$$ And Lee Rotenberg was completely cagey on Nick May’s podcast about how much it was sold for. Actually, she should’ve declined the interview, IMO. Didn’t go well. PR snafu.

  64. Hi Laurel,
    I read this post with so much interest because I have LOVED Houzz over the years but have been so frustrated with it recently. It has been so helpful to me, as a non designer muddling my way through various remodels. As you well know, there are endless details in a kitchen remodel and a picture is so helpful to those of us that are visual people. I have used it to hone in on the exact tile, grout color, cabinet pull, etc that completed the look I was going for. It is so handy to have all those images that you can save and compare and scrutinize….that being said, I have become so frustrated by all the ad’s! I also find the misleading tags dumb. You find a light that you love and hit the tag and it shows you 10 lights that are NOT the one pictured. It gets less helpful when it concerns a paint color – the suggestions are stupid.

    I have not bought anything from Houzz. I did find a light fixture I really liked but the size was wrong. I went to the source listed on Houzz and found it in a larger size and bought it. The price listed for the smaller fixture was the same on Houzz as it was on the retailers web site.

    All that being said, I still value the images. I think it is like Yelp and Angie’s list a little bit. Both of these were excellent sites to get real reviews UNTIL THEY RUINED IT BY SELLING ADVERTISING. Houzz is a bit different because it wasn’t a review site but I enjoyed it so much until they started selling everything under the sun and promoting local service people that were paying to advertise.

    I think it is horrible they are ripping off designs and copying them! I will sign the petition! Thanks for the great article.

  65. Laurel,
    It also goes without saying that HOUZZ bought and then essentially destroyed THAT HOME SITE!

    THAT HOME SITE was part of the Garden Web, and was a very friendly message-board type of online forum for home design projects, appliance buying information, gardening, decor, kitchen and bath design, and cooking.

    When we did a major kitchen remodel 15 years ago, I was able to become an EXPERT at appliance specs, learn basic layout and design principles, and research how real homeowners liked or dislike things from faucets to ranges to knobs and pulls. This helped me work easily with our contractor, subs, decorator, and to budget and plan a successful project.

    There was no selling, no product hot-links to sales sites, it was PURE USER CONTENT. Supported by pop ups, but otherwise free of sales content.

    Then it was purchased by Houzz, and all of that changed. Now it is filled with links to sales sites, there is little to no homeowner problem, other homeowners chiming in with helpful comments or solutions. Now it’s all merely sales content.

    I am grateful for all of the knowledge I have gained in the past and wish that the old site was around for my kids to use now that they are adults.

    Can’t there be room for both?

  66. When I started interior design study a few years ago, I thought a Houzz account would be a good way for me to follow what designers were doing, and eventually to feature my own work.

    I purchased several rugs and other household goods from Houzz accounts in August or September, and was pleased I had completed holiday shopping so early. I got confirmation of the orders, filed them, and relaxed.

    In DECEMBER I was notified, “Sorry, none of those items will be available, after all.” Not one of them–and from different vendors. I had to scramble like crazy to replace holiday gifts, and redesign areas around new rugs.

    Multiple attempts to shut down my Houzz account went unanswered, as did my complaints to customer service.

    I’m not sure what Houzz is, exactly, but it is definitely fraudulent, in my opinion.

      1. Laurel, if you can format this piece for Instagram, I will repost it. Let’s get the word out every way we can here.

        1. Hi Caryn,

          Okay! I did. There’s a graphic at the end of the post. I just posted on my insta and there’s a link to that under the image if you want to grab it that way. Or right click it and save. It can also be shared on all social media platforms. xo

  67. Wow. Who knew? Thanks for the detailed info, Laurel; as a consumer, it’s good to know what’s actually going on. My question is, though, how much money does Houzz make through their sales? I’m figuring that if you aren’t spending for the services of a designer, you’d not be likely to spend such big bucks for a sofa (etc.) with a generic manufacturer name, and sight-unseen at that. An $8500 sofa is a huge investment for folks like me, and I’m going to want to see it, or have a guarantee from someone reputable that it’s well-made, high quality, etc. Purchasing from a website at that price doesn’t fit for me especially when they take the actual designer/manufacturer name off the item. So who is buying from Houzz? Interestingly, I found Houzz and your site a couple of years ago when we purchased our house and I was needing guidance regarding decorating. Even before this I stopped browsing Houzz, but I read your blog (and search the older posts) every time you send one. Thanks for all you share with us!

    1. Hi Maryanne,

      Good question. But if the company was valued at 2 billion in 2014 and now it’s 4 billion, I would say a hefty cut. At least 30% and probably more. It’s houzz who should be making 3% and reinvesting it in their company! A designer brings in the business and only makes 3% to reinvest? That’s crazy!

  68. I loved the community and used it all the time for ideas and feedback. It somehow got swallowed up by houzz. . I can find it sometimes, sometimes I have to go through houzz. . Often I just give up.

