Over the past 8 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 has 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 in danger.
The Trump administration’s announcement, on March 1, of proposed steel and aluminum tariffs caused steel prices to go up and offer to shrink-destabilizing the market via a hint of uncertainty, but no actual implementation.
Ted Boerner redesigned his popular Thicket table because of the rising price of metals. Ted Boerner Boerner’s L . A . fabricator needed to start sourcing raw material from a new source. There was no guarantee that this metal would receive its patinated finish, as it had in the past-since electroplating involves precise chemistry, and also the exact composition of steel affects the results-and Boerner, whose three-person studio makes pieces to buy for top-end clients and retailers like Design Within Reach, couldn’t gamb.le on quality or consistency. In order to make it work, he were required to redesign the piece, spend money on 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 is dependant on some type of material,” Boerner tells Curbed. His design and supply chain were affected not because of new policy, but by the mere mention of tariffs. “We’re just now returning into production. All the steps we have to just do because of a response to the marketplace… For any small company, that’s a lot of money and we must scramble.”
From independent studios to large-scale manufacturers and mass retailers, the furnishings sector is already feeling the consequences of tariffs, even though they’ve yet to get levied. Potential material shortages, rising manufacturing costs, slimmer profit margins, 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 because 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 to be able to, hopefully, stimulate the American manufacturing industry and protect American intellectual property, discouraging the production of counterfeit goods.
Within 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 its own tariffs on goods it imports from the usa, like motorcycles and bourbon, in response 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 items in July. To appease some trading partners-like Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea-and get away from more retaliation, the Trump administration chose to enact import quotas rather than tariffs.
Meanwhile, the administration has been negotiating vague trade deals and granting subsidies to businesses negatively afflicted with tariffs-moves who have cast more uncertainty into the global marketplace for raw materials and goods.
It’s not only raw materials tariffs which can be 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, including 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. Right 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, when it will hold a public hearing. Afterward, it could alter 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 sole 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 at a single part of nature, he finds it mounted on all of those other world,’” Boerner says. “Just replace ‘nature’ with any product you can imagine.”