Around 12 million tons of furniture ends up in landfills in the U.S. each year. A startup called Feather wants to begin to change that by shifting ownership: Instead of selling furniture, the company rents it. When someone moves or wants a different sofa, they can send it back, and the company will clean and repair to rent to someone else.
The startup launched in part to deal with a logistical challenge of urban life—if you end up moving to a new apartment every year, you’re unlikely to want to spend thousands on furniture that can’t easily be moved. But it also exists to help customers tackle waste. “When they’re done with it, they’re only renting it, and it’s not ending up in a landfill,” says Kendra Ovesen, vice president of merchandising for the company.
Initially, the company sold furniture made by other companies. But a new line launching today is designed for the challenges of a circular economy. “It’s really important to us to be able to repair the product,” Ovesen says. “So we’re introducing more products that we specifically designed and developed, sourced, and manufactured with that criteria in mind.”
Everything is also designed to be as durable as possible, and easy to either clean or repair. Instead of a glossy finish on wood components, for example, the designers chose a natural finish so scratches can be buffed out. Other components use a powder coating that can be touched up. Fitted fabric covers on furniture can be easily removed and replaced. Sofa legs that can be used on multiple models make it easier to keep replacements in stock. A rug made from recycled PET bottles is easy to clean.
The company represents larger changes in the industry. Other startups are also focusing on furniture rental, though not always for sustainability reasons. Even Ikea is shifting to a circular model, recognizing that it’s necessary for it to reach its climate goals, and beginning to experiment with furniture rental and repair. “We’re one of the little guys setting an example because we feel that it’s really important,” says Oveson. Ikea, with its massive scale as the largest furniture retailer in the world, “starts to get more people to think about it.”