Jason Mattis

The Rise of Subscription-Based Furniture Services

A New Business Model

Today's customers love subscription services. According to a report from McKinsey & Company, today's average US consumer maintains four subscriptions. While these often involve media (such as Netflix and Spotify), retail offerings are also increasingly popular. These solutions provide the best of both worlds: the thrill of exploring and experimenting with new products, plus the opportunity to save time and money. Over the course of the past decade, several trendy and decided successful brands have made a name for themselves in otherwise crowded markets.

The most well-known product-based subscriptions center around fashion or wellness: Rent the Runway, for example, encourages participants to try designer pieces without actually committing to them, while Dollar Shave Club and Harry's bring the subscription model to shaving. This approach has also allowed several unexpected niches to thrive, by catering to cat lovers, wine enthusiasts, or even sci-fi fans.

Now, this concept is poised to take over the home furnishings industry, where rental pieces will be larger and will require more of a commitment — but where there is great promise for consumers and retailers alike. Sometimes referred to as Furniture as a Service (FaaS), this model goes beyond the concept of try before you buy and, instead, functions more like leasing a car: consumers can choose their favorite furnishings, have them delivered to their homes, and use them for a predetermined period of time before either extending the rental period or swapping for something new.

Furniture subscriptions aren't for everyone, but they certainly present a compelling opportunity. Keep reading to learn what they involve and where they're headed.

How Do Subscription-Based Furniture Services Work?

Every subscription service operates a bit differently depending on the unique needs of targeted customers. In general, however, this approach emphasizes short-term access to stylish pieces, which customers can select from a vast product lineup — although many prefer to streamline this process by entering a few details and then receiving curated recommendations.

These customer-centric arrangements are incredibly flexible. Subscribers can opt for as few or as many pieces as they desire; some are satisfied to rent a single sofa or dining room table, for example, while others go all-out and furnish their entire homes or apartments.

In some cases, regular payments can be applied toward the cost of actually purchasing pieces, although ownership is not necessarily the end goal. If this approach is desired, however, customers can begin to build equity as they make the most of rentals. ZZ Driggs founder Whitney Falk explains that, while this wasn't originally the intention, this offering was ultimately sped up because there was so much demand: We kept hearing from our customers that they've fallen in love with the pieces and they want to keep them.

While renters and homeowners make up a huge portion of the FaaS clientele, this is also an appealing option for interior designers and even real estate professionals. Many subscription businesses offer home staging packages, which are heavily utilized by professional home staging services and even residential sellers who choose to stage on their own. Commercial subscriptions are also available and may appeal to freelancers, consultants, or small business owners who, like residential subscribers, require maximum flexibility and convenience.

What's the Appeal?

Furniture feels personal, so many people struggle to accept the idea of temporarily using pieces, rather than bringing them into their homes for the long run. For some, the traditional ownership approach will remain the preferred option for years to come. Others, however, are quickly seeing the wisdom of subscriptions in a more rental-dominant, transient world. The following are among the most commonly cited reasons why consumers opt for rentals above ownership — plus reasons why the rental model is so appealing from the furniture company's perspective:

Easier for Renters

Homeowners largely regard furniture as an investment, but is this realistic for renters? As the rental market continues to boom, furniture companies will need to be more mindful of the unique needs of renters — especially those who move on a regular basis. Why load up a moving van when furniture services can handle the hard work? This model streamlines the moving process while also limiting the potential for damaged or discarded pieces.

Subscriptions also provide greater peace of mind for professionals who anticipate moving about in search of more exciting and lucrative career opportunities. This peace of mind applies for both residential and commercial spaces, as these are similarly difficult to secure and similarly expensive (and inconvenient) to furnish, especially when regular moves are necessary. With commercial setups, subscriptions are also preferable because they allow for enhanced scalability — a huge value proposition for businesses that rely on contractors or seasonal employees.

Freshen Up the Home

Renovations were a big deal during the peak of the pandemic, and for good reason: stuck at home, residents were desperate to make their spaces feel fresh. This urge for novelty hasn't subsided entirely, but not everybody can (or should) commit to major remodeling projects whenever their surroundings feel stale. Furniture rentals function as a much-needed alternative: new items can quickly add visual interest to any space but require minimal planning or effort. Subscribers can transform their spaces regularly without the hassle (or waste) of purchasing new pieces.

