Out with the Old: When It’s Time to Update to Safer Furniture

by Dahna M. Chandler

Maybe you’ve been thinking about replacing your old hand-me-down furniture for a while, but you’re not sure where to start. Like 88 percent of the people polled by the Sustainable Furniture Council (SFC) in 2009, you’re worried about indoor air quality, and your furniture is a factor. Many regulations have changed in recent years to support safer homes, and furniture manufactured years ago may not be in compliance. Medical professionals have also recommended new guidelines for furniture manufacturing and purchasing.

Old Furniture May Not Be Safe

The fabrication processes once used by manufacturers changed rapidly in the late 1990s when new U.S. government regulations mandated what could and could not be used in furniture manufacturing. “It’s important to look at how your furniture is constructed and with what,” states Juliet Abeille, owner of Loverly Cottage in Lake Bluff, Illinois. She also owns L’Abeille Vintage, a boutique where she repurposes old furniture using eco-friendly, non-toxic materials. She warns that lead paint is common on a lot of old furniture, and those pieces should be replaced immediately.

In many cases, older furniture might not suit your various physical needs, such as providing appropriate comfort and support for sound sleep or ergonomic support for long hours at a desk. Some pieces may have deteriorated and no longer be sturdy. These issues can lead to problems with safety or cause physical discomfort, particularly when it comes to items that are used daily.

Consider these tips for upgrading to safe, quality furniture made for today’s lifestyles without breaking the bank.

Determine Your Lifestyle Needs

Before you start shopping, consider how your lifestyle impacts the way you use furniture. If you’re like most people, you don’t redecorate your entire home very often. That means deciding on your most important needs up front is important. Make sure you answer the following questions:

  • How often are you home, and how often do you entertain?
  • Do you work from home or outside of your home?
  • Do you travel frequently for work or have an otherwise mobile lifestyle?
  • Do you have or plan to have children soon?
  • Do you or a family member have physical issues that require certain furniture?
  • Do you need furniture long term or short term?
  • How much furniture do you need?
  • How much can you spend on furniture?

Be sure to think about other questions that could be relevant based on your unique needs.

Avoid Low-Quality Furnishings

Furniture available at many discount retailers is manufactured with the lowest price point in mind. Although manufacturers have to meet certain minimum standards, eco-friendliness, sustainability, and low toxicity are not the focus for inexpensive furniture. In many cases, items are massed produced overseas using low-quality materials. These pieces are often less durable and may contain more chemicals.

Abeille regularly buys furniture for her boutique that features non-chemical milk paints. She says, “Low-budget furniture usually gets made with inexpensive wood composites and factory painted with cheaper chemical-based paints and lacquers.” Composites are wood chips glued together and not solid wood.

Low-quality furniture has a higher likelihood of off-gassing toxins from its cheaper manufacturing materials. High-quality furniture, on the other hand, is made with top notch materials and processes that come with minimal risk. Low-quality furniture also doesn’t last long, meaning you’ll spend money more frequently on replacement.

Investing in newer, high-quality furniture for your home is a better choice for a safer home. Even with limited resources, it’s possible to find quality pre-owned clearance furniture at affordable prices.

Consider Furniture Rental

If you need to minimize your upfront cost or your needs are temporary, CORT Furniture Rental gives you access to excellent quality furnishings. This option is flexible for your wallet, space requirements, design choices, physical needs, and other lifestyle characteristics.

If you work from home and spend a lot of time at your desk, replace your old home office furniture with newer, sturdier ergonomic pieces. For a better night’s sleep, consider trying out a memory foam mattress as part of your furniture rental package. You can decide exactly what works for you and make changes as your needs change.

As an example, Abeille throws seasonal garden parties and rents furniture for those events. “That way, I get what I want delivered, it’s picked up when I’m done, and I have no storage costs,” she enthuses.

Talk to your local CORT representative to learn how you can upgrade your furniture and meet all your furniture needs.