  69. Laurel thank you so much for this post and taking the time to thoroughly describe and teach anyone who reads it about the practices at Houzz. I have signed the petition and find Houzz despicable. Love your room design by the way and am apalled that they STOLE it. The red walls, the coffee table and the feeling of warmth and cohesiveness are utterly charming. Wish you lived closer to North Carolina.

  70. I have had a HOUZZ account for a few years and I have never received one ounce of business interest from it. I refuse to pester my clients for reviews to get badges. Most clients want their designs protected anyway and prefer to not be in the spotlight.

  71. I started using home forums back in I think it was 2007 when I was redoing our kitchen. It was a fabulous place to exchange ideas and ask and offer advice. No ads, no heavy marketing, nothing but community of interested people. At some point Houzz took over that wonderful website, although it’s still active, you have to be subjected to all of the houzz ads and emails if you want to use it. I am constantly being bombarded by Houzz and it’s so frustrating, and I’ve never purchased a thing from it, and never will. I just don’t want to see go down with Houzz…but I’m signing your petition!

    1. Hi MacKenzie,

      I love the Garden Web too, but did not know its history. But it always seemed not to be part of the houzz premise and now, I see that it wasn’t originally.

  72. you rock Laurel!
    I never signed up for Houzz after being endless pursued, not for any extraordinary talents but for my $$$. felt it was too pricey and always wondered if that was a wise decision as all my competitors were on the site. thank you for the clarification!

    NOW…..sorry but I am about to make you feel poorly, put down that wine. As a retailer/designer, I can purchase pure wholesale. my price on Four Hands is $2,785.00!
    such robbers, in all regards

    thank you for this exploration, bravo!

    1. Oh Debra! Not at all! I figured that was about the wholesale price at Four Hands. And thank you for your disclosure. Designer net less a third is wholesale. That sounds right. And it’s fair too. Now, many companies like four hands, for instance Zentique, GJ Styles, etc. a designer can purchase at rock bottom wholesale. And some like Noir have a sliding scale depending on what’s ordered. All in all, though a designer should never go through a middle source if they don’t have to!

  73. Thank you for writing this. I am disappointed in the Ivy girls for selling to Houzz myself as they built a great brand and community and got greedy and took the big check without doing their proper research.

    I happened to have had worked at Houzz and it was a terrible experience. The man who run the Orange County office has previously a sexual harassment lawsuit against him about 2 years before I joined and the founders paid the girl out. He was a disgusting person and the majority of the people who worked they were clueless about how the interior design industry worked. It was all about the sale and getting people to commit to paying them.

    When they launched the furniture sales program they went about it in the same way and had no strategy and that is still clear to this day when you look at it. They would go in wayfair and one kings lane and just track down the vendors and harass them and provide empty promises to get their aggressive goal of millions of products on to the site.

    When the CEO came to visit quarterly they would do a town hall meeting and, I kid you not, not talk about the people who made Houzz- Houzz, or talk about metrics but who was engaged, pregnant, married or had a baby. As an ambitious educated woman my voice was not heard when I expressed my concerned and I decided to leave as I felt suppressed and demotivated. Sure they paid well- threw money at their employees just like they did Ivy- but I decided I rather make less and use my brain and grow as a person then be in that environment. All the people I personally know who work there hate it and don’t believe in what they are doing- which I think shows when you take a step back and see the company for what they are. I feel sad for all the designers I recommended to use Ivy now as they have been subjected to exploitation by Houzz.

    Laurel- thank you for taking the time to put this message out. It needed to be said and you are brave to go up against a giant company like Houzz.

    1. Oh wow! Mary! I was hoping I would get lucky and someone who was on the inside would comment. So, thank you for this most interesting look inside the giant. None of it surprises me in the slightest. There is some speculation that the Ivy merger was all set from the get-go. If so, then their comments on FB would be most disturbing to me. The whole thing is really a shame. It could be a wonderful website, but the way it is… no.

  74. Yep – I became suspicious of Houzz a long time ago and felt they were irrelevant beyond a few articles of interest. They are not a worthy vendor at all ( maybe even evil ) and you are my hero once again, Laurel, for outing them!! Definitely signing whatever you want me to.

    I’m an amateur decorator and live to hunt down bargains any way I can. I have to since I’m constantly “refining” spaces. It’s my artistic and creative outlet. I’m big on resale shops, antique stores, flea markets and eBay. Not everybody has the time to go running around doing their research and designers like you that have a proven track record are golden when it comes to being of assistance. Experience in things like determining the size of the rug and scale of furniture is so crucial. I want to make it easier for you and other talents to succeed!

  75. Thank you for this great post and all of the research! Ugly truth, indeed. Certainly they are being unethical at best, but how it’s legal remains a mystery. I have signed the petition and curious to see if, when and how they’ll react to the outrage of the community they claim to support.

