Tour A Tech CEO's Totally Boss Home

We have a major weakness for online shopping. But, what we don't love is how it can feel overwhelming, what with fluttering between pages, virtual carts, and bookmarks galore. Luckily, S.F.-based site Wanelo (which stands for "Want. Need. Love.") is changing the game when it comes to how we make purchases online by curating a digital mall of thousands of stores, available to browse 24/7, right in the palm of your hand.
Wanelo's success is in large part due to the hard work and dedication of CEO Deena Varshavskaya, who started the venture back in 2009. After emigrating from Siberia, dropping out of Cornell, working at a user-experience design firm in SoCal, and blindly moving to the Bay, she's been carving out quite the path for herself in Silicon Valley and beyond.
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We knew a gal with such vision (and style!) had to have a cool pad to rest her busy head, and boy, were we right. Not only does she live in a sprawling, 3,000-square-foot "serious playhouse," she also controls it at the touch of a button. Her casa is just as tech-savvy as she is — so we invited ourselves over for a personal tour (steam room, anyone?) and snapped some pics to prove it. Get ready for some major home inspo, right here.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Tell us more about Wanelo and what inspired you to start it.
"I always had unique taste and found traditional malls to be too limiting and frustrating. I’d go in looking for some crazy pair of shoes, and they’d have to fit a lot of different criteria — be unique, not trendy, and comfortable! I knew that there were so many options for shopping outside of malls, but it all felt very disorganized and felt like a ton of work. How do I find these stores? How do I find and organize the products I like? Maybe if I spent all day doing it, I’d be able to figure it out.

"I realized that the Internet has the power to unite all of these stores and products in one place and make it possible to easily find incredible things from anywhere. That’s what Wanelo is."

Intermix top, ASOS skirt, Nicholas Kirkwood shoes.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
How would you describe your home's aesthetic?
"Eclectic, open, extreme comfort. My boyfriend and I both hate being defined by any given category. We want to span multiple categories of style and aesthetics, and contrast is the best way to achieve that. That’s why you see retro colorful chairs in my dining room with a rustic wooden table and an over-the-top orbital chandelier."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What makes Wanelo stand out from other shopping sites out there?
"Wanelo is really the absolute best place for discovery of fashion items or home decor. It’s the only platform where you’ll find a huge range of stores, from all the names you know to endless boutiques and unknown brands. My latest discovery and obsession is Shona Joy. They only have a couple hundred followers on Wanelo, so it’s a kept secret for now.

"And, Wanelo is built by people who really understand the needs of shoppers, because we are shoppers ourselves. For me, Wanelo is first and foremost the way to solve my own frustrations with shopping, and I see so much opportunity. We are really just scratching the surface of what’s possible."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What has been the biggest accomplishment of your career to date?
"Bringing together the team of 35 kick-ass people. It’s pretty incredible, because I started working on my own on Wanelo in 2009 as a side project, using my personal savings to build it. It took a lot of work and persistence. For a while, nobody cared about the project, and there were no users and no indication it would succeed.

"Eventually, I started getting users on Wanelo and seeing the early community grow. I finally moved to San Francisco in 2011 to fully focus on building the company, which also meant getting funding. It took me 40 investor rejections to close that first round. [And then] I had to immediately launch into hiring a new team. That seemed just as daunting as fund-raising. I had no idea how to build a team. And, I thought I’d be terrible at it. The good news is that I never let that actually stop me from doing it!

"When I look at our team, I see an incredible group of people who I get to work with every day, and moving at the fast pace we do is absolutely amazing. It also feels really rewarding to know that this is an environment and culture I’m enabling. I get to encourage people to have fun, avoid bullshit, and work smart. I couldn’t ask for anything better."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What are some of the greatest rewards of starting your own business?
"I think the greatest reward of starting your own business is starting with declaring really big dreams that seem entirely out of reach and then closing the gap between what you said you’d do and doing those things. The smaller the gap, the more powerful you become. And, it honestly surprises me that the impossible things I set out to do became reality."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What about some of the challenges?
"What challenges? Just kidding. As an entrepreneur, if your company grows, you are doing everything for the first time, which always makes it a challenge. I think of these challenges as black boxes. Black boxes for me were fund-raising, recruiting, and public speaking. These were all things I’d read and heard about, but none that I actually had any experience with.

