Why fast furniture is a fail, and what your alternatives are.
I recently visited the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. For those who don’t know, Vitra is a Swiss furniture manufacturer who make some of the most iconic furniture of our time. If you have ever kicked back in the soft leather of the Eames Lounge Chair and put your feet up on its ottoman, you’ll have experienced the comfort of great design and quality of Vitra’s manufacturing. The Vitra Design Museum is a design campus boasting architecture and furniture design from some of the worlds’ greatest talents. My visit highlighted the importance of quality furniture in the fight for a more sustainable future. It got me thinking about the concept of fast furniture and how wrong it is, in every sense. Fast Furniture, you ask?
Fast furniture, like fast fashion- is the inexpensive, low quality manufacture of seasonally ‘trendy’ furniture items that can be bought at very little cost to the consumer (initially). Driven by trends, most fast furniture can’t be recycled because cheap, readily available, non-recyclable materials and harmful chemicals are used- which means it usually ends up in a landfill. Ironically, because fast furniture is cheaply produced and not made to withstand the test of time, it actually works out more expensive for the consumer in the long run, through replacement costs.
While I don’t suggest you spend thousands of pounds on designer furniture, I do think it useful to share the alternatives to fast furniture, so next time you’re looking for an item of furniture you can make a more informed decision.
1). Buy pre-loved and upcycled
The most obvious solution to keeping trees in the ground and items out of landfills, buying second hand furniture has many benefits, not least its quality. As an interior designer, it’s something I always recommend to my clients, as it’s one of the easiest ways to bring character to a home. There are so many antique and bric a brac stores, charity shops and vintage markets in the U.K. In consideration of the environment and in support of local trade, I obviously recommend that you shop locally, but if you’re unable to find what you are looking for- online sites such as ebay and vinterior.com are greatv places to source from. Marcie K Designs and Muck ‘n Brass are two of my favourite upcyclers to follow and I regularly check in with them on their latest upcycled creations. I have also learnt that waiting to find the right item is better than buying for the sake of it.
2). Buy from local makers and artisans
The U.K has so many skilled furniture manufacturers working with high quality, sustainable materials that are locally sourced. Buying from British furniture manufacturers means that you keep industry, skills and jobs alive while purchasing a quality product that complies with the high British safety standards. It’s a win- win for all. I also find working with local manufacturers gives you a more hands on approach and greater influence on the final product. Most manufacturers are willing to customise or tailor the item to suit you. Lastly, you will have a better chance at redress should any issues arise during the process. I apply this thinking to all aspects of the home- and regularly use online sites such as etsy.co.uk to source handcrafted homeware and interior décor items by talented artisans all over the U.K. While sites like ukcraftfairs.com advertise the local arts and crafts fairs taking place around the U.K.
3). Don’t buy, rent
Research shows Millenials and Generation Z don’t place as much importance on sentimental objects and keepsakes as previous generations did, but rather place greater value on more abstract ideas of flexibility, sustainability and diversity. This means the concept of ownership is changing rapidly. Add to this, concerns for the environment, as well as a growing intolerance of consumerism and it’s no wonder the subscription economy is thriving. Home furniture rental companies such as Harth.space provide home furnishing solutions for a monthly rental fee, and have been established to provide their audiences with more affordable and flexible solutions. With a wide variety of products to choose from, renting your furniture could mean a more stylish and affordable interior that’s also environmentally friendly. And when you’re tired of it, you can change it without contributing to landfills.
The final word on how to avoid buying fast furniture is to be old school cool and save for quality furniture that may be more expensive initially, but will last for generations to come.