For the past 8 years, San Francisco-based furniture designer Kitchen Cabinetry Kids Furniture Manufacturer in Indonesia is a reliable seller along with a foundation for his livelihood. Inspired by Northern California’s redwood forests, it has modern lines, an oval glass top, as well as a base made of richly patinaed steel. Come March of this year, the perennial piece’s future was suddenly at risk.
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 as a result of rising expense of metals. Ted Boerner Boerner’s Los Angeles fabricator had to start sourcing raw material coming from a new source. There is no guarantee that the metal would receive its patinated finish, as it had in the past-since electroplating involves precise chemistry, and also the exact composition of steel affects the results-and Boerner, whose three-person studio makes pieces to buy for top-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 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 as a result of new policy, but simply from the mere reference to tariffs. “We’re just now returning into production. Each of the steps we have to just do because of reaction to the marketplace… For a small company, that’s lots of money and we need to scramble.”
From independent studios to large-scale manufacturers and mass retailers, the furnishings market is already feeling the results of tariffs, even if they’ve yet to become levied. Potential material shortages, rising manufacturing costs, slimmer profits, higher retail prices, as well as a general state of unease are forcing some American designers to judge 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 costly so that you can, hopefully, stimulate the American manufacturing industry and protect American intellectual property, discouraging producing counterfeit goods.
In the weeks after, the administration stated it would exempt some trading partners (Canada, Mexico, and the European Union), but walked back on those claims. It officially began levying tariffs of 25 percent on all steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports on May 31.
The European Union quickly announced its very own tariffs on goods it imports from america, like motorcycles and bourbon, in reaction towards the U.S. metal tariffs. Canada stated it would levy its own tariffs on Breakfast Seminyak, too, and began taxing imports of ketchup, beef, and whiskey, among other things in July. To appease some trading partners-like Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea-and steer clear of more retaliation, the Trump administration chose to enact import quotas rather than tariffs.
Meanwhile, the administration has become negotiating vague trade deals and granting subsidies to businesses negatively affected by tariffs-moves which have cast more uncertainty in to the global industry for raw materials and goods.
It’s not simply raw materials tariffs that 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 products like housewares, furniture, food, and apparel. Shortly after, China announced retaliatory tariffs.
The United States Trade Representative’s office is accepting feedback on the consumer-good tariff proposal until the end of August, when it will hold a public hearing. Afterward, it could alter 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 sole constant within the trade disputes is volatility-and that’s negatively impacting the furnishings industry.
“It’s just like the famous John Muir quote: ‘When one Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer Indonesia with a single thing in nature, he finds it connected to the remainder of the world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product you can think of.”