  76. Great detective work. I’ve enjoyed many of their articles and of course the pictures and ideas. I too have noticed a change in “tone”. When you click on a tag you no longer go to information on the piece that was actually used…now it seems to be advertised items.
    I’m afraid they have just lost my interest. Thank you.
    Greed does many companies in.

    1. Well, you’d have to put up an image and I’m fine if you use one of mine. Then in your caption talk about the post and then put the link in your profile. And also please at me @laurelberninteriors – I’m pretty sure that you know that, but not everyone does. I’ve been so delinquent on insta. it’s a bit much sometimes.

  77. Just another thought about the HENREDON Mark Sikes design knockoff. Henredon should take this very seriously as a customer of Henredon wouldn’t want to think they could possibly see a knockoff of their furniture elsewhere that someone paid a fraction of what they’re paying top dollar for!

    Such things start small and get worse, if consumers have to worry about knockoffs not getting stopped then they’re going to think twice about buying into the brand. Can you imagine buying a $10,000 piece and seeing it as a copy (albeit lesser quality but same look) in another store or someone’s home, finding out the price was a fraction! OY!!!

  78. I’m going to start with another, WOW! as several others have. Thank you for having the guts (or… 😉 to expose this crap. I had no idea HOUZZ was so unethical, although not surprised as this is the kind of thing going on. I AM also surprised at the degree of what they are doing that is unethical and so detrimental to the very source that made them what they are. All Designers should LEAVE Houzz! I actually have note to “setup Houzz site” on my calendar, well forget that! Same thing for Facebook, they too HAVE RIGHTS to ANY PHOTOS POSTED THERE!! There was a huge uproar in Photography communities initially, but people forget and/or are naive, thinking it’s no big deal. Well, this all IS a big deal, there is so much theft of design, ideas, and out right copyright violations going on. Very frustrating in our social media oriented world. What’s most scary is while there are laws, these huge well known organizations/companies (HOUZZ, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, etc., etc.) are all getting away with it, like the laws are a big joke! Apparently the violations are so wide spread the law can’t even keep up with it, and so it goes!

    Good to hear about the Designer creating a group based on her Website instead of Facebook! I will sign up!! Everyone needs to do that. I am not on Facebook, similar to the Houzz issues, they take rights to our images, dictate what we do, and are very controlling trying to force their political and other platforms on FB members accounts. People have been very naive when it comes to what Facebook does and accesses. I won’t deal with them.

    Your “EXPOSE'” of HOUZZ is very beneficial and I hope Designers and consumers alike will share the info with others. I’d like to see them fail, they could if enough Designers (ALL!) leave Houzz, but like FB, too many people either aren’t aware of or just don’t grasp the severity of all this stuff.

    This is big, Laurel, and to say you haven’t even said it all is just amazing. My stomach was literally turning reading one thing after another, after another. Everyone needs to COPY your BLOG post to not only tell others, but have your documented examples to show the vast discrepancies in pricing and prove their discounts are a joke! Too many consumers or even clients think they can DIY or work partially with a Designer, bypassing us to get even better pricing, this really clears that up if we can get the word out and show people what reality is! Not to mention what happens if they make a mistake, have problem with the order, damage, wrong size, etc.! Working with a Professional Designer eliminates that, we take the responsibility, we do this all the time and know the proper and RELIABLE sources. We know how to measure and determine what is right for a client’s space. And we can get better pricing.

    Keep up the fantastic work you do on this blog giving the straight scoop for consumers and designers alike! I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this one!
    You are like a one woman army, Laurel! We will all be your troops! 😉

  79. Laurel, thank you SO much for sharing this! You did wonderful work gathering all the information and exposing them. I would love to see designers join our Interior Design Revolution group as well as IDC- we are an action based group with a focus on bettering the perception of interior designers. We are doing this by banding together and DEMANDING respect from one another and the companies we work with. Please join us, Laurel- we need your strength! The authors of the petition are all members of this group and it was a joint effort between our group and IDC 🙂

  80. Some of the issues you site are common data entry or systems issues for an ecomm site. Others are common problems for a site with a partner program. You will see a lot of these issues on Amazon, Walmart, etc. Working in ecomm myself, I can say it takes an enormous effort and is very expensive to assure better quality than this. I think with Houzz it’s likely the issues are due to their immaturity as an ecomm platform and a pushy sales team that formed because of scaling risks, rather than a true lack of regard for the community. Nonetheless, the points about their quality issues are worth noting and their business model’s pressure is eroding the overall satisfaction with the service.

  81. I have signed the petition. Thank you Laurel for educating us on this and so much more. So glad I found your website and blog. Following your advice I have learned so much and saved so much money. Thank you.

  82. Well, there you go again, Laurel! We’ve been hearing all of the noise regarding Houzz and Ivy but, to the best of my knowledge, you’re the dear one who impeccably broke it all down so we could make informed choices for ourselves. I am in awe of your writing, educating, decorating style, honesty, and balls. And, of course, humor. Haha, Davida! Thank you so much for putting such time and detail into your posts. XOXO

    1. What GINA said. Incredible article. Just because something isn’t technically illegal doesn’t make it ethical or honorable. Well done Laurel!