"Take fund-raising. There’s so much pressure to figure out how to do it and to be perfect about it. And, at some point, you have to realize that perfection isn’t going to happen if you actually want to move forward. The best way to do it is to just open the black box and get inside of it. You allow yourself to jump forward with a lot of missing information and a lot of unknowns, but you may find that it’s the best way to learn.

"I also find it funny that I haven’t really had a chance to learn very much from another company. I’ve only had jobs and bosses for less than two years and didn’t get exposed to most of the things I have to work on now as a CEO. Sometimes, I think that I could really use some relevant work experience, but instead, I’m learning everything on the job as it happens. I’m embracing all those black boxes."

Shona Joy top, ASOS skirt, Alexander Wang shoes.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What are you currently working on right now?
"Oh, so many things, starting with ‘Buy on Wanelo,’ which just launched today and is really exciting.... It's a new feature that allows users to easily buy products directly from Wanelo’s app. You basically enter your credit-card information once and buy whenever and wherever you want on Wanelo with just one tap. We’ve launched this with over 200 stores (from Urban Outfitters and rag & bone to River Island and Nasty Gal and lots of unique, independent stores, too). There are many more awesome stores on the way."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What are some of your favorite stores to follow?
"I follow 2,000 of my favorite stores on Wanelo. I love following Not Just A Label — it’s an online store for amazing independent designers. ASOS and Free People are some of my go-tos, as well as Pixie Market. And, then there are ridiculous — and amazing — stores, such as A-Morir, which creates sunglasses that lots of celebrities wear. I also really like Valentina Kova."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Okay, the house — tell us more about it! How long have you lived here?
"It’s been a year and a half, and it’s been pretty life-changing. The house has created a feeling of a stable foundation from which to explore life. It's an incredibly comfortable space, and it's the first time I’ve had such a great space to host friends frequently. Friends and community are very important to us, so we go out of our way to make sure they feel like they can come over casually and spend time with us. People are used to being independent and having privacy these days, so friends coming over unannounced is sometimes a big no. We've been retraining our friends to feel very welcome. Some of them even have their own door codes, so they can enter the house independently. It's definitely reduced our desire to spend time in restaurants or bars. We've become more selective about outings."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Just Nesting.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What do you love about your neighborhood?
"I love the location. San Francisco is such an incredibly unique city. My house is just minutes from the Mission and other excitement in the city, and yet it feels like a retreat. I love that I get home in minutes, and yet it feels like I’ve gotten away from the hustle and bustle. "
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
How would you describe your personal style?
"Eclectic, playful, always evolving, somewhat theatrical, and feminine. More than anything, I really love contrast. If I wear something high-end, I want it to be combined with something a teenager might wear, such as a pair of Ryan Gosling leggings. I think it’s also really important to not take myself too seriously, so an element of humor is much appreciated."

