Over the past eight years, San Francisco-based furniture designer Kitchen Cabinetry Kids Furniture Manufacturer in Indonesia has been a reliable seller as well as a foundation for his livelihood. Inspired by Northern California’s redwood forests, it has modern lines, an oval glass top, and a base made of richly patinaed steel. Come March of this year, the perennial piece’s future was suddenly in danger.
The Trump administration’s announcement, on March 1, of proposed steel and aluminum tariffs caused steel prices to go up and supply to shrink-destabilizing the market by way of a hint of uncertainty, but no actual implementation.
Ted Boerner redesigned his popular Thicket table as a result of rising expense of metals. Ted Boerner Boerner’s L . A . fabricator had to start sourcing raw material from a new source. There was clearly no guarantee that this metal would receive its patinated finish, as it had previously-since electroplating involves precise chemistry, and also the exact composition of steel affects the final results-and Boerner, whose three-person studio makes pieces to acquire for top-end clients and retailers like Design Within Reach, couldn’t gamb.le on quality or consistency. In order to make it work, he had to redesign the piece, invest in more product development, find new fabricators, and change to powder coating, since it’s a “more forgiving” finish than plating and easily replicable by more vendors.
“Every decision I make is dependant on some type of material,” Boerner tells Curbed. His design and supply chain were affected not due to new policy, but simply from the mere reference to tariffs. “We’re just now getting back into production. All of the steps we must just do because of a reaction to the marketplace… For any small company, that’s a lot of cash and we need to scramble.”
From independent studios to large-scale manufacturers and mass retailers, the furniture market is already feeling the consequences of tariffs, even when they’ve yet to become levied. Potential material shortages, rising manufacturing costs, slimmer profits, higher retail prices, along with a general state of unease are forcing some American designers to evaluate their long term design and manufacturing plans.
Why did Trump impose tariffs?
The Trump administration’s trade policy has vacillated as it began seriously discussing tariffs-another word for taxes-on metals in February. The reasoning behind tariffs would be to make imported goods more expensive in order to, hopefully, stimulate the American manufacturing industry and protect American intellectual property, discouraging the creation of counterfeit goods.
Within the weeks after, the administration stated it would exempt some trading partners (Canada, Mexico, and also the European Union), but walked back on those claims. It officially began levying tariffs of 25 % on all steel imports and 10 % on aluminum imports on May 31.
The European Union quickly announced its own tariffs on goods it imports from america, like motorcycles and bourbon, in response towards the U.S. metal tariffs. Canada said it would levy their own tariffs on Breakfast Seminyak, too, and began taxing imports of ketchup, beef, and whiskey, among other considerations in July. To appease some trading partners-like Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea-and get away from more retaliation, the Trump administration decided to enact import quotas in lieu of tariffs.
Meanwhile, the administration continues to be negotiating vague trade deals and granting subsidies to businesses negatively afflicted with tariffs-moves which have cast more uncertainty into the global marketplace for raw materials and goods.
It’s not simply raw materials tariffs which are affecting the furniture industry. In April, the Trump administration proposed a 10 % tariff on over $50 billion amount of imports from China, which included 1,300 product categories, including medical equipment, televisions, machine tools, and dishwashers. In July, the Trump administration increased the tariff phoauy to 25 percent and expanded it to $200 billion worth of goods, including consumer goods like housewares, furniture, food, and apparel. Shortly after, China announced retaliatory tariffs.
The Usa Trade Representative’s office is accepting feedback on the consumer-good tariff proposal up until the end of August, when it will hold a public hearing. Afterward, it might modify the tariff’s terms, revise what’s included, and grant exemptions.
Involving the tit-for-tat tariffs, the constantly changing terms, and various side deals, the sole constant in the trade disputes is volatility-and that’s negatively impacting the furniture industry.
“It’s such as the famous John Muir quote: ‘When one Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer Indonesia at a single thing in nature, he finds it mounted on the remainder of the world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product imaginable.”