Space limitations in Hong Kong homes can cause problems if visitors come to town or you want to host a large party. Buying extra furniture and homeware for a short space of time is expensive and can prove difficult to store afterwards - furniture rental could be the solution.
Originally designed for newcomers to Hong Kong, renting home furnishings was a sensible stop-gap for those on short-term contracts or slowly furnishing their new apartments.
Now, though, the rental market's customer base has widened. For Sheri King, it 'made more sense' to rent rather than put wear and tear on her own furniture by shipping it from the US. 'I was also able to choose pieces that were a total fit for my Hong Kong home,' she says.
Indigo Living's showroom offered King a wide choice of items and a designer from the store visited her home several times to advise on colours and fabrics. 'It was a huge shopping spree over multiple days involving multiple friends,' she says. 'I had carte blanche to walk around the showroom and choose things for my home, and when I couldn't find a sofa that suited me, I had one made - Indigo purchased it and put it in my rental plan.'
She was also pleased to discover that when a piece of her wood furniture cracked owing to the climate, the rental company sent a carpenter to fix it.
Bobby You Wah-wong is executive director at Home Essentials, which rents out 'everything' - from sofas to cutlery, beds to linen. Formerly, its clients were mainly expatriates, Wong says, but now property developers are calling on the firm to furnish their show flats.
Although there is a Chinese cultural bias against anything second-hand, Wong says the younger generation is ignoring that perception in favour of renting. Incentives such as owning the furnishings after a two-year rental period have helped to promote the concept. Alternatively, renters can begin a new contract and refurbish their interior.
Home Essentials' basic furniture package for an average two-bedroom flat costs HK$3,500 to HK$4,000 per month, or more if items such as LCD TVs are required. Renters can choose from a wide range of classic and contemporary-styled furniture and hundreds of soft furnishing fabrics.
All furniture in long-term rental packages (over 12 months) are made new in Home Essentials' mainland factories. Renters can personalise items by choosing their preferred wood and fabrics, and consult a professional designer to help in the selection process.
'Our designer visits customers' flats to go over the fabrics and make sure everything goes together nicely,' says Wong. 'Our clients find this to be time saving, and it also gives them the benefit of an interior designer's advice.'
Relocation firm Santa Fe gears its rental service towards new residents waiting for their shipments to arrive and is used to dealing with the unexpected. On one occasion, it fitted out an apartment with just one day's notice when a client discovered their anticipated shipment had been delayed. 'They were happy, as at least they had something to use,' says Beatrice Morales, Santa Fe's assistant relocation services manager.
Unusual requests are catered for and Morales says the company will purchase items as needed and even convert rooms for guests.
'We have often helped clients convert an office or storage space into a guest room, providing a bed, linen, drawers and lights on a weekly or monthly basis.'
Indigo Living says its design-led furniture and accessories rental service is a 'natural extension' of its retail business. Its in-home styling service has provided renters with everything from a wooden sculpture to a hand-carved Indonesian bed, to accent pillows.
'For customers leasing a full-home furniture package our stylists or designers will visit their home to assist with the choice of everything from furniture, carpets and curtains to lighting and accessories,' says its managing director John McLennan. 'This makes the furnishing of a home a fantastic experience. In a city where time is precious, an expert's advice is an invaluable asset for getting things done right the first time.'
With the wide variety of homewares on the market, this service makes choosing easy. 'We find most of our clients really appreciate the advice of our designers and stylists on not only what works well together functionally, but also how to create the 'wow factor' that makes every client's taste and style unique,' McLennan says.
All furniture on long-term rental from Indigo (12 months or more) is new, and customers may pick from anything they see in the store - from sofas and wooden furniture to cutlery and curtains. The short-term rentals (minimum one month) are reconditioned solid wood furniture, McLennan says.
Indigo also hires for exclusive corporate functions, providing furniture, lighting and accessories.
So if you need extra household equipment to cope with the holiday season influx, a single bed from Santa Fe will cost HK$115 per week; a dining table from Home Essentials is HK$500 (the minimum monthly charge) plus HK$110 each for the chairs, while Indigo Living can provide outdoor tables and chairs for al fresco entertaining.
It's worked for King. 'Many of my friends envy the situation I have here,' she says of her home's stylish interior.