Furniture Design Direction.

Looking to kick down some doors in furniture design and looking for some ideas of where to kick on the door. I would like to hear any ideas from people who made it in.

Also my designs are more in the direction of Industrial Design but I would like to learn other directions.


If you find those doors, throw a few hints my way!

I am looking for the next leap in furniture as well. Contract and RTA seem to use a lot of fresh design where residential just rehashes/knocks off past styles or just puts some fashionable fabrics on mediocre frames. I think that some segments of the residential-purchasing consumers are ready for a new direction, but no one is giving it to them.

I’d love to do a thin cross-section cast concrete outdoor collection. Or maybe woven metals.

Hey 73 glad to know there are some who want to do Furniture design or even talk about it.
I find it kind of strange that when I meet with designers or even show my work, the one thing we have in common is the desire to be furniture designers. Yet when we post so few respond, or even offer advice to help.

Sorry I’m alittle jaded but I find that in the furniture business you have to learn on your own, and there are not many roads for a designer based in ID. Most are more fine arts based…which is fine…but ID people really want to solve problems…modular kind of stuff.

If I had the chance I would really like to be in a position where I can be mentored before I took the chance of being a self employeed furniture designer.

I met with a furniture designer a few weeks ago and we had a talk about furniture design in the U.S. and he said it is ver conservative. I agreed and wished I was living in europe where people are accepting to new design. After I left the office it got me thinking…why is it this way…conservative? I thought about our country and it’s history mostly the 1950’s and 1960’s the space age. People were accepting to design and a new way of looking at the world, what happend? Are we going to come back around a push the design again in life here, I think we are.

Getting to furniture design…or design in general I was thinking that American design is starting to turn around. Looking at some new stuff from Apple, Chrysler 300c, and other american designs I feel like we are getting our history back.

Let’s start pushing furniture all kinds because I think that if we look to the past and the future three thigs charge and inspire all in the arts…Transportation, Furniture, and Fashion.

Sorry for the long thred I had to vent, who’s next!

Newid, I agree with you. There are very few ID’ers in furniture design that are my age (22), and most of them seem to just blow me off. Maybe they don’t like new ideas or new competition in “their” industry?

As for US furniture design being conservative, I think that it is popular with a large portion of the population. Weather or not it is popular because the majority of retailers will only put conservative stuff on their floor or people really don’t like contemporary/modern/avant garde, I don’t know. At work I try to push designs away from conservative - I mean we already have our plenty of conservative stuff - but it usually end up being pushed backward until they are pretty boring stylistically. If it sells, however, I stay employed, so I don’t buck the system too much. I do as much design on my own time as I do at work, and feel that this is where I have the best chance to really push the envelope. Maybe I’ll start trying to sell some of my own designs to other companies in the future?

I think with the resurgence in the public interest of design we will see consumers demanding less conservative designsin furniture. There are so many other factors to the US market for furniture that it is hard to say what what will change or if it will change at all. IKEA does very well it seems, but their stuff is also dirt cheap. At any rate, I’m constantly thinking and keep a sketch book in hand, writing down any and all ideas in the hope that it will lead to something great.

Contemporary styled furniture has not real broad market appeal in the US. Amiericans, for the most part like Mission,Shaker, Country styled furniture when it comes to home furnishings. Contemporay styled furniture really only has market appeal on the East/West Coasts and some major metropolitan areas in between.

You must realize there is a highly emotional/personal connection between people and their home. Contemporary designs are looked at as more of a fashion statement rather than anything else. The styles I mentioned above are looked at as timeless pieces that if were built well, can last and be passed down through generations. The US is still very provincial for the most part when it comes to home decor. People want to feel comofortable in their home and be surrounded by familiar things. This has become the case moreso since 9/11. There have been several articles published on this topic within the furniture industry.

If you are interested in contemporary styled furniture, your best bet is to find a way into the contract furnishings industry.