  83. Laurel, you did it again by posting this well documented exposé on what’s really going down with Houzz. I’ve not used them as a resource for purchases or inspiration because their site just looks cluttered to me. And do you know, Google ads for Houzz were peppered throughout the body of your post today!!

    1. ugh about the ads. So sorry. I can’t control what people see. But fine. It’s a kind of poetic justice. Let them spend their money advertising on my site!

  84. Wow and thank you. I’m not a designer but love design. I’ve signed your petition and have deleted the Houzz app.

  85. Hi Laurel, I just signed the petition. I stopped looking at Houzz several years ago. I grew weary of sifting through the muck to find a beautiful picture for inspiration and then to see people’s nasty comments bashing the designer because he/she wouldn’t give the specific paint color (rightfully so) that the client paid for. This post was very thorough and insightful . . . But not surprising. And I am still trying to get over the $30 offer for a written article. As a side note, I love your posts and witty sense of humour. You have a very unique way of making one feel like they are sitting across from you having a conversation over coffee!

    1. Thanks so much Penny. Believe me, I was a little nervous when I hit the send button. After all, this TOO is the internet and I take very seriously any allegations of wrong-doing. But houzz needs to know that we’re on to their tactics and will not be treated in this manner. Whether we are on their platform or not, they are hurting our industry on many fronts. And that is not something that will be tolerated.

      And NO, Ms. Rotenberg, if you’re reading this – My words are NOT about “fear-mongering.” I’m in the business of TRUTH MONGERING! For anyone else reading this and thinking that I’ve completely lost my marbles, this is in relation to Lee Rotenberg’s (co-owner of Ivymark) insulting whine-fest on Nick May’s The Chaise Lounge podcast (linked in the post) where she rudely accused him of “fear mongering” at least half a dozen times. Too gross!

  86. WOW! What an eye-opener! Thanks Laurel for posting this. As a new designer, it’s already hard enough navigating the business side of things and narrowing down companies you want to work with. I’ve been seriously considering both IVY and HOUZZ, but no longer. Such a shame that big companies like this have taken advantage of so many already. Petition signed!

    1. Very happy to help Sara. I don’t like having to be the heavy but I also don’t like to see hundreds of thousands of designers getting trounced by a bully pretending to be something it’s not.

  87. Well Laurel, this was a lot to swallow with today’s morning coffee ! Your Davida did provide some levity and a smile. I only browse Houzz to look at photos for ideas. I am not an interior designer but if it will help, I’ll be glad to sign the petition. It seems to me that what they are doing is highly unethical and just plain not nice.
    Also, I wanted to say, that was a beautiful photo of you and your mother that you posted last week. She looked happy and content in your company. I was too busy to comment last week as I am preparing to visit my own mother soon. She too is a real gem and also just turned 95. She lives in the UK and I do my best to care for her “remotely”, plus I visit when I can. Thank goodness for Face Time and Skype. I’m glad you had such a nice visit with your lovely mother.

  88. Wow, Laurel, you sure have opened our eyes to some of the shenanigans going on in the design business, to the detriment of the designers whose talent fuels the business, and with the consumers as the ultimate losers. I have noticed many times in the computer industry how supposedly user-friendly companies start tightening the noose once they become powerful enough. But what Houzz has done is simply despicable.

  89. Laurel, well, this was a lot to swallow with morning coffee today ! Your Davida provided some needed levity and a smile . I am not an interior designer, I just occasionally browse Houzz for their photos but if it will help I would be happy to sign the petition. It appears to me what they are doing is highly unethical . Also, I just wanted to say, that was a beautiful photo of your mother and you last week. She looked happy and content in your company. I didn’t get a chance to comment because I am busy preparing to visit my own mother who just turned 95 also. She too is a gem, but she lives in the UK so I do my best to care for her “remotely” and visit when I can. Glad you had such a nice visit with your mother.

    1. Thank you so much Maggie. I always enjoy your comments. My mom has a lot of difficulty communicating and understanding but still, I knew that she was so happy that I was there. She won’t remember it, but in the moment, it meant a lot to her! I hope that your Mom is doing well. People age so differently. I was speaking to a friend of my Mom’s who is 89 and she sounds the same to me as she did at 52 which is how old she was when I met her.

  90. Wait, I’m not done. It gets worse! I eagerly await two home improvement posts weekly. One from Houzz magazine, and the other from Laurel Bern interiors. What else does an amateur need?

  91. This is disappointing to read. I assumed pros willingly submitted their images for advertising purposes. I have purchased several home improvement products and have found them to be stellar. Their prices are better and delivery is faster and more reliable than Amazon. When my bathroom is finially finished, I am hoping to put pics of it up on houzz with my architect. I’d be flattered to see it there.

