16th March 2023

Circular Economy and Sustainable Design

SV Steampunk style round table in Brabazon hangar

Recently, the concept of a circular economy has gained significant attention. It is a sustainable alternative to the traditional linear model of “take-make-dispose.” Circular economy is a system that aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible, minimising waste while maximising the value of products. 

One sector that has great potential for circularity is the furniture industry. Furniture is an essential part of our daily lives and a significant contributor to waste and environmental damage. By incorporating circular principles into furniture production and consumption, we can reduce waste, conserve resources, and create a more sustainable future. 

We explore how high-quality furniture fits into a circular economy and why it is essential for the industry’s future.

The benefits of a circular economy

The circular economy is a model of production and consumption that aims to create more sustainable products. Using materials that are already available, circularity can help us avoid extracting or manufacturing new materials. A circular economy can also reduce the amount of energy and water needed to produce goods and the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.

Moreover, it’s important to note that circularity is a production model and consumption. In a world where people want more than ever before, we must find ways to ensure they are not contributing to overconsumption.

The problem with traditional furniture production

The traditional furniture industry is notoriously wasteful, with many pieces made from cheap materials and designed to be disposable. It is responsible for many environmental and social problems;

  1. Deforestation: Taking wood from depleted forests, leads to habitat destruction, soil erosion and biodiversity loss.
  2. Greenhouse gas emissions: The furniture industry is responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions, both from the manufacturing and shipping. 
  3. Resource depletion: The traditional furniture industry relies heavily on non-renewable resources such as petroleum-based plastics and synthetic fabrics, which undoubtedly leads to resource depletion and contributes to environmental damage from the extraction and processing of these materials.
  4. Waste: Traditional furniture designs are often disposable, leading to high levels sent to landfill, which can take decades to decompose.
  5. Labour practices: Often criticised for poor labour practices, including low wages and unsafe working conditions.
  6. Chemical pollution: Many furniture production processes involve toxic chemicals, which can pollute waterways and harm human health and the environment.
  7. These environmental and social problems associated with the traditional furniture industry underscore the urgent need for a more sustainable model.

The advantages of high-quality furniture

We often talk about high-quality furniture being an investment. You get what you pay for with high-quality pieces and; the use of excellent materials, often handmade by artisans and crafted with real attention to detail. However, the benefits of high-quality furniture extend beyond just looking good and feeling nice. When you buy high-quality furniture you expect long-lasting, durability, which you just do not get with its cheaper counterparts. You will get more value for money in the long run as your purchase lasts longer and requires less maintenance.

Designing for durability

Sustainable pieces are designed to be reused, repaired, and recycled. Consequently, designing for durability is critical to create furniture that fits into a circular economy. Sustainable pieces are designed to be reused, repaired, and recycled. Here is some design principle that goes into creating durable, long-lasting furniture:

  1. Modularity: Modularity refers to designing furniture to allow components to be easily replaced or added, making it easy to adapt the furniture to changing needs. This allows furniture to be repaired or reconfigured over time, extending its useful life.
  2. Repairability: Repairability refers to designing furniture that allows for easy repairs. This can include features like removable covers, interchangeable parts, and easy-to-replace components.
  3. Sustainable materials: Designing furniture with sustainable materials is another important principle for creating durable pieces. This can include using materials that are renewable, recyclable, or biodegradable. Sustainable materials can also be more durable and require less maintenance over time, reducing the need for repairs.
  4. Timeless design: Timeless pieces of furniture are a surefire way to ensure that it can last for years to come. Rather than following trends or fads, the timeless design focuses on creating heirloom furniture.
  5. Durability testing: Durability testing is a critical component of creating long-lasting furniture. This involves subjecting furniture to rigorous testing to ensure it can withstand regular use’s wear and tear. Manufacturers can identify weak points by testing furniture and improving to create more durable pieces.

By incorporating these design principles, furniture manufacturers can create more sustainable pieces better suited for a circular economy. This benefits consumers by providing high-quality furniture that can be enjoyed for years to come. Furthermore, benefiting the environment, by reducing waste and conserving resources. Win, win.

Extending the life of furniture

Avoid the ‘throw-away’ culture by extending the life of your furniture. Extend your furniture’s life by following manufacturers’ aftercare guidance or carrying out professional repairs. Many companies offer services such as reupholstering sofas, recovering chairs, replacing cushions and repairing broken pieces. This not only helps extend the life of your furniture but also gives you the opportunity to reinvent. 

Closing the loop

A circular economy focuses on minimising waste by designing products with end-of-life in mind. By embracing circular business models, the furniture industry can create new opportunities for growth and sustainability. This new way of conducting business can conserve resources, and create new revenue streams by selling refurbished or up-cycled products. This benefits businesses and consumers, creating a more sustainable and equitable future.

The role of consumers

Consumers play a crucial role in creating a circular furniture economy. By investing in high-quality, durable furniture and supporting circular business models, consumers can help drive the transition to a more sustainable future. 


The furniture industry is transforming as it embraces the principles of circularity. Manufacturers and consumers can work together to create a circular furniture economy that benefits people and the planet. 

This industry has the potential to be a leader in the circular economy movement, and it is up to all of us to make it happen. Working together can create a more sustainable and equitable future for future generations.

Paige Allison