5 min read

How to sustainably furnish your home in New Zealand

Furnish your home more sustainably with these tips for buying quality furniture.
By · July 12, 2023
How to sustainably furnish your home in New Zealand

The conversation about sustainably often revolves around what we drive, what we eat and where we buy our clothes from, but how we furnish our homes has a big impact on the Earth too. Furniture manufacturers are the third largest consumer of wood, after the paper and construction industries. The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimated that Americans disposed of around 12 million tonnes of furniture in 2018, most of which ended up in landfills.

But is the problem really that bad in New Zealand? We don’t have easy access to IKEA, Wayfair and other fast furniture manufacturers, do we? Well, 300,000 mattresses and bed bases are sent to landfills every year, and modular furniture, the kind often made from cheap MDF and bolted together in your living room, is becoming more and more common. And it’s this new furniture that’s finding its way into dumps and landfills across New Zealand.

Why sustainably furnish your home?

The obvious reason for sustainably furnishing your home is that it keeps materials from degrading in landfills. There are other benefits too. Investing in furniture that’s made from higher quality materials may:

Save you money in the long run. A lot of modular furniture isn’t cheap and needs to be replaced after 10 years (if it even lasts that long).

Be repurposed or reused. Cheap furniture is often hard to repurpose as it’s not made from ‘real’ wood. Older or higher-quality furniture can be sanded, painted or restrained for a second lease on life.

Offer more comfort. Cheap furniture often feels cheap to sit on and isn’t ergonomically designed. While you might not notice a huge difference at first, many people end up replacing fast furniture after a year or two with something more comfortable. You can skip the middleman by investing in quality furniture upfront.

How can I sustainably furnish my home?

Repurpose old furniture

Reusing or repurposing the furniture that’s already in your home is one of the most sustainable choices you can make. Not buying anything at all keeps money in your pocket and produces zero carbon. There are lots of ways to reuse and repurpose your old furniture:

Desks: Desks and tables can be used interchangeably. Think about the size of the piece rather than its intended use. You could use a wooden desk in the kitchen for more bench space rather than buying a dining room table. Wooden drawers make great storage pieces or sideboards.

Stools and coffee tables: Small coffee tables, table sets and stools can be used for all sorts of purposes; bedside tables, plant holders, and seats.

Chairs and sofas: It’s hard to repurpose couches and chairs, but before you buy a new couch, consider whether or not you can have it reupholstered. If your couch or armchair is comfortable and the right size for your space, you can customise it with fabric at a fraction of the cost.

Wooden furniture: Furniture made of wood is a great investment as it can be sanded, painted or stained repeatedly. Try upcycling your old pieces with a fresh coat of paint or stripping a wooden piece of furniture and staining it.

Buy second hand furniture

‘Investing’ in your furniture doesn’t have to require a big financial commitment. Second-hand, vintage or antique furniture is often made from sturdier materials than most fast furniture produced today. Plus, it’s often a lot cheaper.

Thrift stores, goodwill stores and charity shops often have the most affordable second-hand furniture. If you’re on a budget but want quality pieces, scour second-hand shops on a regular basis as these items can be snapped up quickly.

Vintage, consignment and retro stores tend to be more expensive than op-shops and charity shops but the quality of their furniture is usually higher too. Some retro stores will specialise in mid-century pieces which can be quite expensive. Others will take a wider range of conditions and are great places to find a bargain.

Online marketplaces are another place to find used furniture. Trade Me and Facebook marketplace are popular online platforms. Just be aware that if you win a Trade Me auction, you’re committed to the sale. Shopping on Facebook marketplace is a bit more flexible as you can view the item with no commitment to buy it before you see what type of condition it is in.

Antique stores are generally the most expensive places to source second-hand furniture. These are places you can literally invest in furniture that might be worth even more than when you first bought it. Not all antique stores are expensive though.

Buy new furniture that’s built to last

If you must by new furniture, look for items that are built to last. How do you know it’s built to last? The item is:

  • Made from high-quality materials.
  • Is a solid piece rather than a modular item.
  • Is made from materials sourced in New Zealand
  • Has hand applied finished
  • Uses hardwood frames
  • Has hand-tied spring systems

Look for furniture made from sustainable materials

When choosing sustainable furniture, the materials each piece is made from is also important. Look past the labels and ask questions about where your furniture is made. Wood from slow-growing trees is less sustainable than materials like bamboo, seagrass, cane and rattan, mango and rubber. These natural materials grow very fast as opposed to maple and oak, which take decades to mature.

In New Zealand, look for furniture that is made from local materials, including wood and wool. Look for furniture with a lifetime frame warranty and a long (ideally ten-year) foam warranty. This means your frame should last forever, but you may have to reupholster and restuff your chair or sofa after a decade of use.

Locally produced furniture is also best as it supports New Zealand businesses. While ethically made, designed and produced furniture is more expensive, it should also last you a lifetime.

Moving your furniture?

No matter where you buy your furniture from, Wise Move can help you get it from the store to your door. Find a professional furniture mover here.

What do our customers say?

Read reviews of Wise Move to learn stories from our customers.
Campbells Bay, Auckland
Reviewed 7 hours ago
Great communication, fast turnaround - professional service!
Wall cabinet perfect for office - dark grey veneer
Parnell, Auckland City
Mount Eden, Auckland
Reviewed 14 hours ago
Great movers, very accommodating :)
3 seater couch, 2 seater
New Lynn, Auckland
Reviewed 1 day ago
Thank you very much for providing a great service. The quote was reasonable, communication and pickup and dropoff was smooth and good care was taken with the couches.
Antique Mirror
Penrose, Auckland
Reviewed 1 day ago
Bhupinder was an absolute pleasure to deal with and even lovelier in person. He took great care of our antique mirror and even wrapped it safely for us, as the seller we purchased from did not do that. Thank you Bhupinder, see you next time :)
Solid rimu 3 panel bungalow door 810x2030 #5, https://www.trademe.co.n...
Mount Albert, Auckland
Reviewed 1 day ago
Great experience, will definitely use agsin
Te Aro, Wellington
Newtown, Wellington
Reviewed 1 day ago
Super happy with the communication and promptness - recommended :-)
Papamoa Beach, Papamoa
Saint Heliers, Auckland
Reviewed 2 days ago
Excellent communication and prompt pick up and goods delivered as communicated. Very good service. Thank you.
Queen Bed frame and mattress, Cabinet, Egg chair, Outdoor swing, Doubl...
Mount Albert, Auckland
Epsom, Auckland
Reviewed 2 days ago
Excellent and exceptional service!!

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