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Despite Challenges of Pandemic, Interior Design Industry Thrives

interior design industry sees challenges

There was a time, not so long ago, when clients who started their interior remodels in the spring could guarantee they’d be hosting fall holiday parties in their freshly redesigned spaces.

But when the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, the interior design and construction industries, like so many others, experienced production delays and shipping setbacks that caused some projects to grind to a devastating halt.

In the height of the shutdown, many manufacturers limited assembly lines or closed completely for weeks or months, creating a huge backlog of orders. When production started again, the workforce was drastically reduced. 

Even now, one year later, most factories are still not back to full staff or full production. 

If and when raw materials and final products like custom furniture, hardwood floors, rugs, and tile are produced, the issue lies in the shipping.

Many elements I order for client projects are manufactured overseas – or, in some cases, the raw materials come from other counties. 

With the extreme surge in orders since the pandemic began, every shipping avenue has experienced some level of crisis. Just as we’ve experienced with our local mail through USPS, global shipping is also experiencing unprecedented delays. 

As factories across the globe try to play catch up from the pandemic and ship their goods to US retailers desperate for inventory, many major US ports are getting clogged and cargo ships are backed up. 

With sea not looking like the best option, companies turned to air freight. This mode of transportation is now also overwhelmed, prices are soaring and manufacturers can’t pay the steep prices. 

Just take a look at this chart freightos.com posted on March 31. The price increases are astronomical! 

Don’t forget that once the product arrives and is finally ready to be sent to a homeowner, it still has to be transported via truck or air around the country to its final destination. 

Personally, I have seen things take two to four weeks to travel from South Carolina to St. Louis. I’ve waited up to eight months to receive furniture orders because we were waiting on the upholstery fabric to come in. 

I know a person who ordered a sectional and only received half of it and was told the other half had been discontinued. I have heard more home-reno horror stories in the past months than ever before. 

Weather Delays Furniture

Remember in February when that devastating winter storm hit Texas? Well, we are still feeling the after-effects of that.

There are chemicals needed for the foam that goes in furniture, like sofas and armchairs, that is produced in Texas near the Gulf. 

According to everchem.com, those chemicals are polyol, which is made in a few factories in the U.S. but several of those plants are located around the Gulf of Mexico, and toluene diisocyanate (TDI) which is made at only two plants – one in Texas and one in Louisiana. 

With power outages going on in the area that week, the plants had to shut down. Without the chemicals needed to produce foam, there was no foam to produce furniture.

The trickle-down effect caused furniture companies around the country to slow production and even temporarily close. Months later, they are still playing catch up.

This means an industry that was already experiencing setbacks and delays due to Covid was dealt another blow by Mother Nature. What timing! 

Lingering Appliance Shortage

On top of the other delays, homeowners and contractors have been experiencing an appliance shortage for months. 


Just like furniture companies, appliance companies in the U.S. and abroad faced shutdowns and a reduction in workforce in the past year. In an effort to keep people safe, plants just haven’t been able to function at full capacity. 

Over the last year, there have been many who took the leap to move into a bigger house, move away from a city or build their forever home. Whatever the reason, the demand for appliances has grown to the point that manufacturers cannot keep up with the demand from retailers. 

Contractors are also feeling the strain with appliances on backorder for new construction homes. According to realtybiznews.com, this shortage is being felt across all brands and all price points with no end in sight.

Pair that with the shipping issues and clients have been waiting on major appliances for much longer than ever before.

And Yet, The Interior Design Industry Is Booming

As families spent more time at home over the last year, many began to focus on how to make their home more comfortable and attractive. 

The kitchen remodel a client had been putting off was suddenly a lot more urgent. Likewise, a living room makeover seems much more important when you’re “living” there 24 hours a day!

Many families found themselves spending more time in the kitchen at home. The outdated cabinets and appliances they’d been able to overlook before were now more than they could stand to look at every single day and night. 

So despite the shipping delays and the manufacturing concerns, am I trying to dissuade you from starting a home project? Absolutely not! 

If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it should be that home and family should be more of a priority in our lives. 

If you’ve been thinking of renovating or remodeling a room in your home, here are few tips to navigate the challenges affecting the industry.

  • Start Sooner Rather Than Later

What may have taken two months pre-Covid will likely take 6-8 months today due to manufacturing or shipping delays. Plan accordingly.

  • Hire a  Professional

Dealing with shipping delays, lost or canceled orders or tracking down backorders isn’t fun for me and my team but for someone not in the industry, it could be a financial disaster. I’ve spent years developing relationships and contacts within the industry with representatives of many different brands. This helps me get the “inside scoop” and stay on top of orders. 

Our homes are our port in the storm – no matter how bad it gets out there. We’ve all experienced that firsthand.  Make your home everything you want it to be and all you know it can be. 

The pandemic may have changed the way we approach interior design, but we’re ready to help you face any challenges that come your way.