For the past 8 years, San Francisco-based furniture designer Kitchen Cabinetry Kids Furniture Manufacturer in Indonesia is 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 jeopardy.
The Trump administration’s announcement, on March 1, of proposed steel and aluminum tariffs caused steel prices to increase and supply to shrink-destabilizing the current market via a hint of uncertainty, but no actual implementation.
Ted Boerner redesigned his popular Thicket table due to the rising cost of metals. Ted Boerner Boerner’s L . A . fabricator were required to start sourcing raw material from the new source. There is no guarantee the metal would receive its patinated finish, because it had previously-since electroplating involves precise chemistry, and the exact composition of steel affects the final results-and Boerner, whose three-person studio makes pieces to acquire for high-end clients and retailers like Design Within Easy 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 move to powder coating, since it’s a “more forgiving” finish than plating and simply replicable by more vendors.
“Every decision I make comes down to some sort of material,” Boerner tells Curbed. His design and provide chain were affected not because of new policy, but just by the mere reference to tariffs. “We’re just now getting back into production. All of the steps we have to do just because of reaction to the market… For any small company, that’s a lot of money and we must scramble.”
From independent studios to large-scale manufacturers and mass retailers, the furniture market is already feeling the effects of tariffs, even though they’ve yet to get levied. Potential material shortages, rising manufacturing costs, slimmer profit margins, higher retail prices, as well as a general state of unease are forcing some American designers to examine 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 is to make imported goods more costly to be able to, hopefully, stimulate the American manufacturing industry and protect American intellectual property, discouraging the production of counterfeit goods.
Within the weeks after, the administration stated it would exempt some trading partners (Canada, Mexico, as well as the European Union), but walked back on those claims. It officially began levying tariffs of 25 percent on all steel imports and 10 % on aluminum imports on May 31.
The European Union quickly announced their own tariffs on goods it imports from america, like motorcycles and bourbon, responding to the U.S. metal tariffs. Canada stated it would levy their own tariffs on Breakfast Seminyak, too, and began taxing imports of ketchup, beef, and whiskey, among other items 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 has been negotiating vague trade deals and granting subsidies to businesses negatively afflicted with tariffs-moves who have cast more uncertainty in to the global market 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 percent tariff on over $50 billion worth of imports from China, which included 1,300 product categories, like 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. Right after, China announced retaliatory tariffs.
America Trade Representative’s office is accepting feedback on the consumer-good tariff proposal up until the end of August, in the event it will hold a public hearing. Afterward, it could change the tariff’s terms, revise what’s included, and grant exemptions.
In between the tit-for-tat tariffs, the constantly changing terms, and numerous side deals, the only constant in the trade disputes is volatility-and that’s negatively impacting the furnishings industry.
“It’s like the famous John Muir quote: ‘When one Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer Indonesia at a single thing in nature, he finds it connected to all of those other world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product you can imagine.”