My house needs a total makeover. Where do I start?

When Brent Hoberman has an idea for a new website, people tend to listen. Hoberman, 39 and Eton- and Oxford-educated, co-founded Lastminute.com, the shining mascot of the 1990s dotcom boom, with his good friend Martha Lane Fox, whom he met while they were working for Spectrum Strategy Consultants, a technology trend-forecasting company. Having made £26m from selling Lastminute in 2005, Hoberman was itching for a new project. Moving house provided it – he has just launched Mydeco.com, an online interiors venture.

During renovations at the home he shares with his wife, Genevieve, an interior designer, and their two small children (another is due any minute), Hoberman felt frustrated at how complicated it seemed to be to source the things they wanted to buy.

"My wife obviously knows what she's doing in these circumstances," says Hoberman, "but I had no idea what things should cost, why some things were vastly more expensive than others, and how to compare products on the market without traipsing from shop to shop." That wasn't the only frustration. "She would ask me questions such as, 'What sofa shall we have?' or 'What about this colour here?' or 'Shall we put this thing over here – or here?' and my problem was that I just couldn't visualise what she was talking about. It's often hard to know what you're looking for until you see it." Hoberman also noticed how friends would come to Genevieve to ask: "Where can I get great curtains made?" or "Where can I find an xyz?"

"I realised she had this invaluable address book that most people didn't have access to. That's when I thought there could be an internet service that helped solve these sorts of dilemmas." Having spotted a gap in the online market, Hoberman's response was MyDeco.com – a searchable website that features products from 500 retailers, all in one place. A Google for interiors, if you like. Though the site is also much more than that.

What Hoberman wanted to create was a one-stop shop where a customer could search across the market for, say, every design of children's wooden chair available, or red leather sofas with very specific dimensions. He also thought it would be key to be able to see what each item would look like in situ, before buying. To help make it happen, he gathered his former Lastminute cohorts, including Fox and David Kelly, who had since been the number two at eBay Europe. Some heavyweight interiors experts also came aboard, including Chloe Mackintosh, who had previously worked for Norman Foster; and Pia Munden, who was running Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen's studio. MyDeco was born.

Among the 500 retailers signed up to sell through the site are big names such as Argos, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, serious design stores such as SCP and TwentyTwentyOne and smaller chains or one-offs, including Graham and Green, Andrew Martin and The French House.

However, the site, at first glance, seems to have patchy quality control: the homepage doesn't exactly shout "stylish interiors magazine". There are plans to add 500 more shops to the roster. Hoberman is quick to explain. "We aim to have [the] top 1,000 retailers in the country," he says. "We won't accept just anyone who comes along." So you've turned some retailers away? "Yes," he says, "we have." And not just on the basis of quality of product, but also on customer service. "Delivery is the biggest problem," he says, "things not turning up when they should do, or not turning up at all." Taking a tip from eBay, retailers are also rated by users. "If the people using the site don't like a company, we'll get rid of them."

MyDeco is more than just a search engine for furniture. One of its most popular features is the tool you can use to create a 3D version of the room you want to furnish, dragging and dropping items from the site's shops. In line with the user-generated-content Zeitgeist, "the community" is key. Users are encouraged to browse other users' arrangements and profiles, as well as those created by the in-house experts, forming design-led social networks. You can ' even earn money if another user buys an item after seeing it in your "room". The site has enormous potential, though its multifaceted format is a touch overwhelming. "It's only seven weeks old, and still in Beta [trial stage]," says Hoberman. "We're getting feedback and changing things every day." That said, 20,000 virtual rooms have been created by users already.

Hoberman also hopes that people will start to associate shopping for interiors online with saving money – as is the case with CDs, books or travel. MyDeco may need to work a bit harder; one of its retailers, for example, is selling the Uten.Silo (a classically designed piece of storage) for around £37 more than several other shops, on and off-line. Still, the site remains a good place for inspiration and tips and bargains will no doubt materialise. If there is one thing Hoberman is very good at, it is gauging what his customers want.

One of Hoberman's favourite features is the "taste test", where you click through a series of images, picking favourites, to create a style blueprint which enables you to browse rooms, designers, profiles and products likely to appeal. "Have you tried it?" he asks. "It's really simple – and it works."

So what does his own home say about him? Well, that with three small children, fingers in several other pies – including being chairman of WAYN.com, a social-networking site for travellers – and an ever-buzzing BlackBerry, he is incredibly busy. And also that he is incredibly rich. Is it true that he has a gadget connected to his alarm clock which runs his bath before he gets out of bed? Hoberman grins like a schoolboy. "Yes! It's brilliant!"

Disappointingly, bargain automated bath-running gadgetry is not yet available on MyDeco. Not yet, anyway.

How to shop smart: 10 invaluable interiors sites

sourceantiques.co.uk
Reclaimed furniture and architectural salvage.

lighting-direct.co.uk
Among a vast collection you'll find decent essentials.

funkylittledarlings.co.uk
Fun children's wallpapers. Also offers bespoke design.

retrotogo.com
The best in 1950s and 1960s, plus links to retailers.

screwfix.com
Trade-price site sells screws, paint, tools and more.

doorchimesuk.co.uk
Why are doorbells frequently so naff? Not here, where you can buy a Jacob Jensen-designed digital one.

artscouncil.org.uk/ownart
Interest-free loans to help you buy contemporary artwork from over 250 retailers around the country.

dandys.org
The best selection of reasonably priced gravel, pebbles and feature stones for your garden.

architect-yourhome.com
Affordable expert advice, inspiration, or to-scale sketches.

greenhomesconcierge.co.uk
For £200 you get a HIPs-ready report that will rate your energy efficiency and help to get any relevant work done.

bathstore.com
Stylish bathrooms on a budget – and spectacular customer service.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015