Is Renting the New Buying When It Comes to Furniture? This NYC Influencer’s Colorful Living Room Just Might Change Your Answer

updated Apr 20, 2021
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Katie Sands living room

Sometimes you know you’re not in your forever apartment or home from the get-go, and with that realization comes a sense of freedom in a way — to not agonize over each and every design decision, since your surroundings will ultimately be temporary. Such was the case for Katie Sands and her boyfriend, Brian, who moved into this light-filled New York City loft knowing they’d probably only be there for about two years.

As an Amazon Live host and blogger, Sands is into all things style and still wanted her spot to feel homey and comfortable; she just didn’t want to go through the hassle of buying expensive things tailored to the specs of a space she knew she’d ultimately be leaving. “The thought of renting furniture in a space we were also renting seemed like a no-brainer,” says Sands. So she got to work turning her white blank box of a living room into the colorful, whimsical space you see here with a number of rented pieces.

In a year as up-in-the-air as 2020, Sands certainly wasn’t alone in recognizing her transience and deciding to decorate accordingly. With the rise in telecommuting that the pandemic created, many people relocated and continue to move, and along with that wave, the concept of the rental market expanded to stuff, notably furniture. This is not to say rental companies specializing in furnishings didn’t exist prior. However, the shortage and lead times for ordering certain home items — desks and chairs, for example — made some people that might not otherwise think of renting furniture longer-term embrace it and consider trying out pieces throughout their whole homes. The upside of this practice? The ability to play around with your design scheme regularly (and somewhat sustainably) by living with pieces before committing to their investment or upfront cost, and, for renters in particular, less potential waste or throwing out of items when moving on to a new space.

Sands herself subscribed to Feather, a rental furniture service that stocks brands like West Elm, Floyd, and even Herman Miller alongside their own designs. You pay a monthly fee for each individual piece you rent, and items can be traded in regularly or even purchased at the end of a subscription if desired. A handful of other companies are catering to this growing market, too, including ZZ Driggs, which carries designer pieces in the New York metro area (and sells nationally), and Cort, which has showrooms across the country. Yet another upside to renting, according to Sands? Delivery and assembly. All Sands had to do was pick out what she wanted, and the items showed up ready to use within a week’s time.

When it comes to interiors, Sands prefers to keep her bigger pieces more muted and neutral, letting the pops of color come from things like books, decorative objects, textiles, and art. So she rented a gray sofa (she’s tried both a sectional and the three-seater pictured just above) and accent chair as well as a wooden circular coffee table to anchor her living room area, which lets the tonal Jenna Krypell wall sculpture above her sofa — curated by her mom, art advisor Ilene Sands — shine. “The art has really breathed a lot of life into the apartment,” she says. The Krypell piece also creates a literal eye-path toward her pair of white CB2 shelves, where she’s colorized her favorite reads by the spines and added things like pottery and travel souvenirs to give the space extra personality and pop, in addition to linens from companies like Kassatex.

Credit: Courtesy of Katie Sands

Furnishing her living room furniture turned out to be so easy that she now rents leather kitchen bar stools, a gold bar cart, and a Leesa mattress for her bedroom from Feather, too. In fact, the biggest challenge she faced decorating has been television placement, and she came up with a large furniture-free solution for that, too. “Our apartment has a very open feel, and putting a couch facing the wall would have meant that part of the living room would have felt very closed off,” Sands says. Instead, she and her boyfriend decided to use an art easel as TV stand. “Although it took some getting used to, it has now become the most talked-about item in our apartment.”

Turns out there’s one last benefit to renting furniture when it comes to entertaining, which many people will be looking to forward to this summer. “We aren’t attached or committed to our furniture, so I’m not as worried about it getting worn in,” says Sands, who plans to host a big group of friends as soon as possible. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”