Fast furniture & why we should avoid it
I will never forget my 9th birthday when we got rid of a couch that my great grandmother used to read to me on. She had died the year prior, so when my mom sold that ugly old couch I was inconsolable. Completely unbeknownst to her, my memory of my great grandmother was imbedded into that piece of floral furniture. That is how furniture used to be – quality pieces that were built to hold a special place in our home for decades. These pieces formed a part of our fondest memories. There was value not only in the symbolism and the way we cared for them, but in the pieces themselves; the quality of materials, the workmanship.. It was built to last! And last it did. Until recently.
Instead of breathing new life into old furniture by way of reupholstering, painting, staining or varnishing, many of us now throw away and buy new. Instead of fixing what is broken, we flood landfills and shop for cheap, mass produced, low quality pieces. Sadly, that is the society we live in – one that consumes a lot, and throws away a lot. All under the umbrella of convenience and “trend”.
Fast furniture is yet another unfortunate element of modern life. In the moment, it may make sense to buy cheap and fashionable furniture because if we change our minds or see something we like better, it’s easy to let go of. But the BIG problem is that it doesn’t last. So even if you list it on facebook marketplace with the intention of giving the piece a new home, just remember it will probably end up in a dumpster sooner rather than later. And here’s why.
A lot of fast furniture is made from particle board covered in laminate or veneer. If the surface gets damaged it can’t be sanded back and re-painted like solid timber, and if exposed to moisture, the particle board swells and rots. Laminate is also prone to splitting at the seams and peeling away. Furniture made from particle board is unlikely to last more than a few years, especially if it is subject to any wear & tear, including disassembly and reassembly.
My recommendations for avoiding Fast Furniture…
- TAKE YOUR TIME
Don’t furnish for the sake of furnishing. Be methodical. Get to know your home and consider your style. Once you’ve made a plan, shop around to quality furniture stores, antique stores, vintage stores, Etsy, Instagram, the side of the road.. there’s so many ways to source beautiful, unique pieces that often just need a coat of paint. And if sourcing isn’t for you, hire someone to do it! It will pay off aesthetically, environmentally, and in the long run, financially. Also make sure to look at what you already own, is there a way to repurpose it?
- FORGET TRENDS
Art Deco, Mid Century Modern, Contemporary, French Country, Boho, Moody.. They’re technically all trends, and they all have a place in today’s design world. Interior design is an extension of your personal style. It’s a reflection of who you are.. so what speaks to YOU? What colours, textures, or layers do you like? Do you tend towards simple and sophisticated or eclectic and fun? Inspiration can be drawn from anywhere, and quality can be achieved with any budget.
- MIX AND MATCH
Styles can be incorporated and mixed together. Purchase quality, staple pieces and have fun with accessories. Vases, books, rugs, plinths, etc can be easily moved around from room to room to really change an aesthetic. It’s a great way to achieve a unique vibe without breaking the bank. Plus it makes a positive impact on our environment – furniture accounts for a huge (and growing) proportion of landfill waste. A lot of the materials used in todays furniture cannot be recycled.
- BUY LESS AND BUY TIMELESS
If budget is a big concern, buy less items of greater quality. We can all agree that stuff does not bring us fulfilment. Minimalism is the new maximalism. Before buying, ask yourself if you see this piece being in your home for the long run. Consider a minimalistic style and build from there. Instead of purchasing a cheap couch to throw 10 pillows and 2 blankets on it, use that money to invest in a quality couch that stands beautifully on it’s own.
- CONSIDER TOXICITY & SUSTAINABILITY
Tons of fast furniture is made from particle board, which not only doesn’t last but contains toxic chemicals like formaldehyde. It is also not recyclable or biodegradable due to the plastic laminate coating and the chemical resin binding the wood particles.
Some furniture, particularly beds and sofas, contains quite the chemical cocktail. From dyes, leather-tanning chemicals and flame retardants to polyurethane foam, adhesives and lacquer, our furniture can be emitting toxic and carcinogenic VOCs and pollute the air in our home for years! Ew.
Suffice it to say, the things we buy say a lot about us and what we value. Personally, I don’t desire my values to be cheap, wasteful and flimsy. I want to align with quality, sustainability, uniqueness and beauty. When we start caring about our furniture, which includes it’s lifecycle and where it will end up, we will leave behind more beautiful spaces on a better planet.