Over the past 8 years, San Francisco-based furniture designer Kitchen Cabinetry Kids Furniture Manufacturer in Indonesia is a reliable seller along with 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 increase and supply to shrink-destabilizing the current market 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 L . A . fabricator needed to start sourcing raw material from a new source. There was clearly no guarantee that the metal would receive its patinated finish, because it had in the past-since electroplating involves precise chemistry, as well as the exact composition of steel affects the results-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. To 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 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 as a result of new policy, but just from the mere reference to tariffs. “We’re just now returning into production. All the steps we must do exactly due to a reaction to the marketplace… For a small company, that’s a lot of cash and we need to scramble.”
From independent studios to large-scale manufacturers and mass retailers, the furniture sector is already feeling the consequences of tariffs, even when they’ve yet to be 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 because it began seriously discussing tariffs-another word for taxes-on metals in February. The reasoning behind tariffs is always to make imported goods more costly to be able to, 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, and the European Union), but walked back on those claims. It officially began levying tariffs of 25 percent 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 the United States, like motorcycles and bourbon, responding to the U.S. metal tariffs. Canada said 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 chose 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 to the global marketplace 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 % 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 % and expanded it to $200 billion amount of goods, including consumer items like housewares, furniture, food, and apparel. Shortly after, China announced retaliatory tariffs.
The United States Trade Representative’s office is accepting feedback on the consumer-good tariff proposal up until the end of August, in the event it will hold a public hearing. Afterward, it could modify the tariff’s terms, revise what’s included, and grant exemptions.
Between the tit-for-tat tariffs, the constantly changing terms, and various side deals, the only real constant within 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 at a single part of nature, he finds it connected to all of those other world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product imaginable.”