Thanks for the post:

I think lotus73 and I would like to know the articles you mentioned and how to go about getting them. Are you a contract furniture designer? Could you give a blow by blow of how you made this dream a reality if you are.

I agree with you that design in the US is restrained and that the West coast and East coast lead the trend to mdern here. Perfect example is the election that just happend…Living on the coasts surrounded by Kerry people we forgot about the large core of the US…and we got our asses handed to us.

How do you feel is the best way to deal with the conservative issue? How do you feel about the future change of the US? Lotus73 jump in as well, or anyone else.


furniture design is just like any other design when it comes to overall procedure. you got the market, the designers which design for that market, and factories which make the furniture. if you want to design and make one off pieces yourself you better get into interior design because that’s where you’ll find clients.

eventually when you get into it you slowly realize the people in the industry are mostly sales people, interior designers and old school crafts type people who somehow got involved in furniture and mostly rely on public demand and feedback. for instance if one day leather sofas are in they want that or if victorian or modern is in then they want victorian or modern. that’s essentially what conservative means. the funny part is they want to call it design. but it really isn’t. it’s just plain superficiality.

from my experience most companies in US and europe have limited ideas and very short term plans because that’s how their customers are although some of the furniture lines in some companies run for decades!

Most of the articles I mention come from trade publications like Furnituretoday ( and Furniture World ( These publications usually do not post too much on their websites for just anyone to see. You have to be a subscriber or pay for the PDF files.

I did work in the RTA furniture industry for 2 years but have since moved to other areas of design. It all happened by chance as I was contacted by a headhunter who found my resume online. Since I did not leave my furniture design job on the most pleasant of terms, I really don’t want to go into too much detail as to who I worked for. I also would like to return to furniture design down the road. I did design work for many areas including Home Furnishings, SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) and a little bit of contract furniture design work.

I agree with ufo’s description of the furniture industry. I was amazed (and still am quite often) at the speed at which the industry, and the company I work for, changes style trends and directions. From attending the High Point furniture market a couple times, it appears to me that most furniture companies could care less about doing anything truly innovative or fresh. To give them credit, they are in business to sell furniture, not make major changes to the nature, style, or construction of furniture; as long as the customers buy their product, and comes back for more, they see no reason to gamble on something new. A few companies do push truly new product onto the market, but they are difficult to find… Throwing some new fabric on upholstery or reintroducing/reworking an old style/design seems to be enough to keep the average customer interested. I have not attended ICFF, but I would suspect things are pretty similar as in High Point.

I also dispise the current trend of having a liscensed endorsement or “designer” attached to a particular line or group; in my eyes, it is only a marketing ploy and attempt to prop up poor (or completely lacking) design. Perhaps this trend is on the decline, as I have been hearing dealers ask for “good product without liscensees” or saying the same thing I have been telling management, that well-designed product should sell on its own (not to mention the fact that I friggin’ hate having a liscensee get payed royalty just for having their name on a product line, and the true designers getting nil).

As far as conservative design goes, I think it will always have a place in the market here. We have our own tastes, as do Europeans, and as a whole, do not stray too far. Looking at other product categories should confirm this. I do think, however, that as the younger generations (my own generation, included) get older and begin to look for furniture, they will want something different than what their parents and grandparents furnished their homes with. In a decade, we may be seeing a great deal of change, but I don’t dare make any predictions. There are also niche markets that will always be lucrative but small and ever changing - that, IMO, is where new, fresh, innovative furniture will be profitable - but difficult to pin down and a large gamble that most well-established furniture companies will be unwilling to take. IKEA is really the largest, most wide-spread design-heavy (if you can call it that) furniture retailer in my eyes, and even they only put stores in specific markets, not in every town from Maine to California as Walmart, et al, does.

Oh, BTW, FurnitureToday allows anyone to register for full access to their online articles. Not a lot, really, but now and then they have a few good reads. InFurniture is another trade rag that I like.