    1. No, we did not willingly put up our images for advertising purposes, for houzz, that is. Nor did we give them permission to link to products, often inferior to the ones in our photos for the general public. But yes, that is the danger of giving an online entity control of our intellectual property.

      I have ordered from Amazon dozens of times and never had a problem. Conversely, the reviews for customer service for houzz are shockingly poor. I’m just relating what I’ve read. If your experience has been good, then that’s great. For me, however, the trust is gone. If I see some items that are not kosher, how do I know as a consumer what is a legit product and what is not?

  92. Gina Donza

    I totally agree with Faxon and will be signing the petition.
    Laurel, I love your posts and thank you for exposing Houzz for what it really is.

  93. I’m so glad you gave us details on what’s happening. I tried their app a while back as a consumer… and didn’t realize that all my saved projects (room names and pics organized there and whatever else) were public and searchable…. I complained and deleted everything I could. It’s really such bad faith and so predatory.
    Adore the blog. xo

    1. Hi Katherine,

      Thanks so much! More evidence that they don’t care about things like privacy. That’s one reason why I love pinterest. You can have secret boards for yourself, clients, groups, whatever. It’s awesome.

  94. Laurel, I just LOVE this piece. I know it was impossible and that so many of the things Houzz is doing is a betrayal to both designers and consumers and that it was impossible to fit it all into one post. Don’t get me started on their Benjamin Moore Paint color selector based on pictures! GAG! I LOVE that you included the screenshots of the IvyMark founders comments about Houzz pre-purchase. Wonder what Houzz will think of that…. The thing is, it is just one indication that IvyMark was building this feeling of community for designers. They had a place to share very personal business information and it is no wonder that they feel betrayed now that that information belongs to Houzz.

    Based on all the underhanded business practices Houzz is committed to, I would highly recommend no designer ever use IvyMark. There is no reason an online retailer should have deep information about your business. If you ask me, they are just one step away from acquiring an eDesign company where they may just handle design themselves… and who do you think they will be passing off leads to then?

    Our new community will be working hard to educate designers about what they can do with their own websites. I know you and I both feel strongly about this. Own your own site first. Put your time in there because it can not be manipulated by anyone and can even outrank Houzz locally if you get clever about it.

    1. Hi Laurie! So happy to see you here in my digital salon which is standing room only and I’ll get you a drink after I put on my oxygen mask! Yes, the color app! That was part of the “there’s a lot more.” It’s a total farce and just makes houzz AND Benjamin Moore look a bunch of nincompoops who can’t create an app that actually works. Nice idea, but it’s not possible. I proved it in this post I did a while back.

      And it is not that difficult to outrank houzz. I’ve been doing it for at least three years. But designers do need to have blogs and some other things that I’ll be presenting in my guide coming out next month!

  95. I haven’t liked Houzz for years. When they prohibited you from using Pinterest to pin a photo it practically stopped me from going to the site. On occasion I will find a photo there – screen shot it- and then upload to an inspiration board on Pinterest. I always thought it was just them shooting themselves in the foot. That was the early indicator and now all this…sad. They should be sued and go to jail. After all what is the difference between them and Bernie Madoff, or anyone else stealing for that matter!? Love you & love your candid and honest approach.

    1. Yeah, their little web code is another one. Another way that people are to be sure and give them lots of link love. Sometimes in searches I’ll be shown an image from houzz and yeah… that’s what screenshots are for. But I always credit the ORIGINAL SOURCE! The designer!!! And when I rename my screenshot, I put the designer’s name in the “name” of the photo. Very helpful for it lives on and gives SEO credit to the designer too!

  96. Hi, Laurel,
    A reader not a designer. Love your informative blog and wit! I have been a Houzz collector of photos for years, benefitting from designers ideas from around the country, and thankful to see the great talent. It is abominable what Houzz is trying to pull on y’all. Would this be an intellectual rights issue? Like writers and artists, their creative work is considered intellectual property? Collectively the design community might have a way to fight them legally through that avenue, if you ban together. I signed the petition. You are a treasure. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us!

    1. Hi Tahma,

      I don’t want to link to houzz but if you go to httpscolon//wwwdothouzzdotcom/termsOfUse and put in the proper symbols : and . you can slog through their Terms. Believe me, when one uploads anything to their site, they are basically signing their life away! That image is THEIRS! So, while not a legal violation, there is a clear ethical violation as of course, what designer would post a pic of their beautiful work that a client paid a lot of money for and then houzz posts two dozen (often vastly inferior) “similar” items in an effort to entice someone to buy off of YOUR photo? Well, you get it. But the other thing is that a client could see those pieces and think that they are the same thing they bought when they are not and get mad because the price is lower.

      Of course, sometimes the price is way higher!

    1. Bully is the right word. I had just moved when they got heavy with me. I was so not in the mood for that, I just can’t say. I’m so sorry that happened to you and you are not the first person I’ve heard a similar story.

