The primary goals in manufacturing these products is for them to be good for the environment, good for people, and do this while achieving affordability for consumers. There are increased costs in prioritizing these but the results are worth pursuing.
Good for the environment. I try to use the cleanest materials and finishes as possible while maintaining affordability. I think about the end of life for my products and how they will decompose back to nature. This influences the finishes I use, the glue, and the packaging. I design my products to ship as efficiently as possible to reduce the pollution the delivery companies use to get it to you. It all matters.
Global working conditions matter. It’s hard to ensure ethical labor in the global economy. This product has been created using primarily materials made in the USA because the labor and environmental laws are more reliably enforced. Small items such as screws and inserts have been sourced from American companies whose stock is imported because no domestic manufacturing exists.
Some thoughts about online furniture
I spend plenty of time looking at cool stuff other people are making. It's left me with some questions and observations:
Where are things actually made?
Lately I’ve seen the following phrasing on a lot of goods: “Designed in California” or whatever state (in large letters) with small letters following apologetically “Made in China”. What does that mean? How much of the product should be attributed to each source? Was every part of ideation, design, manufacturing design, packaging design, graphic design, etc done stateside, or is it as little as change of colors and logo? Maybe it doesn’t matter, but it feels misleading. Where is value created? In an idea, in production, in distribution?
I think you should be proud of every part of your product. If you design things here and outsource the production, aren’t both parts important? They all deserve recognition. Don’t shout about your design role, then whisper about the overseas manufacturing. If you aren’t proud of the workers making your products you should change who is making it.
There’s just so much plastic.
Plastic is an amazing medium. Incredible, organic shapes can be formed through injection molding which would be difficult and costly with any other material. The material is inexpensive, making products more accessible to everyone. But from inexpensive goods sprouts a disposable culture. We hold less value in the item because it cost us less to procure it.
Plastic is also weak when subjected to stress. When a plastic item cracks and wears out, repairing is very difficult. Many of us know how to repair a wooden item because the products made usually are thick enough to glue or reinforce. But plastic items are made much thinner and so repairs using adhesive or other means is often unsuccessful. So when it breaks it’s done. But it didn’t cost much to purchase so it makes the decision to toss it easy.
Or maybe we should own things that are higher quality. We should wait longer and buy things that last, that can be repaired if need be.
Shipping costs are the driving force behind the design of many pieces of furniture. They have to be. The costs are so significant that ignoring them means arriving at a price point that is higher than consumers will accept. Because of this many products are shipped completely disassembled. This is good because it reduces the cost, both monetarily and environmentally, but it’s often terribly inconvenient for the end user. At this point, most consumers expect to do some assembly when purchasing furniture online, but the fact remains that the task is often daunting.
I like sites who make the assembly instructions available on the product page. I like products that arrive partially assembled that have innovative designs to make the process easy.
If you can smell it then you’ve ingested it. Taken it inside your body, absorbed just a little bit. The new car smell isn’t a good thing, it's the result of many rubber and plastic parts off-gassing into the air you’re breathing. I’ve opened a lot of boxes from online and instantly decided to take the contents outside so it doesn’t stink up my home. That’s good because I won’t be inhaling it, but the chemicals are still floating up into the atmosphere, into nature. It would be better to avoid the situation completely. Everything I make is finished with zero-VOC varnishes which are nearly odorless the next day. So far in the industry this is not the norm because of the higher costs.