Month: February 2017

living room

This Is How the Furniture Industry Is Going Green

In light of growing environmental consciousness worldwide and future generations’ increasing influence on the furniture market, furniture companies are increasingly focusing on the environmental impact of their operations. A recent poll conducted by Capstrat Public Policy demonstrated just how important sustainable living is to many consumers. The poll found that over half of the shoppers surveyed would be willing to pay for a product that was more expensive than the other options if it was more sustainable.

A commitment to eco-friendly design and manufacturing principles not only allows companies to do their part to preserve the Earth for generations to come, but it can also be a valuable tool for reducing operational costs and garnering customer loyalty. Following are some of the many areas in which furniture industry stakeholders have prioritized the battle to reduce the sector’s ecological footprint.

  1. Sustainability-Focused Industry Associations

furnitureA number of new and established industry organizations have taken the lead in making environmental consciousness a priority in the furnishings sector. Offering membership and, in some cases, special accolades to companies with a proven dedication to sustainability, these groups have unified the industry around core sustainability goals, creating new operational standards and third-party certification programs to help firms assess and improve their environmental performance. In addition, their efforts have made sustainability issues more visible to customers, while also creating convenient avenues for buyers to research the environmental implications of their potential purchases.

Organizations with a stated interest in improving the sustainability of furniture design and manufacturing include the American Home Furnishing Association (AHFA), which has launched several programs under its broader Eco3Home sustainability initiative. Member companies initially implement Enhancing Furniture’s Environmental Culture program, a facility-level framework designed to improve resource management, limit energy and water usage, and enhance recycling and waste management processes. In the next stage of the multi-step program, Sustainable by Design, companies set sustainability goals in areas such as supply chain management; social responsibility; and climate change, which assists them in later providing specific health, safety, and environmental criteria to register products with AHFA’s Eco3Home seal of approval.

Other industry organizations spearheading sustainability efforts include the Business and Institutional Manufacturers Association, which has created a certification program to ensure responsible energy consumption, material sourcing, and social practices among the business furnishings industry. At the same time, the Sustainable Furnishings Council has worked on the frontlines of sustainability efforts since its inception in 2006. Supported by a diverse group of industry stakeholders encompassing retailers, manufacturers, and nonprofit environmental groups, the council leverages education and communication to advocate for sustainable practices throughout the furnishings industry.

  1. Phasing out Toxic Substances

As sustainability becomes a higher priority for furniture manufacturers, many are closely examining the chemicals used in their production processes, as well as any potentially harmful substances released into the environment by their activities. The finishings, treatments, and binding agents used on furniture can pose a risk to consumers, even after they leave the manufacturing facility. Furniture manufactured with formaldehyde or flame-retardant chemicals can release toxic gases into the home in a process known as “off-gassing,” posing a risk to humans, animals, and the environment.

The avoidance of materials and processes that involve toxic materials not only stems from growing environmental awareness within the furniture industry, but also from bolstered environmental regulations. In August 2016, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the rules in Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which allows the agency to enforce rules regarding the production, transportation, use, and disposal of potentially harmful chemicals. Drafted to lessen the danger posed by formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, Title VI restricts the amount of the substance that manufacturers may use in plywood, medium-density fiberboard pieces, particle board, and hardwood.

  1. Sustainable Materials

wood furnitureFurniture companies are seeking materials from sustainably managed sources, often carefully assessing their supply chains to ensure that each leg of a product’s production journey yields a limited environment impact. This has elevated the importance of local sourcing while also increasing the popularity of wood as a design material. Both reclaimed wood and wood harvested from sustainable forests help to combat deforestation, and some companies are even making an effort to replenish those forests that provide their wood.

While it is considered a type of grass rather than wood, bamboo is an exceptionally popular sustainable resource for a number of reasons. Often grown without the use of pesticides, bamboo grows quite quickly and thus takes a relatively short amount of time to replace. Durable and pliable, bamboo is both antibacterial and antifungal.

An important aspect of sustainable resource consumption is recycling and responsible waste management. Unique upcycled furniture pieces are no longer relegated to thrift shops and vintage stores. Now, many mainstream retailers are harnessing the concept as a sustainable trend. Recycling often presents an opportunity for furniture designers to draw on their creativity to rework pieces from previous seasons or to repurpose resources that would usually be thrown away. The concept of recycling and reuse is important not only in furniture design, but in distribution, as well. Increasingly, retailers are using reusable cartons, blanket wraps, and other sustainable materials to ship items to consumers.