  97. Hi Laurel, I’m with you…I dislike all these types of companies. Now every time you search for a product, Amazon is “selling” it, Walmart is “selling” it, Sears is “selling” it. No, they are not! I’d prefer to work with the company directly or a reputable dealer. Also, did anyone notice that the BBB gave Houzz a rating of “A” when 85% of customers gave them a negative rating?!!

  98. Thanks, Laurel, for sharing this information. During our renovation, my husband, who is a research savant, mentioned to me that Houzz was fairly worthless. He could always find the item for far less money elsewhere. I didn’t know they were ripping off designers as well! I’m happy to sign the petition. Anything we can do to help designers is worthwhile.
    Seems like the whole industry business model for designers is changing. Maybe there’s a post in that for us “junior designers”(non-pros)?

    1. Hi Bobbie,

      Yes, the internet has hugely changed the way we do business. But designers also have trade access to furnishings that they didn’t have two decades ago. I believe firmly, that there’s room for everyone. As long as the playing field is even and with houzz doing business as they have been, it is not anywhere close to being even. The company actually isn’t very old and it might be that they just got too big, too fast for their britches.

      Or, they have some inept people on the team that need to go. Who knows? But they do need to make some changes and then we can all be one big fairly happy family.

  99. Good sleuthing, Laurel. There was always something about Houzz that turned me off. It just didn’t seem kosher to me. Guess I was right. I signed the petition. There are so many organizations that try to take advantage of designers and wanna-bes. It’s a mine field out there. Good for you for shooting this down. They are sleazy in every way.

  100. Thanks for the eye opener. I too had heard the complaints but did not know the extent. It’s disgusting.

    At the end they don’t care about the designers nor the consumers, but their own pocket. It’s an online business with an antiquated way for doing business.

    Thanks again,

  101. Before I even got to the end of your post I was going to ask if you could a similar investigation into Facebook. You did such a great job with this one. FB gets you to buy Thousands of followers. Pay them ad money in exchange for folllowers. But then never shows your content to any of the contacts you just “bought” from them. Horrible. It’s like buying a stamp and the post office never delivers your mail.

    1. I don’t advertise on FB or buy followers. I tried a few times to advertise and it’s mostly a waste of $. But at least FB isn’t using our images to take business AWAY from us!

  102. Houzz has been stealing professional photographers work, without payments or credits, as well. They don’t even ask, they just take things. This is rude, gross, and just wrong.

    1. They say that anything posted means that the person posting has the rights to do so and then they have a license to use your images for whatever they say. All the social media platforms have similar language in their T&C. But yes, there’s using and there’s USING! And using to sell out from the person that posted and potentially take away their livelihood is too gross for words!

  103. I completely understand where you are coming from, but after 2 horrible experiences with ‘designers’ I can understand why people go to Houzz. The last experience, I was getting milked and fired her. This led to countless emails as everything on order was paid for by me put in her name. She charge 15% on top and hourly. The bills were outrageous and then I found out she was not a real designer. No affiliation at all. To the Trade needs to mean something. When people can lie and have false websites, how do they get the accounts? I guess it helps when yours husband is a general contractor and all you need to do is provide a few tradesmen you work with.

    Your business needs regulation to protect the consumer.

    1. Hi Ann,

      Ohhh, I’m so sorry about your bad experiences, however as someone whose been in this business since 1988, have to say that being licensed is no guarantee in not having the same things happen to you and worse. In fact, the woman who owns Eco First Arts (the furniture design thief) is licensed up the wazoo, she claims on her website. She’s like a bank robber who goes into a bank unmasked at high noon and then poses for the security camera!

      But, clients need to be educated too! I don’t know what her 15% is on top of, but if she’s getting her merch at a discount and the discount she’s entitled to, her mark-up could be 50%-100% or higher and you would STILL be paying well below retail.

      Interior design is BALL BUSTING WORK! And damn it! She deserves to make a good living! I’m not saying that she wasn’t screwing you over but a 15% markup is a pittance. If she was charging 15% over retail, and paying retail, herself for everything, then yes, she’s an idiot who has no idea what she’s doing.

      Being a designer takes a lot of skills that design schools do not teach and no amount of regulation can ensure. I recommend that clients educate themselves to some extent and should get references and lots of them!

      I think that these posts are very helpful for both clients and designers alike.

  104. oooooooh …. I’m mad (I’m a customer not a designer). Will sign and will NEVER purchase from houzz – ever. I saw a lamp I liked on their site the other day, found a better, cheaper one elsewhere. Now I will just skip houzz. thanks for saving me time & $!!

  105. WOW! I had no idea. I’m not an interior designer, but I’ll sign. I stopped looking at Houzz months ago anyway. I used to look at images on Houzz for ideas for my own house. There are some great images, but THERE ARE A LOT OF FUGLY IMAGES too, and I don’t want to waste my time weeding through them. I prefer to be inspired and educated by blogs of designers with good taste. Laurel, your cameo appearance as David is the most hilarious yet!

