Moving on from Fast Furniture?

Furniture isn’t what it used to be. Fifty or sixty years ago, people thought of it as something they’d have for life — a chest of drawers that a child could take to his first home, a dining table around which  future grandchildren would have their birthday parties. Not really the case today, but is that good?

To answer this question, convincingly, we need to understand the current situation.

We are helped in doing this by a recent report from the Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure. The facts, according to the report, are clear “household spending on home furnishings increased by nearly 23 percent between 2000 and 2022. "So we're spending more money, while the stuff is getting cheaper. This means that volumes are growing and the turnover rate is higher. 60 percent of the furniture sold is 'fast'," says Van der Zande, chairman on the Council.

Van der Zande went on to say “about 80 kilotons of furniture are discarded every year. Of that, 90 percent is incinerated." Concluding “This is a threat to the planet'”

A clear and powerful message!

The truth is that modern consumers are often all too happy to ditch last year’s furniture for whatever new trend is sweeping their social media feeds. Matched, at the other end of the supply chain, by an industry relying on cheap labour and flimsy materials to fatten profit margins and keep prices down.

Talking to people in the industry even high-end brands are not immune. An important change that has happened since the ’60s and ‘70s, when most, more affordable stuff, was typically made locally or in Europe often of plywood plywood — i.e., thin layers of wood glued together — while expensive pieces might be solid cherry or oak, and would be made in Italy or Denmark. This steady status quo was disrupted by manufacturers for the Far East whose position has been strengthened by three important factors.

Three factors that changed the quality of furniture

One factor are the raw materials available, including rubber wood used as a hard wood, which is less expensive than most other lumber because it’s a byproduct of latex manufacturing, but it’s prone to decay. Another being Chinese made hard board and plywood.

The second factor being that the cost of labour is very competitive.

The third and final factor is that shipping has developed so much, making the logistics so efficient and, therefore, cheap.

The result is that the whole industry has changed dramatically and is stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle. Cheap manufacturing practices have conditioned consumers to expect that furniture should be inexpensive and fall apart in a few years. So not many shoppers are willing to pay for good quality even when it is available.

Social Media trends cause fast furniture

As seems to be the case with most things, much of the blame falls on social media. Rather than seeing furniture as an investment — and seeking more timeless styles — customers often look for trendier pieces that fit the online micro-aesthetic of the moment. In other words, fast furniture, it might wear out its welcome before the craze, and reupholstering it would cost more than simply buying a new one.

As with clothes, factories are so much nimbler than they used to be and “they can be retooled very quickly to make a new thing in a new shape,” experts say. “And then those things are communicated to us more quickly through the internet. It has created a material culture which is just more and more disposable.”

And this, in turn, creates the huge amount of waste described by Van der Zande.

Draumr offers alternatives for Fast Furniture

We at Draumr are aiming to offer alternatives to those who don’t want to trash their coffee table after their next move, to offer a way where people know they’re getting a product that will last. Our aim is to alter the way people thinks about and treat their furniture, and its role in their lives. See Beyond beige.

We have a developing offering designed to cater for all those who are on our wavelength, who want to treasure their furniture. From the exquisite items made to your specifications by master craftsmen, to how to upscale second hand furniture bought online (details of which will be coming soon)

Step by step we’re gathering the expertise to help get the interiors of dreams, fitted to almost all budgets. Please subscribe to our newsletter to follow our progress.

 

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