From Netflix to Rent the Runway, the subscription-based, short-term rental model has infiltrated countless industries. And while we’re loath to keep dubbing new things the X of Y, KAMARQ truly may be next in line to disrupt what is an otherwise very traditional market. The Japanese company, which derives its name from the words for “my room” in Indonesian, allows customers to rent designer furniture made from 100% recycled, eco-friendly materials, for surprisingly low prices. If you’ve ever looked around your apartment and cursed its snooze-inducing, largely IKEA-sourced contents, KAMARQ’s recent expansion to the U.S. may be exactly the thing you never knew you needed.
For their stateside debut, KAMARQ tapped fashion designer Nicola Formichetti (best known for his work at Diesel, Mugler, and Uniqlo, as well as his frequent collaborations with Lady Gaga) and creative director PJ Mattan (whose resume includes a stint at Fab and work with Paper Magazine and Standard Hotels) to design a range of small tables, seats, and modular storage units. You can rent the pieces for either six months or a year, and you'll pay between $5 and $18 a month per piece.
Speaking to Refinery29, Formichetti called the pieces “very Instagrammable” — while simultaneously mocking himself for using such an expression. Despite being primarily known for his work in the fashion world, Formichetti is an avid collector of vintage and designer furniture. He and Mattan live down the street from one another in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood and have been friends for years. They also, according to Formichetti, occasionally swap furniture, a fun anecdote that’s also a comeback to anyone who thinks the concept of switching out stuff like tables and chairs on the regular is strange or impractical.
“Why not change furniture every half year? Why does it have to stay five years? Almost like how you buy clothes, I think more and more people get bored of things,” Formichetti wonders. He also questions why good design, especially when it comes to furniture, has to cost so much as to be impossible for most young people to afford. “Like, how come there’s nothing unique and interesting for a reasonable price [in terms of] furniture? It’s either you go really generic or you pay shitloads of money to buy a ‘real’ thing.”
In addition to drawing inspiration from Japanese design and the aesthetics of 1980s Italy (Formichetti is of both Japanese and Italian heritage), the pair based the collection on the way they decorate their own homes. Which means clean, modern lines and lots of bright, exuberant, unapologetic color. “We do live with a lot of color ourselves,” Mattan tells Refinery29. “Personally, I appreciate the whole spectrum of things. We’re definitely not afraid of color, both Nicola and myself.”
The range is so personal to them, in fact, that they initially conceived of a launch that would take place inside their homes. “I was going to take out all my furniture and put in this furniture,” Formichetti says. When that proved impossible — they ended up making so many products that they wouldn’t have all fit — they instead imported books, toys, plants, and other artifacts from their homes to the KAMARQ showroom in SoHo. “We created this kind of very intimate space, but also surreal, because the furniture is fun and it’s very exciting and it’s all recycled, kind to the earth, and cheap,” explains Formichetti.
Indeed, if clean-yet-kicky designs, accessible prices, and the mere presence of Nicola Formichetti wasn’t enough to get people excited about KAMARQ, the company’s commitment to sustainability should be. Not only are their pieces crafted entirely from recycled materials, but the very concept of renting, rather than buying, furniture is one that helps cut back on pollution. Plus, especially if you’re just starting out or like to regularly imagine yourself, say, saving up enough money to quit your job and move abroad for a year, who really wants to be tethered to a bookshelf anyway?