    1. Hi Sandy,

      Thank you so much for all! I realize that newer readers may not get the joke that I’m known on occasion to photoshop my face on famous works of art. It’s so much fun! I get to be someone else for a while! And it makes me laugh too!

  106. I’ll be happy to not only sign – but I will think twice before perusing Houzz after this!
    All I can say is that the prevailing attitude of ‘money trumps ethics and morality’ needs a strong push back!

    1. Sadly, yes it appears to be the case, not to mention suffocating GREED! The Cohen/Tatarkos needs a massive attitude adjustment. It appears that they have a delusion that we’re all a bunch of airhead pillow fluffers and won’t notice their ruse?!? Ha!

      Designers are SUPERB business people and need to wear numerous hats not inherent in most other businesses. If we have a failing it is in not always been tech savvy enough. Most designers will readily admit this. That is what I’m hoping will change. One rel=nofollow link at a time!

  107. Thank you, Laurel, for this most important and enlightening post. Yes, Houzz is incredibly infuriating at best and duplicitous at worst. I’ve had a profile there for quite a few years and have never gotten any inquiries except for free advice on where I sourced items shown on my photos. I will NOT pay for any of their services and find them self-serving and disingenuous.

    Certainly their policies have changed to the point that designers have less and less control over their intellectual property, but to see the blatant theft of proprietary design as you described it is doubly distressing. I’m sure they have an army of lawyers advising them so they are insulated against any legal action from any one designer.

    As a side note, last summer I was asked if I was interested in writing an article for them. Wow, what an ego boost–Houzz liked my posts so much that they want me to write for them! Haha, yes, and they’d pay me a whole $30 for my pearls of wisdom! Oh yes, and not only do you spend hours writing the article, you need to add photos and upload it to their site, a process as confusing as reading the IRS code.

    So yes, I will sign the petition, and hope for the best. Thanks again for being the voice of reason!

    1. Hi Diana,

      $30??? Oh, my sides are going to explode! My average post takes 11 hours to produce. This one took 24 including research and inserting my face onto Michelangelo’s David. Have to say that was a most enjoyable three hours. It would’ve been two, but I had to insert the T square in a strategic place. hehe Muscles okay, but the boy parts are a little too much, even for me! lol

      1. Haha, Laurel, apparently the only career less lucrative than being an interior designer is a writer!

        1. Hi Diana,

          Well, I’m doing pretty well. Actually, very well for which I’m immensely grateful! And some designers make 10 times what I’m making blogging. But most don’t. As a designer, I was earning roughly 80k a year after all of the vendors had been paid. Some years were better and some were worse, but that was the average.

        2. I’m very glad to hear you are doing well as a blogger–you certainly work hard enough at it. I thoroughly enjoy reading your entertaining take on design, and your visuals are beautiful.
          Unfortunately I wasn’t as successful a designer as you were, so I returned to my original career as an accountant, and now teach it in college. Much less stress, great benefits, and decent pay for the amount of time put in.

        3. Hi Diana,

          It is a very tough business! And I actually wouldn’t encourage anyone to go into it. It is exceedingly stressful. But I’m grateful that I have the years of experience to pull from.

    2. Wow, Diana, I thought I was underpaid when Houzz paid me $50/post! I did a half-dozen garden-related articles about 5 years ago. You bring the idea, write it, possibly do interviews, find the photos, fact-check, format it and submit for approval. Then you may or may not need to edit. I couldn’t do a post in under 8 hours. They wanted me to write for them again a few years later, for the same $$$!

      I don’t begrudge the founders making money from a great idea, but it has supposedly made them billionaires. It’s on the backs of a lot of underpaid people.

      1. BINGO! If they are using designer’s images to sell product then the designers should be making affiliate commissions on those products, but we aren’t. And next to nothing when we bring IN clients!

  108. I’d drop a line to Henredon’s corporate HQ. I’m sure they’ve got some lawyers there who would be interested to know about Houzz ripping off their sofa.

    I don’t know what the fine print says, but intellectual property and trademark laws are pretty hard to get around.

    I think all this Houzz hullabaloo validates your decision to build your own successful blog and brand. There are no shortcuts. Looking forward to your blog post on blogging.

    When I was a beginning blogger, people reached out to me to “share” my content on their big conglomerate websites, and I thought WHY? Why would I want to give you my content for free? Well, because it was supposed to build my brand, or link back to me, or whatever. But I thought all it does is DILUTE my brand. If people like my stuff, they’ll read it on my site.

    I’m sure it’s similar with the design world.

    Sorry about all the scammers. Ugh.

    1. Hi Tracy,

      Actually, I had to do a heavy edit on this post and it’s already probably a little too long, but Patrick Landrum that I mentioned has contacted Henredon numerous times and they are aware of the situation and have stated that the perp is not an authorized dealer. But hell, she’s not claiming to be. She’s claiming to be THE manufacturer which is very difficult for me to comprehend, as she’s using copyrighted materials to make those claims. And for dozens of manufacturers, not just the ones I mentioned. WHY no one has gone after her is a mystery.

