With Wildfires Blazing, Here's a Tip: Don't Get Fire-Retardant Furniture

Wildfire season, sadly, has begun, and California's drought has made the state even more vulnerable to blazes. Add house fires to the mix -- in 2013, for instance, there were 369,500 of them around the country -- and you might think that infusing furniture with fire retardants is all the more important. Not so fast, home furnishers.

For four decades, furniture manufacturers blended up to 2 pounds of chemical fire retardants into fabrics, mattresses, cushions, and even infant pajamas. (The state of California required them to do so starting in 1975, in an attempt to reduce fires started by everything from smoldering cigarettes to flaming candles.) Since then, it's been hard to find a sofa without chemicals that have horrifying names like polybrominated diphenyl ethers or chlorinated tris.

Well, it turned out that those chemicals were not only toxic -- they're thought to contribute to cancer, birth defects, and infertility -- they were ineffective, too. (This 2012 Pulitzer Prize -- nominated Chicago Tribune series details the research that led to these discoveries.) Your grandma's furniture -- the stuff of wool, cotton, and wood, and fire-retardant free -- is actually a whole lot safer.

Luckily for us, the requirement was rescinded in 2013, and manufacturers are offering plenty of handsome, and far safer, finds.

West Elm's Peggy Mid-Century Sofa comes in nearly a dozen colors, more than a dozen fabrics, and three sizes: 64.5, 79.5 and 85.5 inches long. The piece combines solid wood legs with a pecan finish, hand-built frames, and hand-finished upholstery with a tufted back and seat cushions. Prices start at $999.

Crate & Barrel's Margot Sofa is made with smaller living rooms and apartments in mind. The piece is constructed of kiln-dried hardwood, wire spring suspension, and soy-based polyfoam with fiber seat and back cushions. It comes in eight colors, ranging from platinum to bark and starts at $1,099.

EcoBalanza offers the Dolci collection, ranging from a 32-inch ottoman to 63-inch left and right sectionals. The collection, which also includes loveseats and chaises, is constructed of kiln-dried wood, natural latex foam cushions, recycled polyester and organic hemp/cotton and wool fabrics, and eco-friendly adhesives, the company says. Prices start at $4,380.

The Futon Shop's Tranquility wool futon mattress comes in nine sizes, from twin to king. The 8-inch mattress is constructed of natural virgin wool, 353 double-tempered steel coils, and either poly-cotton casing or an organic cotton cover. Prices start at $624.98.

Room & Board offers the Hess Sofa, which comes in five colors, ranging from flax to ebony. Kiln-dried hardwood frame pieces fit together like a puzzle with reinforced joinery at the corners, while cushions combine foam, fiber, feathers, and down. Prices start at at $2,599.

Crate & Barrel offers the Asana Armless Loveseat in eight colors, including teal, sand, and midnight. The piece combines kiln-dried hardwood, wire spring suspension, soy-based polyfoam seat cushions, fiberfill back cushions and bolster pillows, and microfiber-fill kidney pillows. Prices start at $1,999.

The Futon Shop's Cocosupport organic coconut coir chemical-free mattress comes in six sizes, from twin to king. The 8-inch product is constructed of natural latex and coconut fiber with a natural wool wrap that the company notes acts as a fire barrier. It starts at $1,149.98.

Room & Board offers the Callan Chair & Ottoman in three finishes, including walnut, maple, and charcoal. Like the company's Hess Sofa, the chair is constructed of kiln-dried hardwood with interlocking puzzle-piece beams, while cushions are mainly foam and fiber. It sells for $1,299.

Crate & Barrel's Montclair Chair comes in six colors ranging from steel to nickel. This upright chair with trim roll arms combines kiln-dried hardwood, flexolator spring suspension, a soy-based polyfoam seat cushion, and a fiber-down back cushion. It sells for $999.

Room & Board offers the Jasper Sofa in nine colors, including a new teal fabric, which debuted on June 23. Cushions are constructed of foam, fiber, feather, and down, while the frame is kiln-dried hardwood. Length ranges from 60 to 96 inches. Prices start at $1,099.