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 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 in danger.
The Trump administration’s announcement, on March 1, of proposed steel and aluminum tariffs caused steel prices to go up and provide to shrink-destabilizing the current market by way of a hint of uncertainty, but no actual implementation.
Ted Boerner redesigned his popular Thicket table because of the rising expense of metals. Ted Boerner Boerner’s Los Angeles fabricator were required to start sourcing raw material from a new source. There was no guarantee the metal would receive its patinated finish, because it had in the past-since electroplating involves precise chemistry, and the exact composition of steel affects the outcomes-and Boerner, whose three-person studio makes pieces to acquire for top-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, put money into 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 boils down to some type of material,” Boerner tells Curbed. His design and supply chain were affected not due to new policy, but by the mere mention of tariffs. “We’re just now returning into production. Each of the steps we have to do exactly due to a response to the marketplace… To get a small company, that’s lots of money and we need to scramble.”
From independent studios to large-scale manufacturers and mass retailers, the furnishings sector is already feeling the consequences of tariffs, even if 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 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.
Inside 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 its own tariffs on goods it imports from america, like motorcycles and bourbon, in response to the U.S. metal tariffs. Canada stated 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 steer clear of more retaliation, the Trump administration chose to enact import quotas in lieu of tariffs.
Meanwhile, the administration has been negotiating vague trade deals and granting subsidies to businesses negatively impacted by tariffs-moves which have cast more uncertainty into the global marketplace 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 percent 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 percent and expanded it to $200 billion worth of goods, including consumer items 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, if it will hold a public hearing. Afterward, it might change the tariff’s terms, revise what’s included, and grant exemptions.
In between the tit-for-tat tariffs, the constantly changing terms, and various side deals, the only real constant inside 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 in a single thing in nature, he finds it mounted on all of those other world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product you can think of.”