An example of a room filled with objects rented from Harth.

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You’ve spent years, and a lot of cash, painstakingly building your collection that takes pride of place in your home.

You cherish each object within this lovingly compiled archive. But have you ever thought about sharing?

There are lots of ways to make more of your collection.

Many collectors will write books and share their objects and knowledge without the need to physically move objects.

Joining societies or associations related to specific collecting areas is also a way of enjoying your collecting in a more public arena. Those with the wealth and the space have even set up their own museums to house their collection.

However, there is an under-exploited avenue for collectors to lend to museums, national or local, for specific exhibitions or on a longer-term basis as well as to film sets, pop-up shops and private homes.

Here a legal expert provides a check list of things to consider when lending and we feature two businesses specialising in these areas. Below we feature online lending business Harth and click here to read about collections management company CURA.

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Bring on the borrowers

Neither a borrower or a lender be. But what would Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet make of borrowing and lending art and antiques?

Design writer and expert Henrietta Thompson and her entrepreneur husband Ed Padmore have built their business on this.

Their company Harth facilitates the lending of art, antiques and homewares. Founded in 2018, the firm’s website offers owners of art, antiques, furniture and homewares the chance to lend on a short-term basis for a fee.

The website is in what its founders call “beta-phase” – the testing stages – but it currently has 15,000 pieces available to rent.

Thompson says: “By loaning through Harth antiques dealers and collectors can reach new audiences and give more life to their older pieces. This is about getting them out of the store or stock cupboard and into people’s homes.”

As part of the development of the site, Thompson said there is a plan to share the “history, provenance and story of objects” so borrowers can understand the background to items they rent.

A large part of its customer base is corporate clients, such as retail and fashion brands and media and film companies. Often retailers will host pop-up shops or create events that need a number of objects to create the desired effect but there is no ability to store items for longer than needed, so buying and selling items is not an option. These are active only for a short period. But there is also a growing number of individual consumers using the website.

Freshen up

“The Instagram generation love to change their look and get those key shots with fresh items in their homes. Harth enables people to be freer with their tastes and styles and allows people to try antiques for the first time… A borrower can experience new things without committing to a purchase,” Thompson adds.

The small company, with fewer than 10 full-time staff members, has a network of interior designers on hand as part of its advisory service and all listed items are approved by Harth’s curators who “welcome design-led pieces in good condition”.

The website has a preponderance of contemporary objects and homewares from cushions to sofas, but is expanding its range of antiques.

The company has noted an increase in “demand for pieces from different periods right back to the 17th and 18th centuries” and Harth hopes to attract more collectors and dealers to lend these types of objects.

One dealer group that already lends via the site is Kairos Collective, which is an online selling platform for 200 vintage, antique and modernist dealers in the UK. Kairos has lent items for a number of fashion shoots and brand events.

Harth also hopes to tap into the growth of sustainability among consumers. Padmore says: “People are getting used to the benefits of renting in other industries… and at a time when as a society we are consuming so much, owning everything simply doesn’t make sense any more.”

Fees: becoming a member of the site is free. Harth takes a 20% fee on objects being loaned and borrowed.

Borrowers will pay 7% of a product’s RRP for the first month’s rental. All subsequent months will be charged at 3.5%. Borrowers pay for delivery and returns, which start from £35.

Lenders will get 90% of the listed rent of an object with Harth taking a 10% cut. For example: A chair with a monthly rental fee of £100: the borrower will pay £110 and Harth takes a 10% commission. The lender of the chair will receive £90 a month (the £100 price, minus Harth’s 10%). Harth receives £20 in total in this exampleInsurance packages start from £5.