Experiment With Daring Designs

Furniture shoppers often feel drawn to minimalist or classic designs, simply because they worry that their favorite looks will fall out of favor in the near future. Unfortunately, this playing it saf mentality often prevents them from cultivating spaces that they truly love. Furniture rentals, however, don't require a long-term commitment, so experimenting feels a bit less risky. If a specific piece doesn't work out, it should be easy to return and even easier to find a new one that better fits the space in question.


Many homeowners (and some renters) rely on subscription services for patios, balconies, and other outdoor spaces, which they may only use a few months each year. Without rental services, they may struggle to determine where they'll keep patio furniture or how they'll maintain it. Others appreciate the ease of experimenting with different patio setups before they eventually settle on a particular style for their permanent outdoor living areas.

Eco-Friendly Design

Furniture manufacturing is highly energy-intensive. While sustainable materials (such as bamboo or reclaimed wood) help, furniture businesses must still contend with the unfortunate reality that their products can easily lead to deforestation, carbon emissions, and a whole host of other environmental concerns.

These issues have only accelerated with the rise of the fast furniture trend, in which interior styles see dramatic changes on a regular basis. When this trend involves traditionally purchased furniture (often cheaper, low-quality times), discarded pieces are far more likely to end up in the landfill than in a second home.

Subscriptions offer a reasonable middle ground: a way to experiment with different styles but avoid the over-manufacturing or discarding of wasteful pieces. Instead, subscription businesses focus on high-quality pieces that can be used several times. This concept draws on the rising popularity of the sharing economy, which, by limiting our need or desire to own items outright, provides numerous opportunities to also limit waste.

Data-Driven Insights

Furniture services allow businesses to gather customer insights, which, in turn, can be used to drive better recommendations and, ultimately, boost customer satisfaction. According to the aforementioned McKinsey report, subscription models make it easier for businesses to launch a virtuous cycle of using data to better serve consumer needs, and inspire loyalty...[this] provides value to consumers who appreciate the convenience, novelty, and curated experiences.

Top Subscription Providers

A variety of businesses are beginning to experiment with subscriptions, but a few names, in particular, have received praise for their exceptional customer service and their chic furniture lineup. The following providers are some of the biggest trailblazers in the subscription-based furniture niche:


As one of today's more prominent names in subscription-based furniture, Fernish caters to urban professionals who, while certainly capable of purchasing their own furniture, prefer not to because they'd rather explore new styles and enjoy maximum mobility. This company has thrived in spite of — or perhaps, because of — the pandemic, building a solid reputation that aligns perfectly with what CEO Michael Barlow refers to as the impermanence trend.

Fernish currently offers services in Southern California, Seattle, and New York and, while Barlow admits that the company does not yet a full national footprint, this is the ultimate goal so that more people enjoy access to subscription services.


Built on the belief that everyone deserves high-quality design without the high cost, Feather promises to furnish subscribers' spaces within just one week of signing up. This makes the company an easy choice for those in the midst of upheaval — sudden, unexpected moves, for example, or other urgent situations that call for swift solutions.

Available pieces include not only furniture, but also, rugs and even stunning works of art. Leases can last anywhere from just one month to a full year. Currently, subscriptions are available to customers in NYC, LA, and the Bay area, with a Garage Sale giving consumers the option to purchase items at a discounted price.

ZZ Driggs

Offering curated and decidedly chic pieces, ZZ Driggs was an early leader in the subscription furniture industry. Serving the New York metro and select parts of Connecticut and New Jersey, this award-winning company emphasizes ethical and elevated furniture.

Founded by the visionary Whitney Falk, ZZ Driggs partners with top designers to ensure that a variety of subscribers enjoy easy access to the most stylish, yet durable pieces. The company has also worked extensively with corporate clients, although its founder is most excited about making high-quality furniture available to everyday, residential consumers.

The Future of Subscription Furniture

Subscription furniture represents an exciting opportunity in the home furnishings industry, but it still has a long way to go. If the examples highlighted above are any indication, availability remains limited, at least geographically speaking. Moving forward, these services are expected to expand to other major metropolitan areas, which, like New York and SoCal, demonstrate a strong need for affordable, convenient, and stylish options. Brands that embrace these opportunities promise to achieve a loyal following from previously underserved consumers — and an enduring way to drive profitability.

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