A Q&A with the Co-Founders of Neighbor Outdoor Furniture

Neighbor is a new outdoor furniture business based here in Phoenix. It was founded last year at the height of the pandemic by Nick Arambula, Chris Lee, and Mike Fretto. all of which worked at Tuft & Needle.

They took their experience and combined their skills to create a company that reflected their shared values of craftsmanship, sustainability, and connection. Neighbor makes premium outdoor furniture and goods that are crafted for a long life outside with family, friends, and neighbors. Perfect for Arizona and our beautiful year-round weather.

Neighbor aims to create a seamless transition to underutilized square footage outdoors with furniture designed with indoor sophistication and crafted to withstand nature’s forces.

Their current products are made of sustainably harvested solid teak wood, the interior cushions made from weather-resistant and fast-drying foam, and the exterior cushion covers from life-proof Sunbrella® upholstery that will not fade.

The collection is designed to fit any space; its modular system enables any configuration.

The new Neighbor team gave an interview for AZFoothills.com on this new and exciting venture!

Please tell me a little bit about Neighbor and how the concept came together:

At the core of our story, there is a desire to be more present and connect, whether with friends, family, nature, or ourselves. 

The idea to launch an outdoor furniture brand had been swirling around in our minds for quite some time. Then when COVID was thrust upon the world, it hit us like a ton of bricks. Most of our homes were turned into a 24/7 restaurant, school, office, gym, and the list goes on. Our historically used spaces to recharge, relax, and refresh became a space of stress and constant demand. 

We all talked about how we found ourselves escaping outside to find some relief. After the fourth or fifth time we talked about it, we finally committed to building a brand that would bring customers beautifully designed, high-quality furniture built for a long life outside. We believe by helping our customers create their living room outdoors, they’ll find themselves making space for time with family and loved ones to make memories that will last a lifetime.

I also read you started this at the height of the pandemic; how was that experience?

Nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. It was a leap of faith to walk away from our jobs when it felt many things in the world around us were quite unstable. 

That being said, there is no doubt that the increased time at home for most of the U.S. aided in Neighbor’s launch. Our early sales have far exceeded our expectations. While we feel incredibly confident about our product’s quality and design, we know that a significant amount of category interest has been driven by people staying at home. 

What made you want to transition from more mattress sales and bedroom furniture at Tuft & Needle to outdoor furniture?

We’re excited about the outdoor industry for a few different reasons. 

First and foremost, there has been very little innovation or focus on the outdoor space while digitally native brands have been reinventing almost any product segment imaginable in the last 5-7 years. 

Second, we’ve already heard from our customers how the pandemic and nesting at home has forced many customers to rethink their own outdoor space. We don’t think the trend will end anytime soon. Once the world is back to a safer, more normal place, we believe that connecting with loved ones will be cherished in ways it wasn’t before. We think that will manifest itself in hosting friends and family. 

Third, at T&N, we were lucky to work for a company that placed a ton of emphasis on design and brand; but we were a little confined to the bedroom for the business’s apparent reasons. That being said, we’re bringing the human-centered design and thoughtful brand learnings that we have from Tuft & Needle and will use them to craft and build products for another space in the home, the outdoors. 

Finally, leaving Tuft & Needle was not an easy decision. All of us spent nearly five years of our careers at T&N. It was a great experience, and we believe that we left it in good hands. The three of us were looking to start anew and begin building again. So, we aren’t working with the T&N team each day; we’re still cheering from the sidelines and sleeping on their products each night. 

With summer weather in Arizona being in the triple digits for months at a time, how will this Neighbor perform during the scorching heat?

 One of our significant critiques of the outdoor product space was that most of the things we had ever owned didn’t last. Neighbor products needed not fall into that category. 

We carefully selected the three main components of our first collection to weather the elements. Teak wood is both incredibly durable and beautiful and can survive the weather’s extremes, be it cold or hot. The foam in our cushions is reticulated, a specific foam that is incredibly porous and allows water to flow through it.

Something that doesn’t always happen in Arizona, but we’re prepared for monsoon season! Finally, Sunbrella fabric is the industry leader in fade-resistant fabric, which we know is a heavy requirement in the bright Arizona sun. 

Neighbor is built for a long-life outside, and we already have plenty of customers in Arizona that are enjoying the products outdoors. 

Are your products sustainable and eco-friendly?

When we started to conceptualize Neighbor, we needed to try as best to build products that do not have incredibly negative impacts on our environment. 

We knew from the onset that we wanted to use teak wood in our first collection. It is arguably the strongest wood when it comes to weathering the elements. We agreed that if we were going to use a product that came from the earth, we wanted to make sure it was done responsibly. That is why we committed to using FSC certified lumber. There is a lot of great information on what the Forest Stewardship Council does, but in short, they were founded to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. 

We have a great relationship with Sunbrella. They were our fabric supplier of choice because of their product and commitment to the environment. Sunbrella’s solution-dyed acrylic is the best outdoor fabric on the market. They describe it as “worry-free fabric,” which is what we want for our customers. Additionally, Sunbrella has a significant commitment to the environment.

None of their global manufacturing facilities send waste to a landfill, which inspires us and is good for the globe. We’re excited for the next phase of the product with Sunbrella. We plan to launch four new colors made with recycled yarn from Sunbrella’s Renaissance Yarn in April.

Can you please explain the “modular system” that makes this line so convenient?

This was one of our prerequisites when we began to explore our first line’s design and construction. Many consumer companies are moving towards more bespoke models that allow customers to build something that fits their space rather than make their space fit something. We didn’t see a lot of that in the outdoor space. 

Our first collection, The Haven Collection, contains four modular components that can configure to build a loveseat, a sofa, a sectional, and multiple different shapes and sizes of other larger seating spaces. It has been beneficial to date. We’ve been able to help customers build smaller sectionals that fit their balconies in the city and some special orders that have required large U-Shaped sectionals. 

How are things going? With such a push towards supporting locally owned Arizona businesses this last year, do you expect massive growth in 2021 / 2022?

Incredibly well! January was our best month since launching, and we’re forecasting to do about 1000% growth from 2020 to 2021. We’re opening an outdoor showroom adjacent to our office in downtown Phoenix in mid-March and preparing for distribution with a national retailer. 

We’re committed to Phoenix and look forward to growing our presence in the Valley. We were lucky to see the power of investing and committing to Phoenix at Tuft & Needle, and we’re excited to do that again with Neighbor.

For more information on Neighbor and to view their products, please visit: https://www.hineighbor.com/

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