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Everything You Need to Know about the 2017 Pinnacle Awards

The American Society of Furniture Designers recently announced its call for applications for the 2017 Pinnacle Awards. For over two decades, this awards program has showcased many of the most outstanding designs and creative minds in the furniture industry. Here’s everything you need to know about this longstanding industry tradition:

What are the Pinnacle Awards?

pinnacle awards 2017Created by the American Society of Furniture Designers (ASFD) in 1995, the Pinnacle Awards highlight excellent products and talented professionals in the retail home furnishings industry. Each year, the awards program recognizes the most impressive designs in a variety of industry categories, selecting only pieces that are currently in production and widely available to consumers via major retail furniture showrooms, online retailers, and catalogs. In doing so, the society honors the individual furniture designers who have drawn on their artistry and creativity to create today’s leading styles.

The Pinnacle Awards recognize designers in 15 categories, including Accessories, Casual Dining, Formal Dining, Summer/Casual, Bedroom, Home Office, Lighting, and Stationary Upholstery. In 2010, the ASFD added a new distinction available to entrants in each of its existing award categories. The Green Leaf Award is a special honor that specifically recognizes designs that are not only aesthetically impressive, but also sustainable and eco-friendly. Products competing for this award must meet a number of green design criteria: they must be made of at least 20 percent CARB-compliant materials, at least 50 percent of the manufacturing must be local, and they must contain a high percentage of recycled and reclaimed components. The awards also give special consideration to pieces made entirely of reclaimed or recycled material, 100 percent local materials, or solid wood containing no composite or at least 50 percent FSC-certified wood.

Also open to aspiring furniture industry professionals, the Pinnacle Awards recently established its Student Awards program. This category accepts entries from current design students, assessing pieces in the bedroom, dining, home office, seating, entertainment, and occasional categories.

The Pinnacle Awards program has gradually grown in popularity since its establishment and has enjoyed a particular surge in popularity in recent years. In 2016, the event saw record engagement and was able to provide an unprecedented amount of exposure for its finalists. Highlighted pieces included the elegant Zhin Cabinet by Aimee Kurzner ASFD, a designer at Currey and Company; the Aiden Acrylic Bed by Laura Niece ASFD for Bernhardt Furniture; and Rudy Nijssen and Dominique Sente’s Brass Universe Chandelier, a joint design completed for Schwung Home.

Commenting on this year’s award program, 2017 Pinnacle Awards chair Jason Phillips stated, “We had an extraordinarily creative group of designers recognized at the 2016 Pinnacle Awards and look forward to honoring the remarkable work of this year’s top industry designers.”

Who is hosting the program?

American Society of Furniture Designers logoThe American Society of Furniture Designers is a national industry association that, since its inception in 1981, has advocated for “excellence, innovation, education, and originality” in the furniture design industry. The ASFD advocates for the professional community, upholds standards of professionalism and integrity, and seeks to showcase the value of design within the broader home furnishings industry.

Assisting the ASFD in the presentation of the 22nd annual Pinnacle Awards is lead sponsor Furniture Today. Additional sponsors including High Point Market Authority, Furniture.com, Sherwin-Williams Corp., and Furniture Design Studios.

When and where is it taking place?

On January 23, the American Society of Furniture Designers announced the opening of its submissions website for the 2017 Pinnacle Awards. The organization will continue accepting nominations until 5 p.m. on July 1, after which time it will announce its finalists for each category. The ASFD will unveil the winners on the evening of Monday, October 16th, at the annual Pinnacle Awards Gala, which is set to take place in the ball room of the International Home Furnishings Center during the fall High Point Market.

How will the winners be chosen?

Each year, a group of 12 furniture industry professionals convene at the fall High Point Market to select the year’s Pinnacle Award winners. The judges assess each piece on a variety of criteria related to excellence in design, including form and function, innovation, retailer and manufacturing benefit, and consumer benefit.

While the Pinnacle Award finalists are released after the judging, the winners are not announced until the Awards Banquet ceremony during the Fall High Point Market.

How do I enter?

Industry professionals interested in submitting an entry for consideration in the 2017 Pinnacle Awards can do so by visiting bit.ly/2017PinnacleEntry. The ASFD requires an $85 entry fee for all association members, while a $110 fee will apply to all non-member nominations.

Those interested in becoming members of the American Society of Furniture Designers can find out more at asfd.com/join. In addition to granting members discounted entry into the yearly Pinnacle Awards program, the association offers benefits including discounts on industry software and publications, inclusion in the association’s directory, the opportunity to participate in networking events, and a variety of other professional resources. Additionally, the ASFD offers 14 different membership types for professionals of all skillsets, including categories for students, educators, corporate representatives, and young furniture design professionals.

