Michigan, the Furniture Capital
Updated: Apr 28
Have you ever heard this before, that Michigan is the Furniture Capital of the world? Well, learn more about it from Kathy Kilbourn from Tri City Furniture on this week's Design Time as she explains what Michigan started as and is today concerning furniture.
Back in the 50’s and 60’s Michigan was considered one of the largest furniture manufactures of the world, headed in Grand Rapids. I was young back then, but can remember going to furniture markets with my family so see the new furniture being made for the coming year! It was much different than today! The manufacturers were smaller and family owned. Everything was American as that is all that was available during those days! Steel came from the Chicago area, wood was cut and dried by local wood companies, and fabrics were from local mills in surrounding states. We could order a sofa on Monday and have it on Thursday! It was high quality and lasted many years! Of course, they were in florals and plaids…I am sure you have still seen some of them around still today!
Over they years, many of those manufacturers moved to the southern states. There were many other manufacturers there and a lot of the fabrics mills located there as well. Back in the day, the fiber was made there, such as cotton, but also the synthetic fiber plants located there as well. Carpet mills were there also, so it just made since to be close to the suppliers. The other main reason was that imports started to show up in the 70’s and these Michigan companies, as well as the Southern ones, were hit with tremendous competition! The products were not high quality, but consumers were drawn to the lower prices!
I know we still want cheaper, but I think we are getting wise to the fact that cheaper means built cheaper! It is not the same product for a lower price!
There are still several in the Grand Rapids area. Some make commercial products for offices, but there is Howard Miller, who has/are wood products, that are still solid, high quality pieces made for homes! Many of the others left the state due to labor costs, and located in the North Carolina area. Others just closed their doors, since the public went cheaper! Things have definitely changed over that last 50 years. There are a lot of people that are alive today that do not understand how American quality furniture was built or how it feels, and especially how it lasted! The good news is that there are still manufacturers here in the US that are making furniture the way it was always done.. Each piece is done completely by hand by amazing craftsman and women….it is an art! Covid has impacted these manufacturers just in the fact that there has been increased demand since people are home more! Also, this increase in orders came as a Surprise so these companies did not have extra raw materials on hand to keep up with the new orders that are coming in! American manufacturers do not stock pile product…they build it as it is ordered, so that is why it can be customized. Not like imports that are what you see is what you get…there are thousands of them coming in on boats…all the same