Maybe you’ve visited a friend’s stylish and put-together house and found yourself wanting to own everything inside it, from their coffee cups to kitchen chairs.
In 2017, Denver entrepreneur Alex Ryden figured this out: People feel comfortable buying home furnishings in the context of a real home.
At the time, Ryden was working for a luggage company with bags available at boutique retail stores in a few major cities. But, beyond occasional sales, the company wasn’t getting much out of that in terms of brand growth. People didn’t necessarily remember seeing those bags after they left the store.
“I thought, ‘Let’s try to sell ourselves more,’” he said.
Ryden started selling bags out of his Denver house on the weekends.
Passersby and friends from the flea market scene showed up to shop. While inside, they asked, “What about the coffee table? What about the rug? Is that for sale?”
“They loved shopping the home,” Ryden says he noticed. “It was a more comfortable shopping experience to see what it would actually be like in a real home.”
He swapped out his possessions for items from local makers, providing a platform for them to sell their products in a home setting.
That’s when people started asking, “What about the house?”
And that was the start of Guest House Shop, which brings new life to shopping for home decor and to selling a house. In Ryden’s words, the company “combines retail and real estate.”
“Frankly, staging was just filling homes in a way that worked versus filling it with items that were interesting and high quality and had stopping power,” he said.
Those unique items, such ads ceramics, rugs, and original artwork, can help sell a house. Early on, Ryden staged a residence for sale inside Denver’s Four Seasons Hotel. Within 20 minutes, the place got an offer. Realtors were impressed. His doorbell kept ringing.
Guest House Shop went from staging one house a month around Denver to 20 houses a month. Ryden has since hired 14 interior designers, sourced more products from Colorado makers and partnered with more real estate agents, developers and homeowners. He’s started to expand into other markets, including Boulder, Fort Collins and some cities in California.
Now, Ryden has his eye on Colorado Springs.“We’ve seen Colorado Springs as a great opportunity to expand,” he said. “I think just in seeing who’s moving there, the growing makers scene, we’ve seen a lot of growth there.”
Guest House Shop will make its debut here with a $1.2 million house in the Cedar Heights community. The nearly 6,000-square-foot house was designed and owned by Maj. Gen. Joe Engle, the former NASA astronaut.
“Colorado Springs is our baby right now,” he says. “We want to use this home as an example: This is what we do, and we’d love to do more here.”
The local operation is very local. Ryden has partnered with Colorado Springs interior designer Alyssa Hill of Hill Interiors and Danielle Frisby, who owns the Cutting Edge realty group.
Guest House has filled homes with decor from Colorado Springs makers, and the move here means more of that. Some of Ryden’s favorites include BasCo Woodcrafting & Design and artist Emma Kelly.
Ryden says Guest House’s business model is set up to keep on growing.
“We set out to solve one problem, which was maybe selling enough products,” he said. “And we ended up finding a need much larger in the real estate world.”