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How to furnish your apartment for $5

The New York Times logo The New York Times 5 days ago STEVEN KURUTZ

PJ Mattan, left, and Nicola Formichetti, the designers behind a new furniture subscription line.

PJ Mattan, left, and Nicola Formichetti, the designers behind a new furniture subscription line.
© Travis Chantar

Fast fashion has been popular for years, but until recently, the concept hasn’t caught on with furniture. The words “fast” and “cheap” and “dining table” somehow don’t inspire. But a Japanese company called Kamarq is now selling tables, chairs and other furnishings for barely more than the cost of an H&M T-shirt.

How? Kamarq is starting a subscription service similar to Netflix — pay as little as $5 per month and instead of DVDs (remember those?), the company will send you furniture. At the end of each subscription period (either six or 12 months), customers can exchange products for new ones or keep them.

The debut collection, which includes a table, chairs, stackable shelves and a bookcase, all in bright primary colors like pink and yellow that recall Gaetano Pesce and the 1980s Memphis movement, goes on sale this week at a pop-up shop in SoHo, to coincide with NYCxDesign, an annual celebration of design. Five bucks doesn’t get you much — a single shelving unit on the 12-month plan, delivered to your home via FedEx. The table costs $18 per month based on the same plan.

The pieces were designed by Nicola Formichetti, the fashion designer and former stylist for Lady Gaga, and PJ Mattan, a Belgian-born, New York-based creative director for fashion and design brands.

The two are friends and neighbors in TriBeCa, where they often swap furniture, Mr. Formichetti said. It’s that loose, commitment-free approach to decorating that Mr. Mattan believes will appeal to a generation accustomed to ride sharing and music streaming.

“Why would your house have to look the same for five years?” Mr. Mattan said. “It’s about getting rid of the idea that you own an item.”

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For that matter, why would a shelf have to be a shelf? Many of the Kamarq pieces are modular and can be restyled. At the pop-up store, Mr. Formichetti and Mr. Mattan turned one of the shelving units into a boxy planter. The pieces are also made from recyclable “eco wood” and priced cheaper than Ikea (a table with tubular legs is the most expensive item, at $180).

“It’s a good collection for 20-somethings in their first apartment,” Mr. Mattan said.

There are plans to expand the line to include a sofa and other pieces and perhaps to broaden the palette with wood tones. And does the furniture hold up better than a cheap T-shirt?

Mr. Formichetti shrugged. “I mean, I’ve had the samples for, like, six months now in my house,” he said. “It’s doing really well.”

Mr. Mattan added, “It’s not B&B Italia.”


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