Consumer expectations for furniture design and manufacturing are constantly evolving. Shoppers today expect unique and personalized furniture that is environmentally friendly and focuses strongly on sustainable material sourcing and manufacturing practices. Consumers also want their furniture to be functional and decorative while weaving in modern technology to reap the conveniences of today's connected world.

We reached out to other industry thought leaders to get their perspectives on what will drive good furniture design in the future. This article will offer their thoughts and look closely at what customers want and expect.

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Eco-Friendly and Sustainable

The environment is a significant factor for many consumers today. Chloe Hughes, editor-in-chief at Foter, a premier architecture, decoration, interiors, and design website, says that sustainable materials and practices are likely to become more commonplace in furniture design as consumers become increasingly aware of their choices' impact on the environment.

"As society progresses and changes, so too does the need for (sustainable) furniture," she says. "Furniture of the future will likely be much more minimalist in design as people become increasingly interested in simplicity and functionality. Additionally, technological advances will allow furniture to be made from new and innovative materials, such as recycled plastic or metal.

"This furniture will be both lightweight and durable due to the increasing demand for portability and easy storage. Lightweight furniture is easier to move around, ideal for people constantly on the go, and perfect for today's active lifestyle."

Giovanni Scippo, director at 3D Lines, offers a great take on "eco-friendly" furniture. "It refers to furniture made in a way that has a minimal environmental impact," he says. "Wood that comes from renewable sources and does not damage or harm the environment is considered environmentally friendly. In addition, the least amount of resources used, the better, such as minimizing the distance for deliveries to the greatest extent possible is a part of this."

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Use and Reuse

Furniture made from recycled or sustainable materials will be increasingly important to consumers in the near future.

Personalized and Personal

Thanks to the advent of smartphones and social media, consumers today expect a personalized shopping experience and a unique furniture product that can be tailored to their individual needs and wants.

"For furniture manufacturers to keep up with current trends, they'll have to put a much greater emphasis on personalization and character," says Stefan Bucur, owner of Rhythm of the Home interior design services in Texas. "We see clients who point to a certain picture or video that engulfs their preferred aesthetic, and standard furniture very rarely can satisfy that need."

Oberon Copeland, the owner of Very Informed, agrees and says there's been a recent shift in how consumers view furniture. "Rather than simply being seen as functional items, furniture is now often viewed as an expression of personal style," he says. "As a result, people are increasingly looking for furniture that reflects their taste and lifestyle."

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Make it Personal

Consumers will be willing to spend more money on furniture that can be personalized and customized to reflect their own styles.

Yet Copeland notes that personalization may need to take on a much more significant role in the design and buying process to meet consumer demand for unique and stylish furniture. “Even retailers may need to provide more personalized service to help customers find the perfect piece of furniture for their home,” he adds.

Chris Harvey, an interior expert for Stelrad, says that the uniqueness of products will play a significant role in consumer demand for furniture in the years ahead.

“We’ll see a lot more original pieces,” he said. “There will always be a market for people who want something that isn’t seen everywhere and isn’t available to everyone. In the last number of years, creative people have expanded to design beautiful one-off works. That kind of craftsmanship will become even more prized.”

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Driven by Design

At BDI, we're passionate about creating beautiful and functional products that enhance the way that people work, live, and play.

Combining Form With Function

One of the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that work-from-home is here to stay, at least in some capacity. Consumers, especially those with a smaller home footprint or who have more than one person working from home, will be searching for aesthetically pleasing and functional furniture that can likely be used in multiple ways in the household.

Luke Lee, the founder of Ever Wallpaper, a wallpaper and mural design company in London, says that "today, consumers want furniture that is not only beautiful and stylish but also functional and practical. They are looking for pieces that can serve multiple purposes and are versatile enough to work in any setting."

Stacy Lewis, an interior designer at Eternity Modern, an online store specializing in mid-century modern furniture and décor, agrees and says that remote work will continue to be a major factor affecting furniture design and interior design in general in the coming years.

"Beyond the observed and expected growth in the demand for ergonomic furniture, we are seeing a shift in how specific styles and pieces of furniture are classified as 'home' or 'office,'" she says. "We will expect a lot of crossing over in this aspect. Homes will incorporate more functional furniture that still emanates a homey vibe. I wouldn't be surprised if we are to see ergonomic office chairs designed to look like couches and other styles traditionally associated with home spaces."

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Double Duty

Furniture that is beautifully designed but can also offer various functions and uses in the home will be vital in the future.

Incorporating Technology

As technology becomes even more integral to day-to-day life, it makes sense that consumers are coming to expect high-tech components as part of the buying process and the furniture itself.

“As the world becomes increasingly digitized and connected, consumers are beginning to expect furniture that not only looks good and serves practical purposes but also has some sort of technological function,” says Chloe Hughes with Foter. “For example, many people are now looking for furniture that can act as charging stations for their smartphones and other electronic devices, or furniture with built-in speakers that can be used to play music or listen to podcasts.

Zara O’Hare, an interior design consultant at Land of Rugs, a leading online rug retailer in the UK, agrees but believes tech additions will be smart and subtle.

“Soon, I believe we will see furniture embedded with smart technology that is very difficult or impossible to see. Some examples would be sofas with wireless chargers within the armrest or lightbulbs that can turn on when they sense the room is turned on. Furniture will be about making people’s lives easier, while also remaining true to themselves and their original purpose: to keep people comfortable.”

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Smart Design

We can expect furniture in the future to incorporate smart technology, such as in-arm chargers and motion-activated sensors that enhance the experience for the user.

Chris Harvey of Stelrad notes that recent advancements are just the tip of the iceberg regarding technology and furniture design.

'If the last ten years is anything to go by, then interior design in the future will be remarkably different than it is today. If we look back to 2009/2010, brass, barn-wood paneling, and exposed-filament Edison bulbs were the must-haves for a person's home," he said. "Times have changed, and we will be looking more at design elements that include digital. From a fridge that can buy your groceries to a living room that connects up perfectly with your film choice and lights that create the right ambiance automatically."

Giovanni Scippo of 3D Lines adds, "App or voice-activated furniture for the house is a relatively new development. We know Alexa or Siri but haven't heard of a talking sofa or a moving refrigerator. This is the future of the furniture industry. We'll see furniture with integrated technology that allows you to control it using your data, energy sources, and behavior. This way, it's responsive to your needs, it's flexible and transformable."

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A New (Augmented) Reality

Beyond smart furniture in the home, Zara O'Hare with Land of Rugs also says that augmented reality (AR) will gain in popularity for the furniture shopping experience, allowing shoppers to see how a piece of furniture would fit in their living spaces. Companies like BDI are already deploying AR tools to aid consumers in their online shopping.

"Non-essential companies were shut down early in the pandemic, and many customers shopped online," O'Hare said. "As a result of this response, prominent furniture manufacturers established an online presence. Compared to traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, AR-enabled shopping provides a higher level of customization.

"CGI and AR produce easy-access applications that allow users to place the furniture they want in the exact place. You don't need to take out your measuring tape and rulers. You just need your phone, and boom! The furniture is in the right place."

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Getting a Pre-View

Tools such as AR and 3D visibility will enhance how shoppers interact with and buy furniture in the future.

Zaeem Chaudhary, an architectural draftsman at AC Design Solutions, says that change is one constant we should expect moving forward.

“Furniture design is constantly growing,” he says. “Not just in terms of style and beauty, but also in incorporating all of the newest technological breakthroughs to make life easier, greener, more cost-effective, and more joyful in the house, all while maintaining an elegant interior.”

Who’s ready for the future of furniture design?