Pixie Market dress, YSL shoes.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What is your favorite room in the house?
"My favorite room is the living room, which is what you immediately see upon walking into the house. Open space is really important to me, and the house was remodeled to remove some of the rooms and create more space. This led to an incredible panorama view of the S.F. Bay from the living room and kitchen. While the view is so expansive and amazing, it also feels like we're nestled in a hill and surrounded by huge trees, which I love. It feels like a peaceful retreat. My boyfriend and I joke that this is our vacation home and that we're just here for a long vacation."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Who is your ultimate style icon?
"I wouldn’t say there’s one person I look up to, but I feel there’s been a major shift in what women in power look like today. I think we’re ready to go beyond the notion of power suits for female CEOs, and I’m having a lot of fun being a part of the movement to reinvent this image. "
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What brands and designers do you love the most?
"My style is so eclectic that I’m much more focused on specific products than brands. My closet spans everything from high-end shoes to fast fashion and strange costumery (yes, I own this). And, oh yeah, leggings. Lots and lots of leggings."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What's one item you'd never allow in your house?
"Ego. Just come on over, be you, and have fun."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What's the coolest home item you've purchased recently?
"I shop so much that I can’t even keep track. I’m telling you, Wanelo is life."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Your closet is amazing; tell us more about the design.
"My closet is a converted bedroom, which was really important to me when getting the house. I chose to not have a home office because I like working in open living spaces, and having a nice space for my wardrobe is just really enjoyable since my closet is my playground. I’d add that the wallpaper in my closet is a reflection of how I embrace playfulness in my personal style. My closet was designed to represent what getting dressed daily means to me, i.e., the ultimate form of play."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
You must constantly be on the go — what are some quickie beauty tips you can share?
"I do my makeup while I’m driving. Does that count? I think that’s a good way to save time. I also like to have duplicates of everything. I have figured out my essential set of tools, and I have a set of makeup for my car and my house. That means that I don’t have to worry about keeping track of the one bag with all the stuff. I also think it’s great to figure out exactly what you need and then only buy those things. You won’t find a lot of extra unused makeup or beauty products in my house. I’m all about optimizing for efficiency."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Shoes on shoes on shoes.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What are your favorite pieces in your closet?
"My favorite pieces are all shoes and accessories. The two pairs of shoes I love at the moment are my mirror platform oxfords from Opening Ceremony and the new pair of python YSL witch-looking heels."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
We love your bright wardrobe! How do you make it work for the office?
"Well, I think I just changed the office to fit my style. The theme of our office is 'adult playground.' We are currently going through a wallpaper phase, from color-in wallpaper to pink baroque to bananas and guns (yes, really). So it seems I fit right in.... On a more serious note, self-expression is very important to me. Instead of fitting neatly into an existing category — say, by embracing either the Silicon Valley-dude-in-a-sweatshirt style or something more corporate — I like creating my own category. My goal is to kick ass in my own way and to have fun doing it. Having fun with what I wear is a source of energy for me."

Elizabeth and James dress, Fendi shoes, A-Morir glasses.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What's the most treasured item in your home?
"My boyfriend and I love everything connected to water. Our first project when we moved in was to build a steam room that would fit several people, and now we have that and a hot tub in our yard. It's modern, yet very cozy and peaceful. We knew we wanted a lot of warm wood, a fire table and built-in benches, and the ability to incorporate water with those things is just incredible."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What's your favorite item you've found on Wanelo?
"Only one?! There are so many. I guess you could say that Squishables are a favorite. It’s a New York company that makes incredible, round, plush toys in four different sizes. I found them on Wanelo and got our entire office (as well as many friends) obsessed with them. We literally have piles of Squishables in our office, which fits with the concept of the adult playground.

"I’m also really into these ridiculous sunglasses I got from A-Morir."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Two words: That. View.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What does a typical day look like for you?
"I use my iPhone to ease into waking up by catching up on Wanelo and e-mail. After that, I get up for Pilates at home, and then I frequently get stuck working and drinking coffee in my kitchen until it’s time to rush into the office.

"A day at work is incredibly high-paced. I work a lot with the team on our mobile app and website features. I’m Wanelo’s most obsessed user, and I’m very hands-on with what we’re building. There’s usually an insane number of moving pieces and decisions that need to be made. We like to get aggro.

"Nighttime is spent with my boyfriend at our house, and with close friends. Hot-tub or steam-room sessions are frequent ways that we relax at the end of the day. I usually don’t do a lot of e-mail at night, but I’m probably still talking or mulling over something about Wanelo."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Tell us about the smart house capabilities!
"My boyfriend loves automating our house. We have a Kwikset 910 SmartCode deadbolt lock that ties into our home-automation controller. We have house settings, and there’s one labeled 'Deena.' When I come home and enter my key code, several things happen: Our Sonos system plays one of several welcome-home songs, the lighting adjusts to my preferred settings, and the Nest thermostat jumps to the temperature I like. But, I also have the power to turn on these settings through these scripts that my boyfriend coded onto my phone as bookmarks. I have one called Good Night, which turns off all the lights and locks the doors, and I have one for my basic settings, which may or may not play my favorite Beyoncé song in my closet. There’s also an app to control the steam room, the lights outside, and the hot tub."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Tell us more about the steam room!
"The steam room is one of the most-used rooms in our house. It fits six people comfortably, and it has surround sound — so, yes, you can play that cheesy spa music — and colored lights. So, while it’s a great, relaxing retreat for us, it’s also a fun reason to have friends over."

The secret to a happy home is....
"Taking fun very seriously. That’s why we named our home 'Serious Playhouse.'"

PATRIZIA PEPE Faux Fur Jacket, ASOS dress, Jimmy Choo shoes.
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