Think of the last time you bought furniture. Was it a Craigslist find, that required you to enlist a friend to help you move? An Ikea buy that cost you two more hours in assembly? Or a higher-end splurge that took weeks to arrive?
It’s these furniture horror stories that make Feather, the furniture version of Rent The Runway, so appealing. The startup has a selection of basic furniture like grey couches, wooden coffee tables, and black counter stools, plus an air conditioner to rent at a monthly price, starting at three months.
“We’re seeing a trend of people wanting to own less stuff,” founder Jay Reno tells Refinery29. “We’re seeing this with homes and with cars, and now we’re seeing it with furniture.”
Reno, who received a masters degree in climate and environmental science, wanted to solve the problem of disposable furniture. “People value convenience and flexibility above all else,” he says, but this oftentimes means that a furniture’s lifecycle is limited to two moves, or even less.
Feather is meant to solve that, moving people away from disposable furniture into a future of recyclable furniture. The selections are chosen with durability in mind, so each piece can be re-circulated multiple times, or incorporated into an upcycling program. This also means pieces are particularly uniform. “We were trying to do was come up with what people will need in a city setting [Editor’s note: Feather is currently only available in San Francisco and New York City] so storage options, basic pieces they can make their own by adding a few rugs or a tapestry,” Kate McCormack, head of design, says. “We wanted to keep it as simple as possible.”
Couches are uniformly grey save for one velvet green option; accent items are primarily metallic. Most of the pieces have a West Elm, CB2 quality to them (in fact, many pieces are sourced from West Elm), and the prices are fairly comparable. If you thought this service could save you money, well, it doesn’t quite deliver there. Feather is a startup and does need to make money, after all. A bar cart, which reportedly retails at $319, costs $62 a month for a 3-month period. After those three months are up, you can buy it for $165 (bringing the total cost to $351 — $32 more than its retail price), return it for $25 (making total 3-month rental cost $211), or swap it for a different product for free.
You’re more likely to save on rentals on package deals or big ticket items, like a sleeper sofa. A $1,399 sofa goes for $266 a month on the site (for 3 months); afterwards, you can buy it for $741 (bringing up the cost to $1539), keep it and pay slightly less a month, or swap it. Flat-out returns cost $25, and monthly payments decrease as you rent for longer. “We have a fixed cost of delivery and assembly, which is free, but it’s built-in, so the longer you rent, the cheaper per month,” Reno says.
So while the furniture options might not be statement-making, and the prices not-so-cheap, there is something to be said for a future where you don’t trash your furniture on the street, or have to wait two months for a pick-up by the Salvation Army. The ideal clients of Feather might just be the type of people who have lifestyles that allow for, or demand the flexibility of, sublets or temporary housing situations, as well as the means to pay for convenience; the free drop-off, assembly, and $25 for pick-up is a pretty sweet deal. Or, if you’re feeling wishy-washy on a purchase, it could be a good way to “try out” a couch or a table for a few months, before fully committing, albeit at a slight cost. This writer in particular considered renting a bench and a bookshelf — only to realize that those items might be cheaper second-hand on Craigslist. If only I had a car.