HHow often would you say chairs break? I’m going to open the bid with “not very often”. Not never. God, no. I’m not saying that! I will not be cornered into such an absurd statement. It would be “Liz Truss will never be Prime Minister” all over again! But my general expectation, when in a room, is that most of the chairs are going to remain functional until I leave them. The same thing was said of prime ministers earlier.
More often than seeing a chair break, you come across one that’s basically already broken, betraying pungent cans of dowel, for the fates to sweep the spacious posterior of a sensitive soul to some relatively public event. lead, preferably while the soul holds a large cut gate.
Right, tables. How often do they break? You can already tell this is going to be a brilliant read. Well, that is basically never. Dining room tables, I mean. Kitchen tables, boardroom tables. Big trees, they are forever. However, occasional tables are not forever. They are mortal as well as occasional and tend to nest for power. I wouldn’t say they are exactly dropping like flies though.
Caste next. Well, the doors and any drawers are a weakness, but it’s all repairable – and more easily repairable than the chair that boasts a tukki that successfully seduced the attention of a now-tearful big pot patisserie fan and its joints in sawdust changed. The fundamental structure of a wardrobe is difficult to destroy. In my mind’s eye, I can see them in pictures of the blitz, flapping open on the upper floors of homes that have been deforested. Nothing wrong with them that a few screws and a few promises won’t fix. Take it, Hitler!
So why is there constantly so much new furniture for sale? Why is it such a prominent retail item? Anecdotally, at least, old furniture doesn’t seem to decay fast enough to make room for all this stuff. Nor is the current modest rate of population growth sufficient to explain it. I guess people throw out good furniture.
When a chair does break, it seems to me that it will most likely be an Ikea chair that was purchased relatively recently. Now it is just, I hasten to add for obvious legal reasons, my personal feeling and unrepresentative experience, but if there is any truth to it, it may be because Ikea chairs are often put together by amateurs. This is no reflection on Ikea’s manufacturing process, the professionalism of which I would not dare question in a paragraph already fraught with risk. I’m referring to the fact that Ikea products are often assembled by the company’s customers who, statistically speaking, are overwhelmingly unlikely to be professional cabinetmakers.
That’s the deal with flatpack furniture – you put it together yourself and then it breaks because you don’t really know how to make furniture, which ironically was a key reason why you forced yourself to the living hell of a visit endure. a furniture store outside town. It’s like the opposite of those expensive cooking kits that give exact instructions and ingredients to give someone the illusion that they’ve cooked their own dinner. Ikea provides us with the cheap illusion that we don’t have to build our own furniture.
But not so cheap anymore. It was reported last week that Ikea’s prices are soaring by up to 80% because, the retailer says, of “macroeconomic developments… from the increased cost of materials and transport to the war in Ukraine and inflation”. These dramatically rising prices at a time of dramatically shrinking disposable income must surely jeopardize the chain’s business model, as well as the end of thousands of dream lounges.
By “dream lounge” I don’t mean a new kind of therapy where the stressed and affluent are invited into white and calming rooms to slumber less moaningly in the midst of therapists resolutely keeping a straight face – although I suspect that kind of dream lounges. may also have been hit by macroeconomic developments and have to cut back on how often they rinse out the bowls with translucent pebbles. No, I’m talking about the home makeover, popularized by dozens of interior design-based TV formats, the attempt to transform our living spaces into something brighter, calmer, cleaner or somehow otherwise bland.
For people who need furniture, the Ikea price increase is a bad thing. But for anyone who’s just up for a change, who’s in the mood to throw out good stuff and replace it with a load of flat-pack crap (or “flat-crap” – like a cow pat, but slightly easier to put together in a bookcase), I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The idea that the interior of people’s homes should respond to fashion on a similar time scale to the clothes they wear is unsustainable, both financially and environmentally.
Chairs should be fairly expensive, but built to last so you never have to replace them. You should have the same hope for longevity of your home’s furniture as you do its wiring. If done properly, you won’t need to touch it for ages, if ever. If this means the end of home renovation and a resumption of the idea that you don’t replace something unless it’s broken beyond repair, then that’s totally good news.
However, this will close another avenue of “economic growth”. I reveal myself as a fully paid-up member of the anti-growth coalition, except that there is no membership to pay because that would be economic activity that we in the coalition hate. Replacing chairs that don’t need to be replaced with chairs that look a little different but don’t last, and if they accidentally last, is made very unfashionable within the decade to get the whole dump of disposal and buyback going to keep, achieves nothing good. It sends us skint and it screws up the planet. But it does push up GDP, which has become politicians’ measure of whether our collective existence is worth it.