In recent years, the length of time people use and keep belongings has decreased. With the acceptance of short-lived furniture and inexpensive replacements, the American mentality has shifted to thinking that discarding furniture is normal, often in the guise of recycling. Americans are addicted to landfills. The high cost of landfill real estate and other considerable ecological impacts created by the manufacturing of furniture should persuade people to give their belongings a longer life, but in reality, furniture is often prematurely discarded. This grounded theory study takes a multi-method approach to analyze why some types of furniture are kept longer and to theorize about new ways to design and sell furniture that lasts well past its warranty. Case studies bring new insight into designer intention, manufacturer intent, the world of auction-worthy collectables and heirlooms, why there is a booming second-hand furniture market and the growing importance of informed interior designers and architects who specify or help clients choose interior furnishings. An environmental life cycle assessment compares how the length of furniture life affects environmental impacts. A product's life could continue for generations if properly maintained. Designers and manufacturers hoping to promote longevity can apply the conclusions of this report in bringing new pieces to the market that have a much longer life span. This study finds areas of opportunity that promote user attachment, anticipate future repurposing, and provide services. This thinking envisions a paradigm for furniture that can re-invent itself over multiple generations of users, and ultimately lead to a new wave of desirable heirloom furniture.
- Furniture longevity: how mass-produced heirloom furniture supports sustainable consumption
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Statement of Responsibility
by Sarah Ingham