How to Furnish Your Apartment for $5

Posted May 16, 2018 8:25 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — 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 chairs, shelves 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 chairs, stackable shelves and a bookcase, all in bright 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 Manhattan, 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. Other pieces cost slightly more, though less than $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, Formichetti said. It’s that loose, commitment-free approach to decorating that 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?” Mattan said. “It’s about getting rid of the idea that you own an item.”

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, Formichetti and 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.

“It’s a good collection for 20-somethings in their first apartment,” 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?

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

Mattan added, “It’s not B&B Italia.”

Kamarq pop-up, 480 Broome St., New York. Open through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.