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Meet Fernish: It’s like Rent-the-Runway, but for sofas

Meet Fernish: It’s like Rent-the-Runway, but for sofas
[Photo: courtesy of Fernish]

If you’re in your twenties or early thirties, there’s a good chance that you move fairly frequently for school or work. And there comes a point in every young person’s life when you realize your Ikea bookshelf will simply not make it through yet another cross-country move. But it’s hard to invest in expensive, well-made furniture if you’re probably going to move again soon.

Fernish is here to solve the problem. The startup was founded by Michael Barlow and Lucas Dickey to help people rent from hip millennial brands like Crate & Barrel, Floyd, and Campaign. Fernish will rent you an armchair for $18 a month, and a desk for $8, then totally refurbish it for the next renter. Today, the brand announces a new investment of $30 million led by Real Estate Technology Ventures, with participation from Intuit’s founder Scott Cook and Amazon’s head of global consumer, Jeff Wilke. Fernish plans to use the money to scale.

The idea of renting, rather than buying, furniture is nothing new. Rent-a-Center and CORT have been doing it for years. But Fernish wants to win over millennials by giving them access to trendy furniture brands with a clear design aesthetic and the promise of a better customer experience. “Part of our value proposition is that we will make your move easier by picking up the pieces when you’re done,” says Dickey. “It saves you all the logistical hassles and moving costs.”

Brands like Crate & Barrel see Fernish as an opportunity to familiarize customers with their collections, which may spur them to buy pieces later on in life. “We’re always exploring new concepts, and this one is intriguing,” says Michael Chaney, the head of business-to-business at Crate & Barrel. “This allows us to serve people who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to buy from us.”

Fernish, as its name hints, is also positioning itself as an eco-friendly alternative to buying cheap furniture that you expect to leave on the side of the road in a year. By only working with well-made furniture that can be refurbished and withstand multiple owners, the brand hopes to be able to cut down on the 9.8 million tons of furniture that is thrown into a landfill every year in the U.S. alone.

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