Disposable Furniture is NOT Sustainable Design.

IKEA Furniture - Not Exactly Meant to Last Through the Ages.
IKEA Furniture – Not Exactly Meant to Last Through the Ages.

Fortunately the trend towards creating sustainable environments – ones that do the least amount of harm to our planet – is still thriving and gaining momentum. There are numerous new products introduced into the marketplace daily that claim to be safe, non-toxic and utilizing renewable resources. And that is all well and good! Just make sure you do your research and ensure that the companies’ marketing materials are speaking the truth, not simply making themselves look good for no good reason.

But this blog isn’t about green washing or promoting some new product I may have run across. What I want to talk about is something much more basic. In “The Old Days” when furniture was handcrafted of quality materials by skilled craftsmen, people would save their money to buy one beautiful piece at a time. It would take a young family a number of years to fill their home with furniture worth having. And they would keep that furniture for many, many years, passing it down from one generation to the next.

It certainly seems that those days are over. Stores like IKEA and Rooms To Go (I do hate to pick on them, but they are prime examples) sell essentially disposable furniture that probably won’t last through a young person’s first apartment. And certainly this is not the sort of merchandise that will ever become a family heirloom. It is built as cheaply as possible with the least expensive materials by the lowest paid workers in some third world country who apparently are thrilled to be paid a fraction of the wage that American workers need to survive.

Once the broken-spring sofa (because it certainly wasn’t 8-way-hand-tied) and the glued-together dresser (no, there is no dovetail joinery) have exceeded their short, marginally useful life, where do they wind up? In the landfill, of course. Basically we have used up valuable resources to mass produce stuff (lots of stuff) that will be tossed into our ever-expanding landfills. (Are we truly under the impression that we can do this forever?) All this so that we can have a house full of furniture instantaneous on a shoestring budget. (Yes, we are a society in need of INSTANT gratification, aren’t we?)

But this madness could cease! I suggest we stop buying the garbage these companies are peddling and give some real thought to how we spend our money and our planet’s valuable resources. If you are on a very tight budget (as many people are these days) and you need more furniture than you can afford at the moment, there is still hope for you. A very simple way to have quality furniture in your home is to shop at auctions and consignment shops. You will discover a plethora of truly beautiful, unique pieces that everyone on your block doesn’t already own. These treasures can be yours at a fraction of the price of new furniture of the same craftsmanship and are even substantially less money than the cheap stuff at the discount stores.

If you absolutely must buy new furniture and you are on a tight budget, perhaps it’s time to return to the thinking of our grandparents and buy one quality piece at a time, creating a home to be truly proud of once again.


  1. mbwife

    I think one of the attractions of the “quick fix” big box stores is the instant solution to the problem of finalizing a room. You can spend a couple thousand and get a put-together look, and be done with it! For those who aren’t interested in or have the time for design, it fits the bill. But it is scary how quickly this stuff falls apart and how soon it ends up at the curb. I think you are right, there has been a cultural shift overall towards “instant” – instant meals, instant entertainment and instant design. I was really interested in seeing the attitude of a young professional I met not long ago toward consignment furniture, he just plain would not consider getting anything “used”, it was sort of like it was unsanitary. Anyway, great post, made me think.

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