Michael Barlow

The co-founder and CEO of Fernish on sustainability in home design and avoiding “fast furniture” waste.

Each year, Americans throw away millions of tons of furniture, from DIY shelves to sagging couches. Inspired to come up with a more sustainable solution, Michael Barlow founded Fernish, a rental furniture subscription service that prioritizes both ease and environmental responsibility. Customers can rent furnishings to fit their needs—from single pieces to full-room designs—from contemporary brands like CB2 and Crate & Barrel, as well as Fernish’s in-house line. In support of its sustainable mission, Fernish sources products that can be refurbished and returned to like-new condition. Since its launch in 2018, the L.A.-based company has saved more than 1 million pounds of furniture from landfills.


What does sustainability in home design look like? 

It’s an increased level of mindfulness about everything in your home. We are conscious about the food we eat, how we take care of ourselves mentally and physically, and the home is the center for that. We are finally starting to see a pushback against “fast furniture” in the same way that we are seeing an awareness about fast fashion—people are buying more vintage and are choosing more sustainable materials.


What factors should people consider when curating their space? 

There’s often a compulsion to decorate an entire space at once and that can lead to a lot of panic buying or settling for something that’s in stock now, rather than waiting and getting what you actually need or want. I’ve done it and anyone who’s done this knows how wasteful it is in terms of the environment and your finances. Waiting a beat gives you the luxury of time to make more thoughtful decisions.

What are the benefits of renting versus owning furniture?

Flexibility, convenience, and cost. If you don’t know how long you are going to be in a place, there’s no reason to waste money buying anything. If you move in six months—no problem, Fernish will pick the furniture up. The convenience of not having to move is great, as well as not having to assemble anything or mess with delivery fees, all of that is included. Cost savings is also a huge benefit. You get to enjoy designer furniture that fits your space and when you no longer need it, you return it.


In what types of living situations can renting furniture be beneficial?

We’re a great solution for people who are in a period of transition. We have customers who order rental furniture from us while they are waiting for their much more expensive custom pieces to arrive so they have something to sit on while they wait. Another growing part of our business is our B2B customers. These are real estate, investment, or hospitality businesses that use Fernish so they can offer tenants furnished apartments for rent.

Any Fernish pieces you’re excited about?

We have a new line of exclusive sofas and sectionals, “Danica” and “Jensen,” that were great fun to design with our business model and customer in mind. They are constructed with hardwood frames for durability and covered in performance-grade fabric made with an eco-conscious dying method.

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