News Treehugger Voices This Company Makes Furniture Strong Enough to Survive 2020 The furniture business has changed, and so are the companies that make it. By Lloyd Alter Lloyd Alter Facebook Twitter Design Editor University of Toronto Lloyd Alter is Design Editor for Treehugger and teaches Sustainable Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. Learn about our editorial process Updated December 9, 2020 10:40PM EST Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Only Good Things News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Grand Rapids, Michigan, used to be known as Furniture City, with more than 40 big companies making mostly contract furniture at its peak. It's still home to the big contract and office furniture companies like Steelcase, Haworth, and Herman Miller, whose factories Treehugger toured a few years ago. Contract furniture, designed for offices and hotels, is usually strong and built to last; I am sitting at a 68-year-old Herman Miller desk and it's holding up just fine, and on a 10-year-old Herman Miller chair that looks brand new. But it is a tough business and has been going through many changes, especially with so many people working from home. It is an even tougher business if you produce chairs and tables for restaurants, given how many of them have gone bust this year. Grand Rapids Furniture is doing the pivot to residential with a new line called Only Good Things, selling contract quality for residential use and abuse. Only Good Things The furniture is made with "sustainably harvested wood from northeastern American forests and US-sourced steel. Even more fitting for the times is that each piece is finished with an antimicrobial, commercial-grade topcoat, that can withstand even the toughest stains." With people sitting in chairs and banging on tables at home all day long thanks to the pandemic and the working from home trend, commercial-grade furniture makes sense. It has all been commercially tested and comes with structural warranties, and will likely last forever. Only Good Things I have written before that offices are looking more like coffee shops and living rooms, and now homes are turning into offices, and I wondered if the contract market was dead. Dean Jeffery, the Creative Director of Only Good Things and Marketing Director of Grand Rapids Chair Co. told Treehugger: "I wouldn’t say that contract is dead, it’s just different. The idea for Only Good Things started long before the pandemic. Over the past decade, we’ve really seen the line between contract spaces and residential spaces blur and we think that trend is going to continue. Between the accessibility of technology and the proliferation of ecommerce, consumers are just demanding different experiences. It’s forcing us contract manufacturers to simplify the buying process and reimagine what our offering looks like." Only Good Things "When the pandemic hit, it was amazing to see how quickly businesses adjusted to support work from home set-ups and arrangements, which resulted in people spending a lot more time in their houses. Since we’re such a visually driven generation, it makes sense that we’re seeing people invest in creating a space they love at home, one that feels welcoming, personable, and can act as an oasis." The usual definition of sustainability is that it "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs," which is why we like to show products that will actually last for generations. Unfortunately, not that many people are willing to pay the premium over IKEA for furniture that is made this way. It comes down to Globalism vs Grand Rapids, and I am rooting for the local, sustainable, and durable.