The furniture industry has changed dramatically over the years. For decades, nearly all American-bought furniture was manufactured in North Carolina and throughout the Northeast. This area had a rich heritage of craftsmanship, strong transport infrastructure, and great access to local hardwoods.
Then, a huge shift arose towards overseas manufacturing. Suddenly, American-made furniture was too expensive to produce domestically; simply, we couldn't compete with overseas prices. Restaurants, homes and hotels all across the country began to take advantage of these lower prices, and establishments everywhere were filling with knock-off designs, particle board covered with veneer, and mass produced furniture.
These cheaper and faster pieces are what we call "factory furniture," and you still see some of these tables and pieces littering restaurants and hotels.
Fast forward to the Makers Movement. This cultural shift began around 2005 (depending on who you ask), and led to a huge resurrection in handcrafted goods, made in America. This phenomenon is rooted in:
It's marked by now-giants like Etsy, highlighting the shift back to artisan, quality goods in favor of mass produced anything. The site has capitalized on a generational shift, where millennial consumers value knowing where and how their purchases are made
What does this movement mean for furniture? Simply, restaurants now seek out creative, artisanal furniture. Alongside the craft beer and farm-to-table movement, restaurants, breweries, and hotels are now emphasizing locally-made, high quality furniture and art.
As we here at Black Hound Design Company like to say, "craft beer, craft food and craft furniture all go hand in hand."
This is especially true for restaurants and hotels that are seeking to emphasize their brand. They've spent copious amounts of time and resources to hone in on their unique identity- what sets them apart from every other establishment- why would they then turn around and fill their restaurant with the same old tables as everyone else?
Instead, restaurant furniture is trending towards the unique and the special. Everyone wants to be different. Everyone wants quality. They want their furniture to tell a story. Mass-produced furniture simply doesn't cut it anymore.
Overseas factories filled with underpaid workers pumping out tables doesn't just feel unethical and immoral...but it also makes us feel like assholes if we buy it.
Furthermore, there is a massive shift towards sustainability. Old school, mass-produced furniture certainly doesn't consider the impacts of the environment. With custom, artisanal furniture, we emphasize green building strategies and FSC certified wood.
Here at Black Hound, we build restaurant furniture using beetle-kill pine (aka blue stain pine) that actually is beneficial to the forests to remove and use.
In short, factory furniture is on the way out. Handcrafted furniture, made in the good ol' USofA, is making a come back and is here to stay.