The furniture industry generates about 10 million tons of waste that ends up in US landfills each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Although it doesn’t get the kind of attention that fast fashion gets, fast furniture is just as harmful to the environment.
California-based startup Fernish is trying to mitigate this by marketing furniture rental to a high-end professional consumer. Fernish allows its customers to rent to buy or return the parts when they are done with them. Although furniture rental is not new, it is often used by consumers who cannot afford to buy.
With younger generations more mobile than ever, Fernish co-founder Michael Barlow said the problem was right in front of him.
“After walking past many, many, I would say, nuclear bombs or streetside furniture in the city subways where I lived or where some of our other employees lived, we came up with the idea to reuse, refurbish and to recycle,” says Barlow.
Barlow said 90% of his clients had never heard of furniture rental before finding Fernish. The company’s parts are of higher quality than typical rental companies and therefore easier to refurbish and reuse.
Veronica Droulia and her roommates recently moved from small apartments to a larger townhouse in Washington, DC. They didn’t have enough furniture, so they searched online.
“I really, really enjoyed the durability of Fernish, and I also wanted something that felt like an everlasting piece. At 25, I don’t know where I’ll be next. I don’t know ‘I don’t know where I’m going to move,” she said.
Droulia is a social media influencer, so she made a deal with Fernish to promote the 18 pieces she chose, rather than paying rent for them. If she paid, the bill would be around $900 a month.
Fernish backers include Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff, former Amazon CEO Jeff Wilkie, Intuit co-founder Scott Cook, and Khosla Ventures, TechStarts and RET Ventures. Total funding to date: $75 million.