Over time, our needs change, our tastes change, our space changes. ‘I believe in well made, well designed furniture, but “forever furniture” can be quite a weight,’ says Henrietta Thompson, Wallpaper* editor-at-large and co-founder of Harth, a curated marketplace for pre-owned design, specialising in furniture rental. Founded in 2018, Harth’s mission is ‘to bring the circular economy to interiors and encourage a new system that delivers better outcomes for people and the environment’.

Why choose furniture rental

A chair with tubular steel frame and black leather seat and armrests
A black ‘Wassily’ chair by Marcel Breuer, available at By Rotation via Studio Arva

At the core of Harth’s founding was the realisation that, in Britain alone, about 300,000 tonnes of reusable furniture are thrown away each year.

Fashion rental platform By Rotation also recently expanded into furniture, with a pop-up shop in London introducing the new peer-to-peer rental model for furniture and design objects. After gaining over 70,000 users in the UK through the motto ‘what’s mine is yours’, the app is now making its first foray into design pieces, with partners including Abisola Omole of creative design practice Studio Arva, and tablescape expert Kirthanaa Naidu.

By Rotation’s pop-up at Westfield London (until 18 July 2021), featuring furniture selected by Abisola Omole of Studio Arva and including an ‘Ultrafragola’ mirror by Ettore Sottsass

‘A typical By Rotation user [...] is very pragmatic about how they consume,’ explains the platform’s founder Eshita Kabra-Davies. ‘They value access to luxury pieces over ownership, and are becoming much more conscious of their consumption, therefore thinking of more ways to be sustainable in simple easy switches. Being able to rent chic homeware and furniture pieces should provide another way to make the jump to circularity and get creative when it comes to dressing up the home.’

As well as keeping well-made designs in circulation, renting furniture has a more practical side too. ‘While decorating and furnishing a home is fun in lots of ways, I’ve come to realise that there are three things that really aren’t fun about it: moving stuff, storing stuff and trying to get rid of stuff you don’t want anymore,’ continues Thompson. Her mission, she adds, is to ‘make it all a much better, lighter, happier and easier experience’.

Art and one-off objects also form the core of Modern Art Hire (MAH), launched by interior stylist Laura Fulmine to offer paintings, ceramics and sculptures. The project started as she was struggling to find good licensed artwork for her projects, and developed into a fully fledged art gallery. ‘MAH is both prop hire and a gallery; we sell as well as hire. Our clients include interior designers buying or hiring for their spaces, but also people who would prefer to hire art than buy it, and to keep changing it up.’

Renting furniture, design and art: expert tips 

A round low white table with a series of ceramic vessels and vases featuring organic shapes
Modern Art Hire. Photography: Ben Anders

Whether it’s addressing the need for extra lighting or seating for a dinner party (or for the holiday season), or to try out different sofas in a new space before committing, design for hire is an excellent way to experiment with a variety of objects throughout a domestic space. ‘The advantages [of renting art and design] are that you can change up your curation more often, and that can take the pressure off making sure you have made the right investment,’ says Fulmine.

‘Armchairs and dining chairs are the best rental items,’ says Omole, whose selection for By Rotation includes a series of 1970s modular seats and Bauhaus furniture by Marcel Breuer and Matteo Grassi. ‘They’re easy to manoeuvre, they can really transform a space and are less likely to get damaged.’

Furniture rental is a great way to be experimental with prints, patterns and styles as it is much less of a commitment than buying, adds Kabra-Davies. ‘If you’re unsure about what colour scheme or theme you want to go for, the beauty of renting furniture means that you can mix, match and trial a variety of pieces until you find what is right for you and your home.’

For Thompson, ‘well designed, well made pieces in high quality materials are the best [to hire] because they are made to last, and in many cases, get better with life and use’. What furniture does she think is better suited for renting? ‘Bolder pieces you maybe want to try for a bit in your space before deciding if you love them enough to keep them. Things that might be specific to a particular house that you’re not going to live in forever.’ Art, she adds is a great place to start and Harth includes artworks such as paintings and sculptures in addition to furniture. 

‘If you are renting, it is so much easier to have fun with your choices, go with what you like and feel a connection with, rather than buying who you think you need to collect or have in your house as an investment,’ adds Fulmine. ‘Enjoy your choices and know that you can change them as soon as you get bored or buy it if you fall in love.’ §