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Sitting on a chair may not engender any grand ideas about history, but the truth is that every single piece of furniture in the office, house, or even at the park is part of an industry that has spanned centuries and provided work for millions. The furniture industry is a vast collaboration, involving every job that touches on furnishings in anyway. People that mine ore and stone, plant and harvest trees, mill lumber, design furniture, manufacture furniture, apply paint and varnish, or stock and sell furniture are all part of the gigantic and historic furniture industry.
Furniture has always crossed the words of practicality and art. Until the Industrial Revolution, most people living on small incomes made their own furniture. Nobility and royalty, however, could involve the finest, most artistic makers in the design of couches, tables, and bedsteads, to fill their castles and noble halls. Long before the mass production of furniture allowed for easy of access and lower prices, the furniture industry was a highly profitable area of trade to the nobility, who demanded and were willing to pay a premium for the finest and most exotic woods, the most artistic designs, and the best silk and velvet coverings
The Industrial Revolution is seen as a major turning point in the furniture industry. With the invention of assembly lines and development of machine power, mass produced, good quality furniture was finally available to the masses. The popularity of mass production increased the size of the furniture industry tremendously, as demand for basic supplies such as wood, metal, and glass shot sky high in the wake of increased production capability. The days when most people would build their own rudimentary furniture would soon be only a memory in a large part of the world.
Today, the furniture industry remains a vast commercial pursuit that employs millions of people in different capacities. As crafted furniture has gone from a luxury to an expected basic, the market has expanded to match all levels of budget, taste, and style. Gone are the days when one type of furniture ruled the style of the day; today, a person can decorate a room in french country, mission, British colonial, or any other historical or modern style. Moreover, since discount furniture-makers copy the most popular styles, a room can be furnished in nearly any style at nearly any budget; a feat that would have been unheard of and all but impossible before the mid-20th century.
Taking a moment to consider all of the aspects of the furniture industry can quickly become overwhelming. With everything from the lumber to varnish to delivery considered, it is not unusual for a simple table to pass through dozens of stages before arriving at a home. Though furniture is now so easily found, purchased, and installed it might be easy to imagine it as simply existing, the vast arms of the furniture industry stretch around the world, making the contemplating the journey of a simple chair quite a marvelous diversion.