For the past eight 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, along with 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 rise and offer to shrink-destabilizing the marketplace using 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 L . A . fabricator needed to start sourcing raw material from the new source. There was clearly 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 buy for high-end clients and retailers like Design Within Reach, couldn’t gamb.le on quality or consistency. To help make it work, he had 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 kind of material,” Boerner tells Curbed. His design and provide chain were affected not as a result of new policy, but from the mere reference to tariffs. “We’re just now getting back into production. All of the steps we have to just do because of reaction to the current market… For any 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 effects of tariffs, even though 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 examine 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 is to make imported goods more expensive in order to, 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 percent on all steel imports and 10 % on aluminum imports on May 31.
The European Union quickly announced its own tariffs on goods it imports from america, like motorcycles and bourbon, responding towards 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 made a decision 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 who have cast more uncertainty in to the global industry for raw materials and goods.
It’s not only raw materials tariffs that are affecting the furnishings industry. In April, the Trump administration proposed a 10 % tariff on over $50 billion worth 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 goods like housewares, furniture, food, and apparel. Shortly after, China announced retaliatory tariffs.
America Trade Representative’s office is accepting feedback on the consumer-good tariff proposal till the end of August, when it will hold 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 various side deals, the only real constant in the trade disputes is volatility-and that’s negatively impacting the furniture industry.
“It’s such as the famous John Muir quote: ‘When one Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer Indonesia in a single thing in nature, he finds it mounted on the rest of the world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product you can think of.”