Within the last 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, 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 by way of 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 L . A . fabricator had to start sourcing raw material from the new source. There is no guarantee that the metal would receive its patinated finish, as it had before-since electroplating involves precise chemistry, and also the exact composition of steel affects the final results-and Boerner, whose three-person studio makes pieces to acquire for high-end clients and retailers like Design Within Reach, couldn’t gamb.le on quality or consistency. To help make it work, he needed to redesign the piece, invest in more product development, find new fabricators, and switch to powder coating, since it’s a “more forgiving” finish than plating and easily replicable by more vendors.
“Every decision I make boils down to some sort of material,” Boerner tells Curbed. His design and supply chain were affected not as a result of new policy, but by the mere reference to tariffs. “We’re just now getting back into production. All of the steps we have to do just because of a reaction to the marketplace… For any small company, that’s lots of money and we must scramble.”
From independent studios to large-scale manufacturers and mass retailers, the furniture market is already feeling the consequences of tariffs, even if they’ve yet to become levied. Potential material shortages, rising manufacturing costs, slimmer profits, higher retail prices, and a general state of unease are forcing some American designers to evaluate 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 in order to, hopefully, stimulate the American manufacturing industry and protect American intellectual property, discouraging producing 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 their own tariffs on goods it imports from america, like motorcycles and bourbon, responding 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 avoid more retaliation, the Trump administration made a decision to enact import quotas in lieu of tariffs.
Meanwhile, the administration continues to be negotiating vague trade deals and granting subsidies to businesses negatively affected by tariffs-moves who have cast more uncertainty into the global market for raw materials and goods.
It’s not simply raw materials tariffs which can be 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, such as medical equipment, televisions, machine tools, and dishwashers. In July, the Trump administration increased the tariff phoauy to 25 % and expanded it to $200 billion worth of goods, including consumer goods like housewares, furniture, food, and apparel. Soon 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, in the event it holds a public hearing. Afterward, it could modify 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 real constant in the trade disputes is volatility-and that’s negatively impacting the furniture industry.
“It’s just like the famous John Muir quote: ‘When one Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer Indonesia in a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to all of those other world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product imaginable.”