What does SFC’s current research show?
2015 Consumer Research
Summary of Key Findings by Susan Inglis, SFC Executive Director
The 2015 Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study is the 7th wave of national survey conducted to assess consumer awareness, interest and behavior in a variety of issues related to sustainable furnishings. The samples were intentionally limited to the prime demographics for purchasing home furnishings to ensure that the results would be most applicable to decisions made by companies that service this market. The 2015 study was conducted by Impact Consulting.
Overall, findings indicate a growing concern about sustainability issues and an interest in buying products that are good for the environment, so long as they meet given style and budget requirements. Quality, price and style are always the main drivers in choosing furnishings, but survey trends show “good for the environment” is more and more part of the value consumers seek.
At least half consumers rate themselves as very or extremely aware and concerned about a range of environmental issues from toxic pollution to using up natural resources to deforestation, with no single issue being of much greater concern. This tells us that the “engaged” population has been holding steady at about 50%. Most furniture consumers are taking action in a variety of ways, from recycling at home to switching to CFL light bulbs, and over half have purchased green products in a variety of categories. However, they still are not buying as much in “eco-friendly” home furnishings products as they are in categories they can access more easily, such as recycled paper products and non-toxic cleaners. It is clear that this is mostly because they have not been made aware of the options.
Purchase interest in green furnishings is growing, with over half of all furnishings consumers indicating interest in buying eco-friendly home furnishings, if they like the style and the price is right for them. Those definitely interested has grown from around 30% when we began the surveys to about 40%. These are very healthy numbers.
The current survey indicates that price sensitivity may have peaked. Those who would pay nothing or only up to 5% more fell from a peak of 78% in 2010 to around 70% in the current survey. This is a significant drop. Further, the solid 30% who will pay more is in line with general consumer inclination to pay more for a favorite feature or brand.
Awareness of specific eco-options in furnishings remains largely unchanged with recycled content, organic fabrics and reclaimed wood the most recognized, though as we always caution these are also the easiest to fake knowledge of because of the descriptiveness of the terms. It remains for the furniture sales person to point out the significance of eco-features including other recycled or reclaimed content, bio-based foam, domestic manufacture, etc. It is clearly worth having the conversation, though, since most consumers will respond to these features when the product is their style and price point.
Sustainable Furnishings Council is pleased to offer a range of training programs to ensure that furnishings professionals, as well as consumers, better understand the simple choices we can all make to help ensure a healthy future. The survey results show clearly that consumers are eager for us to bust the myth that “sustainable” looks a certain way or always costs more.
Impact Consulting’s GREEN HOME FURNISHINGS STUDY 2015
is available free to all SFC members. (a $250 value)
Join us Today!
Bold Never Goes out of Style
As a designer, I have had a lot of time to look at products, trends, colors. It means that I have long since lost any attachment to say dark wood over light wood. I like both in the right context. Same with the sterility of the International Style or the more lavish Federalist. Both have a time and a place and both can be an equally inspiring basis for the style of a law office.
Yet I need to choose my words very carefully when describing styles or colors with a client. The word trend is a particularly dangerous thing to put out and I’d like to explain why I think that is, even through a trend is nothing to fear. It’s just a currently popular idea. There’s a delicate balance in every job to provide both freshness and longevity. Clients are usually coming in having lived with a space for years and part of my job besides function is to provide a facelift. Yes, creating the functional conference room that the team desperately needs is important and rebalanced the lights and HVAC after those walls go up is necessary, but part of the appeal of an interior designer is that you expect us to leave the place looking better than when we were hired, not just functioning better. (Like the roof replacement my husband and I did last year; it needed doing, but we didn’t “feel” or “see” the investment except by the absence of rain in our kitchen) But you, as a client, know you’ll be staring at the inside of those conference room walls for years. And that chair you’ll be sitting through all those meetings in needs to be comfortable and preferably nice to look at. Thus as much as designers plan to walk the balance between choosing something exciting and new, but not something that will get old. Trends get old eventually. Having a color or style become dated far beyond the end of the useful life of the product can lead to frustrations later on. It’s still in good shape, but if you’ve stopped enjoying the color, texture or pattern it gets old. This is true of any job, commercial or residential.
We live in a world where the word trend, is more related to clothing than furniture, however, and it seems many people are intimidated by the Speed of Fashion and consider that speed when they start to consider furniture and color choices. I often feel the concern about living with a color or other bold choice. But the Speed of Furniture is slower than the Speed of Fashion. While what teenage girls wore 5 years ago is completely out of style, the couch I bought at the same time doesn’t look dated. Shapes take time to go in and out. Color is more tricky, but we live in an age where I find the buzz-phase or trend of contemporary design color is what I call Neutral Plus Pop. I love this concept and employ it all the time. It allows me to be bold and energetic without fear that a client (or me) will outgrown the design decisions we made too fast. I just tend not to point out that this sensible way of thinking is also a current design trend.
Colors (the particular hues in vogue, although there are classic shades and tints that always have appeal) shift more quickly than neutrals (which do shift as well; think about the espresso wood tone that’s popular the last few years whereas medium oak or white laminate is my memory of the 80’s). So you play to your strengths. Long-lasting items that also tend to be more investment are done in neutrals. This includes built-ins, casework, countertops and the partners’ desk in colors and styles you love and know will never get old for you. Take, not risks, but have fun with with paint colors, task chairs, and the items that will wear out. Paint is not an expensive proposition and all the HGTV bloggers will tell you the same.
To me, Wow factor and boldness never go out of style. A rich, deep hue will always have wow because of it’s depth. Something unique and distinguishing will, while it may become humdrum to you on a daily basis, still impress newcomers to your space. Boldness creates variety and adds interest. It might be a leap of faith to try something different, but if done in the right materials it doesn’t have to be frightening but will make a lasting impression and wow you and your visitors for a long time.