Fernish brings its furniture-as-a-service model to New York and DC

Fernish, the furniture rental company born in Los Angeles five years ago, today makes the leap to the East Coast, with the launch of operations in New York and Washington, D.C.

Fernish was created to be furniture rental for a new generation. Instead of being an option for consumers who couldn’t afford to buy furniture – the old furniture rental model – it was designed as a way for young urban professionals on the move to have beautiful living spaces without the hassle of having to move furniture themselves, or the waste of throwing furniture away when moving.

The company has raised $75 million in funding since 2017, and during the pandemic it has pivoted nimbly to offer more desks, office chairs and other work-from-home essentials.

The pandemic has somewhat slowed Fernish’s plans for a national rollout, but overall it’s been good for its business model, with revenue up 17 times from two years ago, according to Michael Barlow, co -founder and CEO of Fernish.

The pandemic and remote work have created a trend of “impermanence,” Barlow noted, where young professionals are more likely to try out multiple cities before settling on permanent residency.

This trend “is awesome for my business,” he said. “We have a solution and a market that is evolving well.”

Fernish begins taking orders today in New York and Washington, D.C. In New York, he’ll spread the word with a publicity “takeover” of the West 4th Street subway station, with signs urging commuters to “Free your house” by renting from Varnish on walls and turnstiles.

Bringing Fernish to New York has been a goal of Barlow since the company was founded, he said, because New York inspired Fernish.

“A lot of this business was conceived when I was living in New York,” Barlow said. “Like all young urban professionals after undergrad in your 20s or early 30s, you move every year or two with different roommates. You leave furniture in your apartment and lose your security because it’ll cost you $1,000 to move it from the West Village to the Upper East Side and you’re like, “Is this Ikea thing even worth $1,000?” he said.

Fernish has set up a logistics center in Secaucus, NJ, which will serve Manhattan as well as all New York boroughs and parts of New Jersey.

In New York, Fernish is entering a market that already has a number of high-end furniture rental companies, most born around the same time as Fernish and catering to the same millennial customers.

Traditional furniture retailers have partnered with rental startups and some, like Ikea, are testing launching their own rental services.

The New York and Washington, DC expansions bring Fernish closer to its plan to be in all major metropolitan areas to which young professionals are likely to settle.

The company also operates in Southern California, Seattle, and North and Central Texas, covering the cities of Dallas, Austin, and Fort Worth.

“It’s not a full national footprint, but we’re getting so close,” Barlow said.

The company needs that footprint, he said, to be able to serve the customer who wants to leave their Fernish sofa, table and bed in Los Angeles and have a set of furniture waiting for them when they arrive in their new apartment in New York.

“We need to be where our customers are today and will be tomorrow,” Barlow said. “People who move from LA to Austin to Dallas to Phoenix to New York and then move to Charlotte in that 5 to 10 to 12 year timeframe after completing their undergraduate.”

“To really be this lifestyle service that we present to our customers, we need to be in these markets so they don’t have travel costs between markets,” he said. “Their furnishings can grow and progress with them and their lives, no matter what city, roommate or partner situation the world throws at them.”

Fernish is not disclosing its earnings, but Barlow said the company is on track to be profitable in its home West Coast markets this year.

Barron’s recently reported tJefferies analyst Jonathan Matuszewski expects spending on furniture rentals on direct-to-consumer platforms like Fernish will hit $1 billion within five years, up from $150 million currently.

“We are at the start of a revolution in the way consumers furnish their homes,” he said.

If so, there will be plenty of room for Fernish to establish itself in the New York market and elsewhere.

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