Over the past eight years, San Francisco-based furniture designer Kitchen Cabinetry Kids Furniture Manufacturer in Indonesia is a reliable seller and 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 danger.
The Trump administration’s announcement, on March 1, of proposed steel and aluminum tariffs caused steel prices to increase and offer to shrink-destabilizing the current market by way of a hint of uncertainty, but no actual implementation.
Ted Boerner redesigned his popular Thicket table as a result of rising cost of metals. Ted Boerner Boerner’s L . A . fabricator needed to start sourcing raw material from the new source. There was no guarantee that this metal would receive its patinated finish, since it had in the past-since electroplating involves precise chemistry, as well as the exact composition of steel affects the outcomes-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. To help make it work, he had 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 is dependant on some kind of material,” Boerner tells Curbed. His design and offer chain were affected not due to new policy, but simply by the mere mention of tariffs. “We’re just now getting back into production. Each of the steps we need to just do because of reaction to the market… 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 furniture market is already feeling the effects of tariffs, even when they’ve yet to get levied. Potential material shortages, rising manufacturing costs, slimmer profits, higher retail prices, along with 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.
Inside the weeks after, the administration said 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, in response for 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 things in July. To appease some trading partners-like Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea-and avoid more retaliation, the Trump administration decided to enact import quotas rather than tariffs.
Meanwhile, the administration has become negotiating vague trade deals and granting subsidies to businesses negatively impacted by tariffs-moves that have cast more uncertainty into the global industry for raw materials and goods.
It’s not simply raw materials tariffs that are affecting the furnishings 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, 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. Soon after, China announced retaliatory tariffs.
America Trade Representative’s office is accepting feedback on the consumer-good tariff proposal till the end of August, in the event 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 numerous side deals, the only constant in the trade disputes is volatility-and that’s negatively impacting the furniture industry.
“It’s like the famous John Muir quote: ‘When one Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer Indonesia with a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to all of those other world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product you can think of.”