For the past eight 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 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 at risk.
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 current market via a hint of uncertainty, but no actual implementation.
Ted Boerner redesigned his popular Thicket table due to the rising expense of metals. Ted Boerner Boerner’s Los Angeles fabricator were required 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 previously-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 acquire for top-end clients and retailers like Design Within Easy Reach, couldn’t gamb.le on quality or consistency. To make it work, he were required 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 is dependant on some type of material,” Boerner tells Curbed. His design and offer chain were affected not because of new policy, but simply from the mere mention of tariffs. “We’re just now returning into production. All of the steps we have to just do due to a reaction to the marketplace… To get a small company, that’s a lot of money and we must 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, along with 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 since it began seriously discussing tariffs-another word for taxes-on metals in February. The reasoning behind tariffs is always to make imported goods higher priced so that you can, hopefully, stimulate the American manufacturing industry and protect American intellectual property, discouraging the creation of counterfeit goods.
Within the weeks after, the administration stated 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 very own tariffs on Breakfast Seminyak, too, and began taxing imports of ketchup, beef, and whiskey, among other considerations in July. To appease some trading partners-like Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea-and get away from more retaliation, the Trump administration decided to enact import quotas in lieu of tariffs.
Meanwhile, the administration has become negotiating vague trade deals and granting subsidies to businesses negatively afflicted with tariffs-moves who have cast more uncertainty to the global market for raw materials and goods.
It’s not only raw materials tariffs which 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, like 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 till the end of August, when it will hold a public hearing. Afterward, it might change the tariff’s terms, revise what’s included, and grant exemptions.
Between 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 furnishings industry.
“It’s such as the famous John Muir quote: ‘When one Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer Indonesia with a single thing in nature, he finds it connected to the remainder of the world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product you can think of.”