Ann King has a favorite couch, actually a settee, and it has a name: the Blue Bird Settee. Covered with flowers and pheasants, the 1930s-era blue sofa is just big enough for a couple. It's the kind of piece you might find in the lobby of an upscale hotel or on the pages of House Beautiful. It's definitely not what you'd expect in an event rentals warehouse. But that's exactly where King, the 32-year-old owner of Borrow Rentals, keeps hers.
Walking through Borrow's new East 55th Street warehouse feels a little bit like walking through your grandmother's attic — but only if she had impeccable taste and a modern sensibility. The 3,500-square-foot space is packed with vintage couches and chairs, delicately patterned china, upcycled farm tables and dozens of glass bud vases that King rents to brides, party planners, event managers and photographers.
"Ohio has amazing resources for antiques," says King, who gets most of her vintage pieces from estate sales and auction houses. "There's quite a few spots where you can end up with really great pieces at prices you couldn't even find in New York."
King, who studied poetry at Miami University, has always had a thing for quirky items. As a kid, she preferred browsing the trinkets at the Nature Company to toy shopping. Yet, much of her education in antiques comes from her husband Ryan's grandmother and aunt, who own an interior design firm in Granville, Ohio. "They started showing me how they did it," she says. "I was obsessed with it."
She'd originally considered opening an antiques store that hosted events, but moved toward unconventional rentals after a wedding planner friend on the West Coast mentioned that bridal trend.
King, whose mother founded the drama club at St. Gregory the Great in South Euclid, always enjoyed the production side of an event. "Ann walks around with everybody in the warehouse," says Colleen Beyer, Borrow's vice president. "She's asking questions, and you can see her wheels turning."
Take that Blue Bird Settee. She snagged it when her father's law firm relocated. Borrow's signature farm tables and high-tops were crafted by Reclaimed Cleveland with wood salvaged from local buildings.
"One of our taglines is: 'All of our pieces have a story and we want to be a part of yours,' " King says. "So much of that story is a Cleveland-based story."
With three to five events every weekend during wedding season, Borrow Rentals' Ann King has learned a thing — or three — about planning a party.
Just Ask | "It is unbelievable what you can get just by asking," she says. A connection at Progressive Field, for example, hooked up her sister's bachelorette party with special pregame access to the park.
Be Smart | Can't afford to do all wooden tables? "Do just the head table," she says. "A couple really great core pieces will elevate the whole event."
Love In | Add personal touches. For her sister's party, each girl got a trucker hat with Cleveland slogans such as "Hitched in the 216." "Keep focused on making it filled with love," she says.
Therese went to penn for college [and lives in New York], so a lot of her close friends are from the East Coast. The stops we picked were all surprises. Ann would announce the next stop, and Therese would get so excited.
We started at 10 a.m. and went right over to Progressive Field. The game didn't start for two hours and fans were already lined up. We got to take pictures all over the stadium — a whole group of girls having fun and catcalling to the players warming up. We went to the Terminal Tower. Great Lakes Brewing hooked us up with a private tour. We went to Nano Brew. We ended up having this private dinner by the chef at the Willeyville. Therese is a foodie, so a really amazing dinner was important to us. Even the people who live in Cleveland got new experiences. We had a blast. — as told to Sarah Routh