For people on the move, rental furniture is the way to go
Newlyweds sometimes rent furniture until they decide on permanent possessions; or not relishing rooms of orange-crate furniture, while they catch up financially after making the down payment on a house.Skip to next paragraph
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Airline pilots and company executives rent furniture while they are involved in training periods at away-from-home locations. Newly divorced people rent furniture while they try to sort out their lives and establish a new home. Athletes, politicians, and foreign diplomats rent furniture to establish an ''instant'' home away from home.
Ballplayers, entertainers, and other professional people who are on the move rent furniture and apartments because they prefer that to hotel living. Bill Leeper, like thousands of other college students, rented furniture for his near-campus apartment while attending a Midwestern university.
Currently, business is very good for the 500 or so showrooms around the country that offer rental furniture. It is estimated that half a million homes a year are now furnished by rental, and that the annual business volume is over $ 400 million. The Furniture Rental Association of America expects further growth of 12 percent to 15 percent during the l980s.
Much of this growth is the result of hard effort. In the course of the past decade or so, the furniture rental business has been striving to upgrade and upstyle itself.
''In the old days a lot of people thought they were getting Salvation Army furniture, and our image was pretty shoddy,'' says Leonard Senker, president of the association and head of Furniture Rentors of America, a firm located in Wilmington, Del., but with showrooms in seven states.
''We have made every effort to untarnish that image,'' Mr. Senker says, ''and most of our showrooms today are handsome and full of room settings that are designed to help people see how to put the things together. We have become very style conscious and often offer the latest things from the furniture markets, even before retail stores show them.''
Many of the showrooms offer a free decorating consulting service. When this is the case, the staff decorator sits down with clients and works from apartment plans or blueprints or goes directly to the residence to check out particular problems. They work out color schemes and choose furniture of the correct style, scale, and function. When the rental lease is for two years or more, some companies offer to have upholstered pieces custom-covered for the customer.
Mr. Senker says renting furniture is like renting a car. You can rent a Volkswagen or a Rolls-Royce and pay accordingly. Monthly rental fees for basic furnishings of a one-bedroom apartment can range from $35 to $60 in some Midwestern areas, up to $100 to $150 in larger cities. Typical clients tend to choose furniture in the upper medium price range in contemporary styles. ''We are offering a better type of furnishings and attracting a higher class of customer who, in turn, gives our furniture better care,'' Mr. Senker comments. ''I guess you would say we are gaining stature.''
Most companies charge by the piece, which means a customer may rent a table and some folding chairs or a convertible sofa or a single lamp. Or a client may completely furnish a room or a mansion. Actual cost depends on the quality and quantity of furnishings selected and the length of lease time.
Mr. Senker says most customers ask three questions in this order: ''How soon can you deliver it? Am I going to get exactly what I see in the showroom? How much will it cost?'' Delivery times range from immediately to two days. The customer pays delivery and pickup charges and an extra month's rental as security. He or she signs a lease agreement that states all the terms.
Although most companies offer a lease-purchase arrangement to clients, this association president says that less than 10 percent of renters elect to purchase the furniture they have leased. Most people consider rental furniture as only a temporary acquisition.