Fast furniture retailers show no sign of slowing down, but the essence of slow furniture is something we could settle into.
Once upon a time, in the days before particle board and flat packs, furniture was crafted meticulously by people who called themselves, reasonably enough, craftsmen. Craftswomen, too.
Then the parsimonious Ingvar Kamprad invented IKEA, whose cheap, chic furnishings have been emulated by home-furnishing box stores the world over. That’s not a bad thing (unless you happen to work in their Danville factory), particularly if you’re a recent college grad. But the global saturation of fast furniture does create a certain déjà vu, does it not? Much like the DNA of a McDonald’s fry tastes the same in Peoria as it does in Paris.
Nowadays, we dub those craftsmen and women The New Artisans as if they, like some other pioneers we know, are reinventing the tomato. Alas, they are not. They are simply making old school juicy again – as well as authentic and kind by using salvaged and sustainably harvested materials to create heirloom quality wares that will impress even our grandkids.
Like the slow food movement, the slow furniture movement is sweeping cities from Los Angeles to Toronto and is a reaction against mass-produced, catalogued, assemble-it-yourself, “disposable” furniture. Slower also denotes organic, as in the fabrication process is completed with human hands using sustainable materials. Slow food advocates seek a connection to the origin of each meal; slow furniture makers identify with their raw materials.
If you’re in the contemporary woodworking trade, James Krenov is, no doubt, one of your icons. He described slow furniture as “work that can be traced to the maker, the hand, the eye and the heart.”
Toronto craftswoman Julie Nicholson characterized slow furniture to a Canadian newspaper as quite simply “pieces that you hold onto.” Along with Shaun Moore, they’ve established MADE, a showroom that connects designers with consumers looking for local, quality furniture.
A noteworthy slow piece that’s garnered a great deal of attention in recent weeks among the movement’s enthusiasts is this chair, crafted by Pooktre Tree Shapers, which took more than a decade to literally grow.
A decade in the making. Note the date: chair planted in 1998.
Samuel Moyer Furniture, comprised of a small group of artisans in Los Angeles that makes one-of-a-kind handmade furniture from sustainable materials, develop what they describe, “a relationship with each piece of furniture” and in turn, every client that brings their wares into their homes. They aim to create furniture that lasts “links generations,” and reduces waste.
The Evening Sideboard from Samuel Moyer Furniture with detail of the sideboard wedge.
This piece by Environment furniture is made from Peroba wood, which is reclaimed from Brazilian homes and factories. Environment’s stamp remains focused on the longevity of the materials that they use.
The Marison Dining table care of Environment furniture, and reclaimed Peroba wood.
While fast furniture manufacturers like IKEA, West Elm and Target show no signs of slowing down, the essence of slow furniture is catching on. Our prediction is that the trend will rise along with consumer consciousness. There is a market demand for furniture that’s crafted to last, designed with practicality in mind, and built with ethics at heart.