Here’s how sustainability plays a key role in the way this Detroit furniture maker does business

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The world doesn’t need more furniture.

It’s an odd thing for a furniture company to say, but for Floyd, the Detroit-based furniture maker headquartered in Eastern Market, it’s a statement that demonstrates the company’s own motivations when it comes to sustainability.

Of course the most sustainable thing someone can do is not buy new furniture — to not buy new anything, for that matter. But people will always be buying new furniture. So, when they do, why not make it something that will last a long time, something that they’ll want to keep around, something that they’ll want to take with them when they move.

“What we need is high quality furniture that's not going to go out of style or break down. Furniture that can potentially be modular, to move with you and adapt to your lifestyle over time. That's really what we're after,” says Aaron Turk, senior vice president of operations and corporate development at Floyd.

“We want to make sure any product, anything we bring out in the world, actually has a reason for being.”
The proprietary design of The Floyd Shelving System features a hidden track that makes adjusting and adding on to your shelving system incredibly easy. No pegs, screws or tools.
There’s a through line of sustainability by way of adaptability and simplicity that runs from the company’s very first product to today. That first product, the Floyd Leg, was a deceptively simple table leg that allows people to make a table out of just about anything that fits, punctuating the Reuse in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Today, there’s the Floyd Bed, a modular bed frame that customers can purchase as a twin-size frame and add on to as life changes, growing from a twin to a queen to a king.

It’s the type of furniture that you don’t dread taking with you as you move, from a college dorm to a city apartment to a house with a yard. High-quality materials and minimal parts help ensure that the furniture will stand the test of time. And if something does break down, the furniture is designed in a way that makes it easily serviceable.

“Materials and emissions are often viewed as the crux of sustainability. These things are important, and will continue to be a focus for Floyd. But in furniture, waste is really the pressing issue,” says Racheal Brown, vice president of marketing for Floyd.

“The industry has largely failed to appropriately adapt to changing living patterns — people moving more often, buying homes later in life. The response has been to create products that are less expensive, with cheaper materials, so people can afford to buy new every time their needs change. This type of furniture is ultimately destined for the landfill.

“At Floyd, we're focused on designing products that will change and grow with our customers and will work from room-to-room and home-to-home.”
A Floyd Bed panel is given its final dusting before heading to packaging. This panel and support system allows for the bed to change in size, with just the addition of another panel.
This idea of high-quality, well-designed furniture is nothing new, of course. Anyone who’s moved antique furniture can feel the difference between something built in the year 1900 vs. something built in 2000. Their back can feel it, too. Furniture made with real wood and water-based finishes long outlasts the disposable types of furniture that came to dominate the 20th century. According to the EPA, furniture waste has outpaced household growth 2.5 times since 1960. Cheaply made furniture gets thrown away.

Well-made, well-loved furniture, however, has been making a comeback in recent years and Floyd serves as proof of point.

Tony Rotman, Floyd’s new head of product, recently left Swedish furniture giant IKEA to lead the product design team at Floyd. Rotman has spent his career innovating in sustainability and furniture design, drawing from the strength of the past while experimenting with new methods and materials. It’s Floyd’s own commitment to sustainability practices that led, in part, to Rotman leaving IKEA for the growing Detroit company.

The Floyd Sofa was designed for easy assembly and disassembly.“It’s furniture that’s built to last with really smart modularity. It moves with you. I think that’s a big thing — especially with younger people. It’s easy to disassemble,” Rotman says. “Sometimes with other furniture companies, you put it together once and that’s it, you can’t take it apart. Or if you did, you couldn’t put it back together. Usually those barriers mean that someone will just throw it out.”

Floyd products are designed in such a way that if something were to go wrong, it doesn’t spoil the entire piece of furniture. Most parts can be ordered and easily replaced.

Part of Rotman’s three-year plan is to incorporate those elements that increase a product’s life span across an expanded Floyd product line, keeping Floyd furniture out of landfills and making it easier for customers to hold on to the pieces that they love.

“When we make something, we’ll look at design for recyclability, design for disassembly. If a leg breaks, you don’t have to replace the table. We just send new legs,” Rotman says. “All of that kind of thinking will be designed in from the beginning.”
The Floyd Table in Walnut/Black.
Earlier this year, Floyd announced the debut of Full Cycle, a multi-faceted program developed to extend the useful life of its products. The Shop aspect is a novel concept for a furniture company: When a customer is ready to find a new piece of furniture for their home, Floyd’s Full Cycle marketplace offers imperfect or returned products at a lower price, giving new life to furniture that may otherwise be recycled or disposed.

“Even if we design for quality, modularity, and serviceability, there will still be reasons a customer may not keep a Floyd product. And ultimately, it's our responsibility to ensure what we put into the world has as long of a life as possible,” says Brown.

“Full Cycle gives a second life to returned products by offering customers an option to buy lightly-used furniture that still has a lot of years left in it. We plan to continue to build on Full Cycle and other programs like it by continuing to be critical of our industry and solving for gaps in the furniture lifecycle"

The Full Cycle program is just one of five of the company’s 2025 sustainability goals. The goals touch on everything from materials to the supply chain, with plans to have each executed by 2025.

Those goals include ensuring that 70 percent of their material comes from recycled or renewable sources, minimizing packing materials and eliminating single-use plastics, using 100 percent FSC-certified wood in all of its products, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain.

“These goals are a direct reflection of improvements we're trying to make in our product and our supply chain, as we continue to push this industry forward,” says Turk. “We're doing that because we think it's the right thing to do and we know consumers value it. They want to buy a product from and be affiliated with a brand that cares.”

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.