Furniture Labels Can Lie – Even When They’re Not Supposed To

is it real leatherProtecting your design clients from poor quality products should be a priority for any interior designer. Whether we’re talking about cheap paint that will not last, inexpensive rugs that unravel, or furniture that does not meet acceptable standards, since you're the expert they’ve hired to improve their space, it’s up to you to ensure that quality matches the price.A recent article in the Washington Post, though largely intended for consumers, brings to light an array of problems with furniture labeling, along with tips on how to avoid being taken by mislabeled furnishings.Since the FTC rescinded its specific guidelines for the household furniture industry in 2002, there are four areas that are most often mislabeled:

  1. Misrepresented wood – The old FTC guideline said manufacturers should not use wood names on their labels unless the piece was made of “solid wood of the type named.” In other words, calling a piece of furniture “oak” because it was coated in oak-colored stain or clad in oak veneer was against the rules.
  2. Misrepresented leather – “Bonded leather” is the scourge of the upholstered furniture industry. Bonded leather consists of a thin plastic front, a fabric middle and ground up leather particles on the back. It’s been the subject of consumer lawsuits and industry hand-wringing for years but, it’s still out there.
  3. Misrepresented fabric – Real linen is made from fibers found in the flax plant. It’s prized because it’s natural, durable and breathable, so it stays cool in the summer. Unfortunately, other fabrics are often passed off as linen.
  4. Misrepresented foam – There’s been a backlash against polyurethane foam because it’s a petroleum product. Enter “soy foam.” It’s a feel-good label that eco-conscious consumers seem to like. Yet, most cushions labeled “soy foam” are hybrids and are almost certainly made from far less soy foam than they are polyurethane foam.

Again, while this article was obviously intended for consumers, as an interior designer it’s important to stay on top of any trends in home furnishings that can help – or harm – your business. After all, placing inferior products in the home of one of your clients could have lasting implications for your reputation and the future of your business.“Remember, furniture sellers used to have to put all the details of a piece’s construction on the sales tag. Today it’s important to check any additional information on brochures or websites to get the full story. Furniture made of solid wood stained to look like another wood is not a bad thing, as long as it’s disclosed. Veneers are not inherently bad, either, as long as you’re aware and don’t count on refinishing them someday.”So, stay on top of what’s happening in your market and be aware of any suppliers who may be cutting corners – corners you can’t afford to cut and still keep your design clients happy.Looking for more new design trends, tips, and ideas? Get in touch with TD Fall today.