Not-so-fun fact: according to an EC Sustainable report the average metropolitan Australian household sends 24 kilograms of wooden furniture to landfill every year. In Melbourne alone, that’s the equivalent of about 3.4 million coffee tables, or 6.85 million chairs. It’s these kinds of statistics – and a belief in the importance of creating a comfortable home – that led Perth’s TJ Hoon and Peter Kijak to launch Breeze: a subscription-based online furniture service.
“I think there’s a lot of value in creating your own space,” says Hoon, who earlier this year left a career with Goldman Sachs that saw him move from Perth to Sydney to New York City and then back south to Melbourne, where he now resides, in the space of four years. “The point of Breeze is to give people the option to create a home for today without worrying about the needs of tomorrow.”
After leaving his job, Hoon ran a number of business ideas past longtime friend Kijak, and Breeze is the one that stuck.
“I have an interest in well-made designer furniture, and we wanted to be working with a subject matter that interested us,” says Hoon. “But we also wanted to do something that could have a positive impact, and we thought this idea could really work in Australia.”
The pair believe the idea of renting or subscribing to furniture is foreign to most people, so the aim is to keep Breeze as simple as possible – as the name suggests. You can either rent selected furniture for a minimum of three months or become a member. Members pay a weekly subscription fee and receive heavily discounted rental rates for individual items of furniture or designer-curated room sets. Members also receive white-glove delivery and assembly free of charge within seven days of placing an order. And, if you’re moving or you just want a change of scenery, membership entitles you to switch up your entire space once a year free of delivery charges. After 24 months’ subscription to any piece of furniture, members can buy it for $1 – so if they do decide to “settle down”, as Hoon puts it, they can keep the design they’ve been paying for.
“We want to totally eliminate worry about changing future needs when it comes to creating a home,” says Hoon. “We need nice homes to come back to, but that doesn’t always feel accessible without spending a huge amount of money upfront. It makes sense that we should invest in our homes, but we don’t always have the option to.”
Breeze’s offering is, for the time being, highly selective. There are less than 50 products available in the store, and the service is only available in Melbourne for now. All items are sourced from local suppliers personally identified by Hoon and Kijak as providing high-quality products designed to stand the test of time – ergo, no flatpacks except for bed frames. They’ve also partnered with a local furniture-restoration specialist, who assists the team in both preparing and protecting furnishings prior to their first subscription, and completing any necessary refurbishment when the pieces are returned, ready for reuse. This circular model is at the core of the pair’s business plan: they really want to keep furniture out of landfill.
“Having worked in banking,” Hoon says, “I see a lot of people who could afford to buy high-quality furniture opting instead to buy self-assembly furniture, mostly from IKEA, because it just doesn’t make sense for them to invest in what they really want yet. I’ve seen it multiple times, and I’m guilty of it myself as I’ve moved – when your life changes, you just throw it all out.”
There are big plans in the pipeline, not least Hoon’s goal to work with Brooklyn-based home decor store, West Elm – the first international home retailer to join the Fair Trade factory certification program and champion a number of sustainability initiatives. But for now, they’re figuring out what works.
“Flexibility, in terms of buying cheap furniture, really comes at a cost for the environment,” says Hoon, “but it shouldn’t. When I left banking, I was looking for something that could make a positive contribution to society. In many regards, we’re hoping Breeze can do that.”