Fast Furniture - Antiques are a Sustainable Alternative

Fast Furniture - Antiques are a Sustainable Alternative

Flat-pack furniture flies off the shelves worldwide - it's quick, convenient, and affordable in a fast-paced world, yet it has a catastrophic impact on the environment and is almost certainly a false economy for consumers. With the cost of living crisis hitting people in their pockets, saving money is everybody's priority, but there has to be a moment when we consider if we are saving money in the long run.

Not all that long ago, we bought furniture that would last our lifetime and become sentimental yet practical pieces of furniture that could be passed down through the generations. It was a general practice that a piece of furniture could be repaired at a reasonable cost. A chest of drawers might need a new drawer box, or a favourite chair might need reupholstering to refresh its look. All things that were brought about by wear and tear but didn't affect the furniture's overall structure because they were carefully and thoughtfully made with quality materials.

Buying antique furniture might cost less than you think, especially if you add up all the cheap, mass-produced pieces of furniture you will replace in a lifetime. Modern wardrobes and chests of drawers are prime example of this. Flimsily made using MDF or chipboard, it can be difficult to assemble with screw holes that aren't big enough and the MDF or chipboard can split easily under the pressure of a screw or dowel rod. As our families grow or we move house, these pieces of furniture are moved around and they become loose and wobbly. Eventually, they fall apart and aren't able to be repaired because they aren't meant to be repaired - they are made to be disposed of when they break and you're supposed to buy them again. False economy? We think so.

Antique furniture is a sustainable alternative to fast furniture

Antiques have huge green credentials and are first-rate for reducing your carbon footprint if you're looking to change furniture. Using vintage or antique furniture already in circulation is environmentally friendly as the natural resources used in the manufacturing process have already been used. A study by Carbon Clear compared a newly made chest of drawers to an antique chest of drawers and found that the carbon footprint was likely to be 16 times lower using the antique furniture. 

Antique furniture is simply built to last

Quality craftsmanship using durable materials is a key factor in the benefits of buying antique furniture. Solid wood furniture is long-lasting and robust enough to withstand regular use, whereas the opposite can be said of fast furniture which often isn't made of wood, but cheap components. The other factor in a long furniture life is the design and workmanship. Years of training and apprenticeship went into becoming a skilled cabinet maker or furniture maker,  and learning from an experienced master craftsman would produce the beautiful antique pieces in oak, mahogany or walnut that we see today.

Antiques can be part of a modern aesthetic

With so much emphasis on aesthetics and home styling in this era, you might wonder how antiques can fit into your current style - but antiques are all about style. Well-made wooden furniture such as old English Oak chests can be found with exceptionally nice wood grain that would complement any interior. Simply made rustic furniture may appeal to you more than heavily carved dark wood, but the furniture styles are endless and varied. Antique furniture is often unique, with handmade furniture rather than mass-produced pieces and you will find that many interior designers look to antiques for individuality when styling.

Antiques are affordable

Buying quality antique furniture can be cost-effective and last many, many years in a busy household! The majority of our antique furniture comes fully assembled and is delivered to your door by a national courier. No need to wrestle with flat-pack furniture or pay someone to put together a chest of drawers, it can even be delivered to your room of choice. 

Why is Fast Furniture bad for the environment?

Fast furniture has become the new fast fashion. Cheap to make and easy to break, flat pack furniture is contributing to landfill across the globe. The furniture industry is diluted with low-quality, cheap products that contribute to the climate crisis through their manufacturing process and disposal.

Outsourcing furniture production. Mass-produced furniture is often sold by companies in the United Kingdom, but not manufactured on home soil. To save money large companies often outsource production to other countries such as China, Vietnam, and India where their manufacturing is unregulated with cheap labour. These countries are becoming furniture manufacturing giants where large quantities of timber are imported.

Illegal logging. These furniture-making giants import timber from around the globe, including those which illegally log. The problem doesn't only sit outside of the EU - vast areas of European forests are disappearing too. A 2018 report estimated that Romania had annually cut down 38.6 million cubic metres of wood, but only 18.5 million cubic metres had actually been licensed. Whilst demand is there for cheap furniture, illegal logging will continue.

Endangered species are declining further. According to the World Animal Federation, the planet is losing 137 species of animals, plants and insects every single day due to deforestation. Forests are critical to survival, not just for endangered species.

Cheap materials are bad for your health. Brand new furniture that is cheap to buy is made from cheap materials like chipboard (or particle board). This recycled material is made using wood chips and sawdust - it may sound like a sustainable alternative until you learn that a formaldehyde resin may have been used to bind it all together. New furniture and components in your home can 'off gas' for a couple of years after they are made if they are made using formaldehyde resin, which can contribute to respiratory illness.

Getting rid of your modern, cheaply made furniture

Don't just throw it away! Once a piece of furniture has been made, the damage to the environment is done but we can help offset its carbon footprint by reusing it. Here are a few suggestions:

Donate your used furniture to charity. Some charities now have second-hand furniture shops, give them a call and check if there is a local branch that you can donate. Some charities will collect from you, but they may be selective in what they can take due to a lack of floor space. Upholstered sofas and chairs will need to have fire labels present. If you live in Cornwall, there is a wonderful charity called Hidden Help based in Bissoe that helps those in urgent need to make a new home using second-hand furniture and homewares. They do a marvellous job supporting the local community, so check out if there are any organisations like this in your area.

Sell your second-hand furniture online. Social media platforms have marketplaces now where you can advertise your items for free, which will reach a large local audience. Use selling and auction websites to reach wider audiences.

Give away your used furniture for free. You can advertise your unwanted furniture and home accessories online in a whole host of places. One of our favourites is an app called OLIO, which provides a platform where local communities can access a free effective solution to reduce waste. Upload your items whether it's furniture or food and app users in your local community will be able to arrange collection with you.


Kernow Furniture curates a collection of vintage and antique furniture, available to purchase securely online with national delivery. Contact us to book an appointment to view our Antique Furniture Store in Cornwall.

February 07, 2023 — Benita Ellis-Kelly

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