All things flatpack!
What is Flat Pack Furniture and What are the Benefits?
Flatpack furniture can strike fear into many a grown man—the idea of hundreds of parts to build a simple table. Something you could buy ready made down at the local thrift shop. Why would anyone bother?
A lot of New Zealanders do however bother, and most like myself will be repeat customers. There are many homegrown New Zealand companies specializing in flatpacks. Companies like The Warehouse and The Warehouse Stationery to name just two.
Let’s take a look at exactly what is flat pack furniture and what are the benefits it can offer you?
As the name suggests, flatpack furniture is simply furniture which is packaged flat in kit form. It’s all ready for you to build at home, or just about anywhere else. The Collins dictionary describes it as furniture which “arrives as a flat pack and is bolted together on site”.
A large retailer store employee, Gillis Lundgren, is credited with inventing flatpacks in the 1950s. Wanting to handle the home delivery of his own Lack table, he took the legs off so it would fit in his car. He then re-attached them back at home.
Realizing the uniqueness of his innovation Gillis presented the idea to the management team at a large retail store. The rest, as they say, is history. To this day, many of the designs of Gillis Lundgren are sold in this retail giant.
Soon competitors caught on and ready to assemble flatpack furniture became a popular means of furnishing for the average home or office, and more.
Flatpack furniture is most commonly made from particleboard (often called chipboard) or medium density fiberboard.
Chipboard is made from wood chips, wood shavings, sawdust and other particles bound together in a solid board. MDF is made using the residuals of soft and hard woods which are mixed with wax to form a board stronger than chipboard.
While chipboard tends to be cheaper, it is more susceptible to water damage. It can, however, be more stable than solid wood which may crack due to environmental conditions or age.
MDF can vary in price but high-quality MDF will be much stronger than chipboard. It will also be easier to shape and work with than solid wood.
High end ready to assemble (RTA) or flat packs will sometimes use solid wood. This is able to better survive dismantling and relocation if moving home. A good quality RTA will have more sturdy connections that can allow you to dismantle it without breaking.
Without a doubt, the biggest advantage of buying flatpack furniture is the affordability of the initial unit. They can also be more space and storage efficient, and easier to dismantle if moving. Quality kits can also be hard to tell from preassembled and more expensive furniture.
Furniture is designed using modern Computer-aided manufacturing methods and CNC mills. This does away with the high labour costs of skilled craftsmen.
Although set up can be initially expensive, costs are recouped in the long run, savings are then passed on to the customer in a competitive marketplace.
Some people may argue that flatpacks are cheaper because they are less durable, but if properly maintained they can last many years. Solid wood flatpacks will still be less expensive in most cases than custom made solid wood furniture sold preassembled.
The smaller volume of flatpack furniture means they are much easier to transport and store. Shops or warehouses can carry more stock and more choice without the need for showrooms which cover several football fields. A case of “pile em high, sell em low”.
Also referred to as ready-to-assemble, or self-assembly furniture, a flatpack kit will normally include all the parts needed for construction. Many flatpack kits will also include special nut locking tools, or just require common household tools to fit it together.
RTA or flatpack furniture is designed to be built by anybody who can use a screwdriver or spanner. Full and comprehensive instructions are provided, which are usually easy to follow for the average homeowner or tenant.
If you’re uncomfortable building flat pack furniture, we offer the assembly service to you! This will add to the cost of the furniture but very reasonably priced.
If you move house quite regularly or a landlord who needs to move furniture between properties, flatpacks can be ideal. It’s much simpler to transport a desk or wardrobe when it is dismantled into flat pieces. Depending on the item there can be as few as five components or, in more complex pieces, 50 or more.
There’s more variety available in the range of surfaces, textures, and colours, with many RTA’s able to be painted. You can easily drill an extra hole or two for them to serve a completely different use. Whereas people tend to be reluctant to customize pieces of furniture with a four-digit price tag.
Smaller and less packaging means more flatpacks onto a truck than full-sized assembled desks, wardrobes, or even sheds. This means fewer trucks, less fuel consumption, and lower carbon emissions.
MDF and particleboard use the residues of wood which are often thrown away. CNC milling techniques result in fewer offcuts than a traditional carpenters workshop. To maximize profits and keep costs low to the customer, designs will cut components more efficiently with less waste and less wood used.
Flatpack furniture is a less expensive and a more convenient way to furnish your home in the short term. The limited durability means you may not be able to hand it down the generations. You’re unlikely to see antique flat pack furniture in Colonial museums of the future.
However, the less expensive manufacturing process is better for the environment. It also allows manufacturers to sell a wider choice of products at lower prices.