Published on June 18, 2019

If you weren’t subletting, would you still rent your furniture?

Brands are betting that the answer is yes. With temporary solutions like removable wallpaper or peel-and-stick tiles picking up steam, it was only a matter of time until furniture became temporary, too. The idea of renting a sofa (or rug or dresser) may seem bizarre to some. (Anyone who has lived through a bedbug epidemic will be rightly skeptical of sharing sheets with strangers.) However, with companies like Rent the Runway proving that a rental model based on something as personal as clothing can not only be hygienic but also profitable, it seems like home decor is simply the next frontier.

The latest company to get into renting is Oliver, which just launched on June 18. “In a world where people are using Uber or Lyft instead of owning a car, more urbanites are living in rental apartments instead of buying a home, and people are using Rent the Runway instead of buying clothes, it’s clear that what the world needs is more flexibility when it comes to heavy, hard-to-own items like furniture and home decor,” explains CEO Chan Park.

As we look for more and more ways to combat the strain that our fast-fashion and fast-furniture habits place on Mother Earth, buying vintage is a much-touted solution. However, it’s not a fix that benefits retailers (or people with limited time to peruse the flea market.) The rental economy, on the other hand, is a response that benefits both brand and customer, and this win-win scenario may be why it’s bound to take off.

Sustainability aside, there are other advantages to the rental furniture model. Yes, apartment renters will benefit, but so will those who have just purchased their first home. “Try before you buy” lets you take your time and really live with a sofa, for example, before dropping a big chunk of money on a permanent one. These services are also a lifesaver for trend lovers. Instead of dipping into your savings every time a cool new design moment arrives, you can just experiment within your budget.

Whatever your decor needs, here are a few of the companies we love that are making temporary design more readily available than ever.

Oliver

Oliver offers way more than just furniture—even decorative mirrors and table lamps are in the mix. You can purchase some of the items straightaway, while others are available for rent, giving you flexibility. The indecisive decorator will also love the variety: Oliver’s decor styles span everything from mid-century modern to bohemian. Plus, there’s no membership fee and there’s free assembly and delivery, so it really is as low-risk as it gets.

Good for: People who want to hire a professional designer but can’t afford to. Oliver has a “curated sets” section, where you can go to essentially rent an entire room. This takes the guesswork out of the process and ensures your space has a streamlined look—highly useful if you’re a first-time decorator with no idea where to start.

Item we’d want to rent: An honest-to-goodness antique rug at a fraction of what it would cost to buy it outright.

West Elm

Starting in early June, Rent the Runway subscribers will be able to pick from 26 curated bundles for both the bedroom and living room. There’s a plethora of colors and patterns in each bundle, making personalization possible in even the smallest of accents.

Good for: Anyone in need of a seasonal living room refresh who isn’t ready to trash their old throw pillows in the name of a decor update. Simply stow them away in a trunk or woven basket and test out one of West Elm’s multicolored pillow-and-blanket bundles instead.

Item we’d want to rent: This earthy-toned pillow is a minimalist take on abstract decor.

Feather

Since its launch in 2017, Feather has pioneered the furniture rental model. The main thing it has going for it is choice: Not only does it offer furniture and decor for every room, but it also offers consumers tons of options when they reach the end of their plan. Rent your item of choice for up to a year. Then either swap it, buy it, return it, or renew your plan at a discounted rate to keep using it.

Good for: Graduate students looking for something a bit more elevated to deck out their apartments without spending a ton of money. Renters on a one-year lease with or without roommates will also love the flexibility and choice Feather allows—there are even brands like West Elm and Casper available to pick from in the product catalog. It definitely doesn’t look like temporary decor.

Item we’d want to rent: This sturdy, mid-century modern bed frame certainly looks way more expensive than $38 a month.

Kamarq

It offers a very tight selection of products, but Kamarq’s colorful Japanese-inspired designs have prices that can’t be beat: A shelf, for example, can be yours for $4 a month. Each of its items is modular, making them prime for small spaces, and they can either be replaced, returned, or bought at the end of the subscription.

Good for: Maximalists in small spaces. There is almost every color under the rainbow to pick from, and with storage being the focus for most of the products, you won’t have to sacrifice functional square footage to bring in a pop of brightness.

Item we’d want to rent: This small but sleek burgundy shelf may be just what’s needed for a stylish TV display.

Table + Teaspoon

Table + Teaspoon takes dinnerware renting one step further: You can rent an entire tablescape. Founder Liz Curtis set out to make “the Rent the Runway of table settings,” and she accomplished just that through her selection of six unique collections of dinnerware. Choose the one that most speaks to your aesthetic (each package even comes with table setting instructions), and then box it up after your dinner party and send it right back. No cleanup and no stress.

Good for: Frequent entertainers who want to switch up their dinnerware without splurging on entirely new sets of plates and napkins.

Item we’d want to rent: We’re big fans of print mixing, and toile set against bold stripes looks both fun and elegant. The black-and-white palette keeps this tablescape feeling uniform.

Rise Art

If you don’t know what you’re doing, investing in art can feel overwhelming. This was the thought process behind Rise Art, a U.K.-based art company that parlays the “try before you buy” business model into high-end artwork. There’s a range of styles available at every price point, and, yes, it does ship to the U.S.

Good for: Seasoned art collectors and rookies alike will love this service, which lets you discover new artists and test out how an expensive print will look in your space before committing.

Item we’d want to rent: Channel a permanent summer with this beachy blue and yellow seascape by Tommy Clarke.

IKEA

Okay, so technically, this is the one decor rental service that isn’t available just yet, but it may end up being the one that makes the biggest splash due to the sheer impact the Swedish retailer has on the decor world. After initially announcing in February 2018 that it was testing out a rental program, IKEA confirmed the news this February, saying that it had officially started rolling out furniture subscription services in Europe. There’s no date yet for a Stateside release of this model, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for later this year.

Good for: Subletters not looking forward to spending two months sleeping on an air mattress. Anyone who frequently moves from place to place will also likely benefit from this—at IKEA’s already low price point, it will become a go-to for furnishing spaces short-term.

Item we’d want to rent: There is nothing temporary-looking about this rattan armchair. At once trendy and timeless, it’s the perfect summer accessory for covered balconies and patio spaces alike.

See more ways to be sustainable:
15 Easy Swaps You Can Make Right Now for an Eco-Friendly Kitchen
How One Person Finds Home Decor Treasures in Other People’s Trash
Want to Be More Sustainable in 2019? Try This Simple Swap

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