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This Is How Millennials Are Changing the Furniture Industry

Millennials have rapidly emerged as a much sought-after customer demographic in the furniture industry. Currently nearly 80 million strong, individuals born between 1982 and 2004 now make up the largest generation in American history. In addition to comprising one-third of the country’s adult population, millennials contribute approximately $600 billion to the consumer economy each year, and an increasing amount of this spending is going toward home furnishings.

young adultsBetween 2012 and 2014, furniture purchases made by consumers over 70 years of age dropped precipitously, plummeting from $17.7 billion to $3 billion. However, millennials have filled this gap in furniture sales—and then some. Over the same two-year period, millennial spending on furniture skyrocketed from $11.1 billion to $27 billion—an increase of 142 percent. By 2014, the generation accounted for 37 percent of all households purchasing furniture.

With no shortage of statistics indicating that millennials will drive the home design trends of the future, companies are now learning how to cater to a new generation of buyers whose design sense, purchasing habits, and living situations differ from prior generations. Read on to explore some of the many ways in which millennials are spurring change in the furniture industry.

The Convenience Factor

A number of factors, from economic challenges to a desire for freedom and flexibility, have led millennials to largely reside in apartments. In fact, the generation is credited with driving a historic surge in new apartment construction.

For this apartment-dwelling generation, purchasing a couch, transporting it home, and carrying it into an apartment—possibly up one or more flights of stairs—can seem like an exceptionally trying task. In many cases, this reality can lead potential furniture buyers to delay making a purchase entirely. For this reason, a number of companies have set out to relieve the pain points that can often lead millennials to avoid shopping for furniture. With shipping bundled into the cost of their products, customer-considerate packaging arrangements, and simple assembly, their products are making it far more convenient for apartment renters to buy furniture and get it into their homes without assistance.

Online and Omnichannel Shopping

Millennials’ desire for a simplified, more convenient furniture-buying experience is driving e-commerce in the home furnishings sector. A recent survey by Apartment Therapy and Furniture Today found that 80 percent of millennial shoppers buying upholstered products, such as recliners, chairs, and both motion and stationary sofas, conducted online research before making a purchase.

online shoppingThe rising popularity of online shopping is pressuring furniture retailers to optimize their online consumer experience and is increasing the importance of well-written, detailed, and expressive product descriptions. Online shopping also increases the relevance of product reviews; while the majority of baby boomers, generation X, and millennials all consider the content of reviews while online shopping, millennials rely on reviews more than any other generation, with 78 percent describing them as “very influential” to their purchasing decisions in a 2016 BigCommerce survey.

While furniture retailers are paying more attention to their e-commerce platforms to cater to millennial shopping habits, they must also ensure that their showrooms offer a seamless and uniquely valuable experience. Apartment Therapy’s survey of upholstery shoppers revealed that 55 percent of millennials still visited a brick and mortar store to see the products in person.

Portability and Versatility

In addition to their penchant for apartment living, millennials also move quite often. A Rent.com survey of 1,000 individuals under 34 years of age discovered that 44 percent of respondents planned to move within the next 12 months.

millennialIf the tall order of moving a large sofa into an apartment isn’t enough to deter a shopper from making a purchase, the knowledge that they will be transporting it again in less than a year could very well be a deal breaker. This is why some companies are beginning to develop furniture that caters to the somewhat nomadic millennial lifestyle. Increasingly, home furnishings are not only easier to bring home and assemble, but easy to disassemble and relocate as well.

Extremely versatile and multipurpose furniture has also become popular with the generation at a time when the average home square footage is shrinking. Adjustable desks and customizable pieces are now finding a place in millennial homes.

Personal Style

Overarching trends in millennials’ sense of style and identity are also driving furniture industry design choices. Many young adults are apt to entertain at home, making mobile bar carts and other accessories attractive pieces for the millennial host.  

Additionally, millennials’ passion for self-expression and declining interest in elaborate interior design are driving the popularity of simple, modern pieces that can easily complement a buyer’s personal aesthetic rather than overpowering it. Limited ornamentation, sleek lines, and neutral color schemes are popular with millennial buyers seeking a minimalist aesthetic.

It’s no secret that technology plays a significant role in millennials’ lives, and furniture companies are beginning to cater to consumers’ desire for digital interaction as well. Prevailing tech-friendly trends include desks equipped with cable management systems and media furniture with technology-specific design considerations, such as soundbar spaces and cabinets with infrared transmitting glass.