• home tour
    AT HOME AND AT WORK WITH EVAN ORENSTEN & JOSH RUBIN
    Founders of Cool Hunting, New York City
    Sept 16, 2014  |  BY TARIQ DIXON
    "It really just started as a personal archive of things that we were excited about. It wasn't meant to be anything else," says Josh Rubin of Cool Hunting, a website that now reaches over 2 million design enthusiasts per month.

    Founded in 2003 by Josh and his partner Evan Orensten, the couple's digital design journal caught the attention of like-minded creatives, quickly evolving the personal blog into a full-fledged media company. "Cool Hunting started as a blog. But by 2005, it was no longer a blog," says Josh, its Editor-in-Chief. The site never stopped evolving throughout all of its eleven years, with a seventh full-scale redesign scheduled for release later this month.

    But through all of its iterations, the site's differentiated voice has always remained consistent. An insider's guide to all things design, the website covers a range of lifestyle categories, but always with a unique slant toward process and innovation.

    As obvious design enthusiasts, we've looked to the website for news and inspiration, long before we were introduced to Josh and Evan by a former colleague. We had our first conversation with the couple while amidst a 15,000 mile road trip, driving in search of beautiful homes to feature on our (then forthcoming) site.
    Having stumbled upon scores of fascinating stories that didn't necessarily fit within the scope of our own site, Josh and Evan and Evan offered us a platform to share those narratives, as Cool Hunting guest contributors.

    Although we had chatted over the phone, we had never actually met Josh and Evan before visiting them this past summer. Excited to finally put faces to the names, we visited the couple in their Chelsea apartment, located a short walk from the Cool Hunting office.

    Warmly greeted by their two dogs, the couple recounts stories of items they've collected together over nearly two decades. Relics from grandparents, alongside an inspired contemporary art collection, and countless references to their much-adored dogs, Josh and Evan have created an inviting home that intimately tells their story as a couple, while showcasing their shared, but otherwise unique design sensibility.
  • I READ SOMEWHERE THAT YOU FOUNDED THE SITE AS MORE OF A PERSONAL BLOG?

    Josh: It really just started as a personal archive of things that we were excited about. It wasn't meant to be anything else. We both come from digital backgrounds, and it was easy for me to pull this thing together, so that we'd have this digital archive of design inspiration. But after two years, there was an audience, and advertisers and publicists - the whole media ecosystem kind of absorbed us. I left my last full-time job in 2005, and we decided to actually make it a proper business - to build an editorial team and find contributors in different cities.

  • DID YOU REALIZE ITS POTENTIAL AT THE TIME?

    Evan: I think we were always aware of the potential, but to be honest, it's not enormous. We like to think we're big in a small world - not big in a big world, haha. One of the main ways to make a website enormous is by blowing it out - turning it into Cool Hunting Moms, Cool Hunting Pets, etc. Potentially a great business opportunity, but it's just a very different franchise, and it wasn't in our hearts. When we decided that we would rather keep it as it is - more honest and genuine - it just felt right to us. We would rather have a smaller audience who reflect the kinds of people we like to hang out with, rather than a really broad audience that we're not connected to.

  • HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE THE VOICE OF THE SITE?

    Evan: Josh likes to say that there are no new ideas, just great execution. I feel the same way about content. There are only so many stories to tell, so it becomes about finding new ways to tell them. We're looking for an angle that speaks to innovation, creativity - to inspire you in some way. For a new sneaker, a sports publication may speak more to the performance of the product. A fashion publication will talk about ten different ways you can wear that sneaker. We're more likely to talk the people who made it and say, “Wow, you made a shoe out of single piece of knitted fabric? What was the design process like? What inspired you to get there?” I don't know that we succeed every single time, but we at least aspire to find an angle that speaks more about process, materiality, fabrication or manufacturing.

  • WHAT'S IN STORE FOR THE UPCOMING REDESIGN?

    Josh: There's a lot that you'll see in terms of the design itself, but the biggest change is a shift in our organizational structure - it's not as reliant on categories anymore. Right now the main categories are design, tech, food+drink, culture, style and travel - we'll still have those categories, but the main sections of the site will be much more action or activity focused. People to come to us, and sometimes they want to read something. Other times, they just want to watch a video. Other times, they're looking to buy something, or they're looking for our recommendations on what to read elsewhere on the web. The new site is organized much more around the user's motivations for coming to the site.

  • When we decided that we would rather keep it as it is - more honest and genuine - it just felt right to us.

  • HOW DOES YOUR WORK INFLUENCE YOUR HOME? DO YOU OFTEN COME ACROSS NEW FINDS WHILE ON THE JOB?

    Evan: There isn't much difference between work life and home life for us. Our business is based around our lifestyle. The office also looks like us, but the stuff here is more personal - things that we've taken from our families, or from traveling together - even things we've made together. We have a lot of photo booth pictures, a lot of stories, memories - bookmarks of where we've been, when we've been, how we've been...

  • HAVE THERE BEEN ANY MAJOR POINTS OF CONTENTION?

    Josh: No, we have very compatible tastes, but we'll sometimes have to push each other on certain things. Most times, we'll see some thing and both fall in love with right away. Other times, it takes one of us to eventually come around. Like the Lion. Evan found the lion in LA - I wasn't around at the time, and he shipped it back. The box arrived while he was out of town, and I was like, “I don't get it.” It took about a week for me to come around, although I still prefer the lion from a distance.

  • We have very compatible tastes, but we'll sometimes have to push each other on certain things...

  • We have a lot of photo booth pictures, a lot of stories, memories - bookmarks of where we've been, when we've been, how we've been...

  • There isn't much difference between work life and home life for us. Our business is based around our lifestyle.

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