A San Francisco furniture startup called Oliver Space has set up warehouses in a handful of cities full of elegant couches, dining tables and other trendy furnishings.
The company has modernized the process of buying — and renting — furniture, promising delivery in as little as three days. The quality (and price) of the furniture is in line with companies like West Elm. But Oliver Space offers some options for those unwilling to fork over the big bucks for fashionable furniture that they may not need long term.
The startup allows customers to rent items and swap them out as their needs or preferences change, or rent-to-own with zero interest.
Founder Chan Park, an ex-Uber manager overseeing Asian territories, said he came up with the idea for Oliver Space while renting a stylish, furnished apartment in Singapore. He’d stayed in furnished places before, but this one was elegantly designed.
“I could be proud of my space, and enjoy it more,” Park said. “I wanted to host friends and family more often and cook more at home. That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head.”
People want something better than disposable, low-quality furniture, he said. But for those who move frequently for job opportunities, like Park did early in his career, it’s hard to reinvest in nice furnishings that may not work in your next space or next phase of life.
On average, Americans move 11.7 times in their lifetime, according to 2007 Census Bureau data (the most recent of its kind). Today, that figure might look a lot higher, as millennials are known for job-hopping more than any other generation before them.
Park said he can’t compare Oliver Space with the old furniture rental stores. The demographic they’re targeting is different, as are the products.
“Our catalog is very modern, contemporary and stylish,” Park said. “I think it’s a completely different dynamic.”
Besides appealing to those who value modern and on-trend aesthetics, the company also has environmentalism on its side. Each year, Americans are dumping millions of tons of furniture and furnishings into landfills, and the rate is rapidly increasing thanks to fast furniture made by companies like IKEA.
In 2018, Americans trashed 12.1 million tons of furnishings, up from 2.2 million tons in 1960, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“This is due to the proliferation of disposable furniture and the transient consumer,” Park said. “They don’t get disposable furniture because they want to. They do it because they have no other choice.”
Here’s how Oliver Space works. Shoppers use the company’s website to pick out single items or design entire rooms with not only furniture but art, lamps and more. The consumer can rent items (for example, a couch can rent for as low as $33 a month), rent-to-own under 0 percent interest plans, or buy the item outright. The full price for couches and sectionals at Oliver Space is typically below $2,000. Park said the company can compete with prices at places like West Elm due to its lack of middlemen and brick-and-mortar stores.
Shoppers can also use an item for as long as they want, then send it back when the piece no longer fits their needs and swap it out for something different.
Oliver Space refurbishes each item that comes back to its warehouse, thoroughly cleaning and repairing the goods. Park said many of its items are things that don’t wear easily, like wood TV consoles and wall art.
The pandemic has fueled a lot of growth for the company, as furniture buying rocketed, supply chains slowed at traditional retail outlets, and orders began taking months and months to be delivered to customers.
Oliver Space has local warehouses and can deliver in as little as three days.
The startup, founded in 2018, just raised $13 million in venture capital, bringing the total amount raised to $21 million. Park said Oliver Space is not yet profitable.
“This industry is ripe for innovation,” Park said. “We offer a different experience that consumers deserve.”
The company currently operates in San Francisco, San Diego, Orange County, Calif., Dallas, Austin, Texas and Seattle.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of times a person moves. It is 11.7 times in a lifetime, not a year.