Whether it’s for a tiny New York City studio apartment or a 4,000 square foot McMansion in the far off suburbs, everybody needs furniture in their home. Purchasing furniture is a rite of passage for every adult. Today, the majority of us - at least in America - buy furniture from massive chain stores. It's quick, easy, and they always have something that will work, right? But when's the last time you stopped to think about where that fast and cheap furniture comes from? How is it made, by whom, and from what materials? These are questions the slow food movement has urged us to ask about the food we eat. Isn't it time we give the same consideration to the objects that make our house a home?
Slow Food started in Italy as a response to the first McDonalds restaurant opening in Rome. It emphasizes the mindful use of local ingredients harvested and prepared in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Most of all, it encourages presence of mind in the creation and consumption of food in order to counteract the frenetic pace and anonymity of 21st-century life. As Slow Food gains popularity, people increasingly support their friends and neighbors who operate locally-owned farms and restaurants. Natural, wholesome ingredients and hand-crafted preparation bring the focus back to the colors, flavors, and textures that fuel our bodies and the community, conversation, and present state of mind that fuel our souls.
The Slow Food credo “Good, Clean, and Fair” has slowly begun to expand past the farmer’s market and kitchen and into other areas of our lives like fashion and home decor. It’s super easy these days to mindlessly purchase a new sofa with a few swipes and clicks and have it delivered in two days with free shipping. However, Slow Design is gaining traction as consumers are focusing on process, origin, and materials in ways that value the environment and the makers. If the Slow Design movement is something you’re ready to get behind, keep reading to learn five guiding principles that will help you make more mindful decisions about the items in your home.
So often, we’re urged to buy on impulse with weekly clearance sales and buy-it-now buttons. The sense of urgency that many stores create leads to a lot of unplanned purchases, and it can be difficult to remember that shopping has a responsibility attached to it. It’s important to carefully think about what you’re purchasing and where it will go in your home. Think five years down the road, too. In the moment, we don’t usually worry about whether that super cool throw pillow will still be on our couch or in the landfill in five years. If you take it slow while shopping for your home and even make a plan and stick to it, you can love what you have more and reduce waste down the road.
The main tenant of Slow Design is to consider all aspects of the product - from the raw materials to the people and processes that make the final product. Another important tenant is to buy locally. These two tenants work hand-in-hand to protect our natural resources, improve the environment, and support talented artisans. When you buy from a local artisan, you can easily learn more about the materials and processes that go into the piece. If you’re a fan of online shopping, there are ways to make sure your purchase supports handmade, too. Sites like Etsy make it easy to shop handmade by location, and you can message the maker directly to learn more about their process.
One of the main principles of Slow Design is adaptability. Having fewer items that do multiple things is way more sustainable and wastes less material than having one item for each task. To add some flexibility to your home, choose furniture items that can be modified to meet future needs like a crib that reconfigures into a twin-sized bed or a shelving unit that can accommodate added storage when your needs or space expands. Or choose pieces that adapt to different needs - like a dining stool that you can move into the living room for extra game night seating (see our Tahquamenon Stool) or a coffee table tray that also looks fantastic as a holiday centerpiece on your dining table (like our Aspen Magazine Rack).
Slow Design makers pride themselves on the sustainable materials and processes that they make their goods with. Sustainably harvested wood products, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, are a great first step. In fact, all of the veneers and plywoods we use at Ciseal to make our products are FSC Certified. Another way to maximize sustainability is to choose furniture and home decor pieces that will last lifetimes. Quality materials and workmanship will ensure pieces will stand the test of time and hold up to daily use. And finally, be sure you really love the pieces you’re buying. Purchase things that you will want to keep for many years, rather than things you will want to replace in six months. When you keep your quality furniture for longer, you slow down the cycle of unconscious consumerism that keeps buying and throwing away.
We all know of someone who moved into a new place, furnished it within a month, and then realize their house doesn’t feel like home, so they continually discard and replace things in a never-ending cycle of mindless consumerism. Then there are those who see their home as an ongoing project that will never be complete. To cultivate a home that reflects you and your life instead of passing trends, be sure to take it slow. You will have empty space and blank walls (designers cleverly call it “negative space”), and that’s ok because you know that you’re leaving those areas open for treasures you have yet to discover. So give yourself permission to slow down and carefully consider the things that will truly make your house a home.
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