Saving sofas 

Fancy Couches brings the past into the present by renting out unique antiques for photo shoots, weddings and other events.

click to enlarge Aubrey York-Ketner and her father Brad York started Fancy Couches in 2017. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Aubrey York-Ketner and her father Brad York started Fancy Couches in 2017.

Sofas are the places we sit, the sites of family gatherings and, sometimes, objects of historical consideration. But they are also the focal point of Aubrey York-Ketner and her father Brad York’s business, Fancy Couches.

Fancy Couches opened in late 2017 with a unique business model offering “exquisite lounging rentals” especially suited for photography shoots, weddings, parties and other events. One-day rentals cost around $130 per piece, with a 50 percent discount per day for longer rentals. Delivery is free for locations within a 15-mile radius of the studio’s Bethany location, 5204 N. Rockwell Ave., Suite B. Distances outside this radius require a $1.25/charge per mile one-way.

Like the pieces in its collection, Fancy Couches has a family story of its own, one of unlikely origins and generational curiosity.

“My mother was very artistic. She was a porcelain artist, a teacher,” York said. “Every day of her life … she was doing something artistic. … Apparently, that passed on to my daughter.”

York-Ketner, who has worked as a hairstylist and makeup artist for about 12 years, has since channeled her creativity into an avenue favored by her grandmother: antiques.

After York’s mother passed away, he said they were left with her large collection of antique furniture. While they sold several pieces at antique booths, York said they were still left with a number of pieces, which Aubrey successfully sold online.

In addition to selling her grandmother’s antiques, York-Ketner also began purchasing and re-selling sofas, chairs and settees that struck her eye, York said. She noticed a trend among her clientele: Most of the people who purchased her pieces were photographers who used the furniture as props during photo shoots.

“I came to find that they used it seasonally,” York-Ketner said. “They would buy a piece, use it for the season, use it for their mini-shoots and then wouldn’t have any place to put it, so they would sell it.”

“They didn’t want to be in the couch business,” York added.

The idea of a furniture rental business began to coalesce.

Treasure hunt

For the better part of a year, York-Ketner and her parents — whose backgrounds are in real estate — drove across Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas on weekends to pick up furniture pieces she had discovered. They purchased a 12-foot trailer and set off in search of pieces to add to their ever-growing collection.

“It became a treasure hunt,” York said.

Like any quest for treasure, they braved storms and wind, traveling to remote locations to purchase from individuals who knew the history behind the pieces they were selling.

“The history behind them is what gets us the most,” said York-Ketner, who said that many times, a search for one piece would put them on the trail for others nearby.

The pieces she finds bequeath an entire history of creation, carving and upholstery. Additionally, there’s an entire unseen history behind the sofas: hours of sitting, talking and taking photos.

Many of the sofas purchased had previously been family heirlooms that no longer fit into subsequent generations’ lives, York said. For the York family, this sense of familial history dovetailed with the family dynamic that informs the business.

They began storing pieces first in their home and then in multiple storage units, York said. Eventually, York and her parents decided to search for a space that would allow York-Ketner to combine her hair and makeup studio with sofa rentals.

York-Ketner and her parents began the process of incorporation, designing a logo, setting up a website and arranging other business practicalities for their studio.

Aubrey York-Ketner started Fancy Couches with her father last year after a stint buying and selling antiques and furniture. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Aubrey York-Ketner started Fancy Couches with her father last year after a stint buying and selling antiques and furniture.

Aesthetic opportunities

York-Ketner said her experience in the world of local commercials, weddings and hair and makeup prepared her for the kind of aesthetic attention that antique scouting requires. She said she has a behind-the-scenes knowledge of what photographs well and what pieces work best at larger gatherings like weddings or parties.

A basic set of criteria informs York-Ketner’s purchases — avoid major rips or tears that can’t be reupholstered — but the process is otherwise entirely based on pieces to which she is drawn.

“It’s what I’m attracted to,” York-Ketner said.

Her knowledge of colors, themes, palettes and points of interest has helped shape Fancy Couches’ inventory selection, a wide variety of sofas and chairs that range from Victorian to midcentury in style.

Fancy Couches generally has between 50 and 70 pieces on hand at any time, York said. Some, like the ornate, gilded “party throne” remains perennially popular at weddings.

Fancy Couches has been in business for about six months, York said, but so far, reception has been positive and the business filled a unique need. For York-Ketner, it was all about finding that niche that allowed her to use her professional experience and develop her eye for finding unique, striking furniture.

“They love our pieces,” York-Ketner said. “They say they’re unique; we find what we like.”

This summer will be Fancy Couches’ first, and York said he’s optimistic about the season, a popular time for weddings.

“We’re building; we’re building fast,” York said.

York-Ketner described the business as ever-evolving, especially as the search continues.

“We never feel like we have enough,” she said.

For York-Ketner and her parents, Fancy Couches represents a business venture that remains, at its heart, rooted in a family that loves to talk and connect with others. The business venture ostensibly deals in luxury sofas, but also in the repurposing of previously obsolete objects into 21st-century pieces that will appear in Instagram posts and wedding photos for years to come.


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