Over the past 8 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 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 market via a hint of uncertainty, but no actual implementation.
Ted Boerner redesigned his popular Thicket table due to the rising expense of metals. Ted Boerner Boerner’s Los Angeles fabricator were required 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 before-since electroplating involves precise chemistry, and the exact composition of steel affects the outcomes-and Boerner, whose three-person studio makes pieces to order for high-end clients and retailers like Design Within Reach, couldn’t gamb.le on quality or consistency. In order to make it work, he were required to redesign the piece, spend money on 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 due to new policy, but just through the mere reference to tariffs. “We’re just now getting back into production. All of the steps we must do exactly because of response to the marketplace… To get a small company, that’s a lot of cash and we have to scramble.”
From independent studios to large-scale manufacturers and mass retailers, the furnishings sector is already feeling the results of tariffs, even when 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 since it began seriously discussing tariffs-another word for taxes-on metals in February. The reasoning behind tariffs is always to make imported goods more expensive so that you can, hopefully, stimulate the American manufacturing industry and protect American intellectual property, discouraging the creation of counterfeit goods.
Within the weeks after, the administration said 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 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, responding to the U.S. metal tariffs. Canada said it would levy its very 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 avoid 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 that have cast more uncertainty to the global industry for raw materials and goods.
It’s not only raw materials tariffs which are affecting the furniture industry. In April, the Trump administration proposed a 10 percent tariff on over $50 billion amount 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 items 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 till the end of August, if it holds a public hearing. Afterward, it could change the tariff’s terms, revise what’s included, and grant exemptions.
Between the tit-for-tat tariffs, the constantly changing terms, and numerous side deals, the sole constant in the trade disputes is volatility-and that’s negatively impacting the furnishings industry.
“It’s such as the famous John Muir quote: ‘When one Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer Indonesia with a single part of nature, he finds it attached to the remainder of the world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product imaginable.”