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No. 58
Life Lessons

I’m often approached by clients (and heck, some of my own friends & family) that don’t quite understand the vintage rental business model, our pricing structure, or the value that vintage pieces can add to an event. I thought it’d be fun to hear it from my point-of-view and get into the nitty gritty behind how our business operates. I think it’s also important to clarify the difference between a vintage or specialty rental company & that of a standard event rental company.

Amidst my lengthy answers, you’ll be able to see what our pieces looked like when they were originally purchased versus after upholstery. It’s amazing to see an ugly duckling transform into a show-stopping piece! I’ve also answered some of our most commonly asked questions.

the before of a settee

a flea market settee

a settee after being renovated

a renovated loveseat

What exactly does a vintage rental company do? A vintage rental company specializes in repurposed vintage finds as opposed to store-bought or readily accessible rentals. Featuring a unique inventory with curated pieces that are one-of-a-kind, a vintage rental company is able to create an entire atmosphere out of its pieces and add the character that a resin chair or polyester napkin simply cannot match.

Because our pieces are “used,” they’re nearly always reupholstered and refinished before they ever hit our warehouse floor. We search flea markets both locally and on long-distance trips we take to other parts of the country to source new inventory, because the entire rationale behind our business is to provide clients with items they cannot find elsewhere. Many of our pieces are designer items by the likes of Adrian Pearsall, Hans Wegner, Arne Norell, and Percival Lafer. These names may not mean much to someone who doesn’t collect vintage furniture, but these are collector’s items that are highly coveted.

two Levon chairs before being upholstered

a vintage flea market Levon chair

a Levon chair with a blue cushion after upholstery

a Levon chair with a blue cushion

How are your pieces different than those offered at a standard rental company? Because they’re 40-100 years old, our pieces require a lot of love & attention. They also require maintenance if we wish to keep them in pristine condition for our clients. Antiques are fragile and not meant for moving often, so while we take utmost care to transport them safely at all times, they need tightening, staining, and touch-up work on a regular basis. Newly purchased items from a standard rental company don’t often require this type of maintenance, as they’re typically purchased in bulk and priced at wholesale rates.

About 95% of our upholstered pieces were adorned in tattered or ill-suiting upholstery when we first picked them up, so they looked nothing like they do once they hit our rental collection. The first cost involved with making our pieces beautiful is new fabric. If we use a pricier material such as African mud cloth or vintage indigo, we’re looking at around $50/yard. A large sofa takes 10-15 yards of material, so we’re often looking at $500-750 in fabric before we’ve even paid our upholsterer to quickly rip that floral patterned grandma chic fabric off our sofa ASAP. We also use cotton, linen, canvas, and velvet on our pieces, so the fabric cost varies from $18-50/yard.

Even at wholesale upholstery rates, a sofa generally costs between $500-750 in upholstery labor. The price varies based upon the material used, whether or not the piece is heavily tufted, and the size of the piece itself. Sometimes we have to replace the foam cushions, switch out the legs for a sturdier option, or brace the bottom of a piece with additional wood to ensure it’s safe for use, which adds further to our upfront investment.

Why should I rent from a smaller rental company if the bigger companies have better prices? The beauty that a vintage piece can bring to a space cannot quite be put into words. They’re often the center of attention at an event, whether it be a sofa placed in a photo booth, a lounge where guests relax and mingle, or the farm tables that bring everyone together to break bread. Our rentals create an atmosphere that’s one-of-a-kind and completely unexpected.

On a busy day such as one’s wedding, many of the smaller details can easily be forgotten, but I assure you that a bride will forever remember their vintage rug aisle that lead them to their altar. We’ve received many emails from corporate clients saying that their event was a huge success and they booked a sale because of the rentals we’d selected for them. I think these moments speaks for themselves as to why the investment is worth it when it comes to creating a memorable event.

an old vintage sofa

a vintage flea market sofa

a vintage sofa after upholstery

the back of a vintage sofa

So, you’re making your money back on every item in a few short rentals, right? Hopefully, but often times, no. Our goal is to earn our money back on our rentals in 3-4 uses, but this isn’t always possible. I can’t charge $500 for a single-day rental of a sofa, because we price our items based upon market value. Our custom farm tables take nearly 10 rentals to earn their keep, and our sofas can take 5-6 rentals before we break-even.

All of our white pieces are priced higher for a reason — they get dirty! The fabric can’t last nearly as long on a lighter piece as it would a leather item or darker fabric. Our pieces have a limited shelf-life and can only get through so many rentals without looking dingy and needing a face-lift (new fabric).

a blue settee from a flea market

an old blue settee

a blue settee after upholstery

an upholstered settee

What makes a vintage rental company different? We’re a smaller company, so we’re able to provide the best customer service possible to each of our clients. From the moment you inquire with us to the day we deliver to your event, our goal is to make each client feel as though they’re our only client. We respond to inquiries quickly, revise proposals often, follow-up to see if you have any questions, and we’ll always work with you through any design issues.

You’ll notice a world of difference in the thought we put into our lounge designs, as we’re always willing to help create something custom for your event if you’re not sure how to piece everything together. We have pre-styled lounges to choose from, and we can help tailor any of our pieces to fit your desired look. We don’t expect you to know that a certain rug isn’t large enough for the lounge you like, and we will always let you know if items that have been selected are the wrong scale for one another. The details are what matter most to us.

On-site, we would never dump your rentals in a corner and leave for the next event. We always meet with your coordinator, verify the layout, and place the furniture in the correct location. Our staff is trained to put lounges together, setup all of the tables/chairs, and not leave the venue until a coordinator has approved our piece’s location on-site. We know our clients are hiring us to make a space look a certain way, and we won’t leave until we’ve accomplished that goal. Because our focus is on design and aesthetics, you’ll receive a white-glove delivery crew each and every time.

the Raj sofa before upholstery

a colorful flea market sofa

the Raj sofa after upholstery

a cream Raj sofa

I whole-heartedly believe that specialty event rental companies offer something so completely unique to their markets, and I hope that this post was able to breakdown what we’re all about. If you have any other questions, I’m all ears! xo, Britt

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