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  • The Realities of

    Fast Furniture


    Let’s be real – when offering furniture at a wide range of price points  a wide range of quality can be expected. One of our jobs at CF Interiors is to help you make the best decisions for your clients, by helping you manage their expectations when it comes to their furniture. In some cases, cheap and cheerful items make sense for a space, but in others, it is crucial to educate your clients on why investing in high-quality furniture is so important. At the same time, in many cases, these pieces actually save you and your clients money. Today, we’re deep diving into the realities of fast furniture – what it means for the environment, for your clients, and for you as a designer.

    So, what is fast furniture?

    We’re all familiar with fast fashion – inexpensive clothing rapidly produced in large factories by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. But did you know that the same thing is happening in the furniture industry? Fast furniture is produced in large-scale factories to accommodate companies' continual release of seasonal collections that keep up with changing silhouettes and trends. Just like fast fashion, fast furniture’s lower price point comes at a cost.

    A recent New York Times article  aptly describes fast furniture as “the one-season fling of furnishings” made to break down after only a year or so of use. Unfortunately, this concept is nothing new. Planned obsolescence – the practice of designing products to break quickly or become obsolete in the short to mid-term – became popular in the 1930s. The general idea behind this concept is to encourage the sale of new products and upgrades to replace goods faster than usual. The results? More production and more waste. At first, this practice was only popular among vehicle and electronics manufacturers. However, it has become a widespread phenomenon across all industries, including furniture.

    The majority of fast furniture brands operate primarily through the furniture e-commerce market, an industry that has grown exponentially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 202, it was worth more than $27 billion and is projected to reach more than $40 billion by 2030. In 2018, Americans threw out over 12 million tons of furniture, 80% of which ended up in landfill. While no updated statistics are available, it is safe to assume that this problem has only worsened in the past few years.

    Why is so much furniture ending up in landfill?

    The answer to this is twofold. First, the fast furniture industry develops ever-shortening trend cycles to convince consumers to replace items more frequently to keep up with popular styles – just like fashion. When furniture items are replaced more frequently, the amount of waste grows exponentially. The second aspect has to do with materials. Fast furniture manufacturers utilize less robust materials, like veneer, plastic, particle board and cheap fabrics that are more prone to damage and are overall less long-lasting, which creates more waste. Not to mention, these materials are difficult (or impossible) to recycle, meaning they are doomed for landfill.

    On top of the environmental consequences, investing in high-quality, handmade furniture mitigates a world of headaches for you and your clients. Fast furniture is often entirely machine-made, meaning that it lacks the keen human eye trained to spot imperfections and the skilled hands of a craftsperson to build study pieces. Some of the traditional furniture-making techniques simply cannot be replicated by a machine. These factors result in pieces that are overall less sturdy, more likely to contain flaws, and more vulnerable to damage during transit and use. That means more work for everyone managing claims and replacing items.

    It’s said that the average family should replace their sofa every 5 to 15 years, depending on quality and usage. Sofas of a lesser quality need to be replaced more frequently than those of a higher quality, while a sturdy hand-crafted sofa should only be replaced every 20 years. This means that one fast-furniture sofa will need to be replaced 4 times over the lifetime of a single hand-crafted sofa. The graphic below illustrates this concept.

    Sadly, it seems that for many mass retailers, the days of hand-crafted furnishings are over. But not for us at CF Interiors! We believe that the specialized skills required to hand-make furniture are what bring character to your furnishings. These skills are guarded by craftspeople and passed down through generations, the same way their handmade furniture is built to be passed down through to your generations. This is why we’re proud to offer a wide selection of high-quality furniture that you can trust to stand the test of time.

    How can you avoid fast furniture? 

    Trust us, we understand the appeal of fast furniture. It’s unrealistic to expect your clients to take a complete 180 when they are used to accessible and trendy furnishings. With that said, there are ways you can encourage your clients to spend their money intentionally. Communication is always key when trying to steer your clients toward a particular brand or item. Having candid conversations about your values as a designer is crucial to help clients understand where your decisions are coming from.

    It’s also important to learn about where and how your furniture is being manufactured. When it comes to the environment, North American manufacturing is preferable. The less mileage your furniture needs to travel, the better. At CF Interiors, we are always transparent about our vendors’ manufacturing practices to help you and your clients make informed decisions, and look forward to continue educating you on our vendors!