      And yes, people ask me all the time if I’ll link back to them and they’ll link back so that I can have access to their audience of 10 people who are in a different galaxy. hahahaha! Yes, of course. Links start at $5,000 each. That shuts them up.

      1. I wonder if Henredon would respond faster if Patrick L. told them he was consulting an attorney about Henredon not protecting *his* design copyright?

        Or have his lawyer send Houzz a copy of his copyright.

        1. It’s actually Mark D. Sikes’ design. Patrick is a friend and interior designer who’s also good at detective work. We’ve joked that we should go into business together! Henredon did say that they were looking into it, but it sounds like they dropped the ball. Maybe this post will get it rolling again.

  109. Thank you Laurel for all that hard and intensive investigative work! I have been questioning HOUZZ for a year or so now and everything you just wrote has been validated. I have never purchase nor will ever purchase anything from them. Before this post, I always thought their prices were ridiculous and being a designer, why would I buy from them when I, like you, have trade accounts at most vendors. Sure doesn’t seem legal or ethical but….CRAZY Stuff!

    Signing the petition –

    Enjoy the rest of the weekend and I look forward to your next post!


    1. Hi Pat,

      Yes, indeed. Why buy from any intermediate source when one doesn’t have to? And a lot of young designers don’t realize that they don’t have to and are putting a huge percentage of their rightful income into someone else’s pocket! That’s the primary reason that I wrote Laurel’s Rolodex. But it’s also good for those not in the trade, just learning about sources they didn’t know existed.

  110. Hi Laurel. Thanks for all the investigation. This has been so confusing, and I think many of us are trying to just stay calm and collect all the facts without letting our emotions get in the way. Ivy’s platform has certainly been very helpful, but I know that Houzz is a completely unsavory business. Trying to weigh the cost/benefit of this merger.

    BTW — who is Laurie Laizure????? I joined the FB page, and I see that she is basically in my NH ‘hood! But not much info on the web on her business Customized Walls. Would be interested in connecting….

    Thanks, as ever, for the detective work! You should offer your services to the FBI.

    1. OMG!!! Laurie is a brilliant visionary who started the interior design community. That is her primary business now. Like me, I believe that she’s pretty much given up the hands-on part of design. No time! I believe that the website is going to have different areas. There will still be a private section for the trade, but also a public area for education and awareness.

  111. LOVED the Davida/Laurel amalgamation! We needed a little comedy before the tragedy you described.

    1. Thank you Carlene! I got the inspo for that walking to the grocery store a couple of weeks ago. It hit me right between the eyes and I chortled to myself all the way home thinking how buff I was going to be!

  112. Hi Laurel,

    Like you, I watched the uproar happen, watched the poo hit the fan when Houzz bought Ivy. It was a watershed moment. (I’ve always wanted to say ‘watershed moment’ but haven’t the right opportunity until now)

    I appreciate the examples you provided with numbers and product. You have used facts to paint a detailed picture of why so many are so upset. It’s an effective outline of the whole issue and what’s at stake for so many design businesses. Good job and thank you for the clarity.

  113. I have looked at Houzz to see beautiful photos and get ideas for my own home or just dream. I did not know they were STEALING from interior designers and their photographers. Would my name on the petition be of value, since I’m not an interior designer? I am outraged on your (you all designers) behalf and happy to sign if it would help.

    1. Hi Faxon,

      Yes please sign! All names count! Houzz appears to be going after the consumers. And yes, it’s gross to use our images to sell home furnishings and send off visitors to our profiles to look at pieces that sometimes bear little resemblance to what’s in the photo!

      1. Professional photographers of architecture and interiors still own their work, their payment is for their services not the photo. So the architects and designers who sign an agreement with Houzz do not have the authority to sign away the photographer’s work. Obviously I’m not a lawyer, but if designers can get the furnishing designers & manufacturers (Hendrendon etc) and the photographers and other associated professionals who are also getting ripped off to care- maybe it will take off BIG. I hope so!

        What is infuriating is that this platform could be a win-win for everyone except for …greed?

        1. Hi Faxon,

          Well, I take all of my own photos and I give myself permission. But some designers DO have rights to their photos and it says in Houzz’s T & C that all photos uploaded need to belong to the person putting them up or they need permission. That’s standard language. The problem is… who reads that stuff? Maybe one out of 100? If that?

        2. Thank you Laurel!!!!!!!
          Finally I feel justified for hating Houzz. One thing I can say is Houzz hires good conartists! I was one of the stupid people that signed up and lost hundreds on dollars. I complained all the time so they would give me another new useless account manager to help me make money. Well it never happened.
          I wasted days working on my Houzz account.

          Thanks for giving me a platform to get my anger
          Out. Glad I’m not the only one.
          Great article. Thanks,

          Ellen Sweet Moss
          decorative Artist

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
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