Over the past 8 years, San Francisco-based furniture designer Kitchen Cabinetry Kids Furniture Manufacturer in Indonesia has been a reliable seller and a foundation for his livelihood. Inspired by Northern California’s redwood forests, it offers 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 marketplace 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 La fabricator needed to start sourcing raw material from the new source. There is no guarantee that this metal would receive its patinated finish, because it had previously-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 Easy Reach, couldn’t gamb.le on quality or consistency. In order to make it work, he needed to redesign the piece, spend money on more product development, find new fabricators, and change 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 offer chain were affected not due to new policy, but simply through the mere mention of tariffs. “We’re just now getting back into production. All of the steps we need to just do because of response to the current market… For any small company, that’s a lot of money and we need to scramble.”
From independent studios to large-scale manufacturers and mass retailers, the furniture industry is already feeling the effects of tariffs, even though they’ve yet to become levied. Potential material shortages, rising manufacturing costs, slimmer profit margins, higher retail prices, and 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 since it began seriously discussing tariffs-another word for taxes-on metals in February. The reasoning behind tariffs is to make imported goods more expensive so that you can, hopefully, stimulate the American manufacturing industry and protect American intellectual property, discouraging the production of counterfeit goods.
In 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 percent on aluminum imports on May 31.
The European Union quickly announced its very own tariffs on goods it imports from the United States, like motorcycles and bourbon, in reaction to 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 items in July. To appease some trading partners-like Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea-and steer clear of more retaliation, the Trump administration decided to enact import quotas rather than tariffs.
Meanwhile, the administration continues to be negotiating vague trade deals and granting subsidies to businesses negatively afflicted with tariffs-moves who have cast more uncertainty 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 amount of goods, including consumer goods like housewares, furniture, food, and apparel. Right after, China announced retaliatory tariffs.
The Usa Trade Representative’s office is accepting feedback on the consumer-good tariff proposal until 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.
Involving the tit-for-tat tariffs, the constantly changing terms, and various side deals, the sole constant inside 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 part of nature, he finds it attached to the remainder of the world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product you can imagine.”