4 important things to consider when shopping for furniture
Is fast furniture replacing fast fashion?
Over the past few years fast fashion has been in the spotlight for its environmental impact and often questionable ethics. Even the most ardent followers of fashion are rethinking how, where and how often they shop. Retailers have taken note and are making changes too. But it’s not just what’s in your wardrobe that’s the only problem, it may be the wardrobe itself. Fast furniture, like fast fashion, is about lower quality, trend-driven consumerism. It’s about things that look good for a while but won’t last very long. If it’s cheaper to replace than to mend something, then it generally fits into the “fast” category.
By now most of us are familiar with the concept of sustainability – buy less, waste less, buy more consciously. When buying new furniture it’s worth asking the following questions to decide where to spend your money. Some of the questions your furniture supplier should be able to answer, and some of the questions are for your own reflection:
1 Where do the materials come from? What were the working conditions like?
Has the wood come from responsibly sourced forests? A shocking amount of illegally logged wood ends up in fast furniture. Illegal logging does significant damage to the environment and because of its criminal nature often involves an exploited workforce. This can mean cutting corners when it comes to health and safety in an already dangerous workplace. If what you’re buying seems cheap it may be because the environment or the workforce are paying the true price.
2 What chemicals were used to make it?
Cheaper materials are often manufactured using chemicals that have a detrimental environmental impact. Are the oils and treatments used eco-friendly and child-safe? How harmful are they to the environment and the workers making the furniture? Particle board is made using a lot of chemicals and because of this it cannot be recycled. When fast furniture reaches the end of its lifespan up to 80% of it ends up in waste. That means that those chemicals will go into landfill or incinerators.
3 Will it survive a house move?
Fast furniture is often self-assembly flat pack. While it works well when first put together if it’s taken apart it can’t always be restored to its former state. Even if you’re living in your dream home your furniture will probably be moved around at some point – to rearrange the room, to make way for decorating or because fast furniture can soon look outdated. Because it’s usually made from particle boards and thin veneers or laminates, repairing fast furniture is a challenge. Even the most careful home owner will have an accident once in a while. Better quality solid wood furniture can be sanded to remove nicks and scratches. It’s made to last so that even if you no longer want to use it someone else can. You can resell it, give it to a friend or donate it to charity.
4 Is this furniture following a trend?
When it comes to furniture you should think in generations, not seasons. No-one talks about Louis XV’s 1771 Spring collection of chairs. Along with Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco furniture these were all part of much slower movements. Furniture was designed to last for generations rather than being redesigned and updated every season each year. It was valued for the quality of the materials used, craftsmanship, practical use and beauty. The mid-century furniture revival of recent years is only possible because previous generations valued quality over price when shopping for home furnishings. Try to imagine how you’ll feel about your furniture in a decade or two. Will your children be happy to use it when you no longer need it? Will every home that gets redecorated this year have the exact same bookcase and dining table as the one you just bought? And as a result, will they all look dated in a relatively short period?
At Design KNB sustainability and style go together
Unfortunately, people often associate the word “sustainable” with not being stylish. With wanting to do good rather than look good. Unlike trends (whether in fashion or furniture), style is timeless. The furniture at Design KNB is chosen because it is beautiful and will add style to your home interior. How it is made is part of its story but how it looks is just as important too.
At Design KNB we select European-based furniture suppliers like Hoom, Plywood Project, take me HOME and Maja Laptos for cushions. These suppliers produce their work in small workshops using sustainable materials from sustainably managed forests (where wood is involved) in their area or from other sources. For every tree that is used another one is planted. They use eco-friendly treatments and food-grade, child-safe varnishes on solid wood to enhance its natural beauty.
One thing that I particularly love about working with these suppliers is that the furniture comes straight from their workshops to your home. The furniture is produced when it is ordered, it’s not sitting in a huge warehouse with thousands of clones. And while this means you might have to wait 6-8 weeks for your future heirloom, it’s a much shorter supply journey than going from faraway forest, to factory, to warehouse, to shop floor, to your house! When your furniture arrives you’ll get enjoyment out of it for many years to come – so waiting a few weeks is a relatively short period. And you’re unlikely to see the same furniture in everyone else’s homes.