Quality of this Universal Brand Bedroom Furniture...

turboguyOctober 12, 2009


I have read up on Universal Furniture (in this case, the Pennsylvania House "name" is used for the collection I am interested in). I see that it is made in China, and not typically considered the best quality.

The set in question is the "New Heritage" collection, and is tagged as "Simply Solid". It is made of solid cherry (drawer fronts, tops, etc). Sides on a few pieces seemed to possibly be cherry veneer over solids. Drawers have English dovetails, and drawer sides/bottoms are sanded/sealed/stained/etc (see attached pages for construction details.)

I am usually a stickler for quality, and NO furniture that I have looked at comes close to the quality of my parents' 1970s/1980s solid wood furniture. Even my parents late 1980s Ethan Allen piece is MUCH better than what is currently in Ethan Allen. That said, the Universal New Heritage collection has been my fiancee and I's favorite so far in terms of style, and the quality of it in person at the store actually seems pretty good (compared to what else is out there today).

What exactly is so bad about this furniture, and how long can it be expected to last? We saw this set at Raymour and Flanigan, and while a lot of what they had seemed to be petty lousy quality, this set actually seemed much better than the most of what they had. In fact, the quality was as good or better than what we saw at Thomasville, where they were asking 7-12k for their bedroom sets! This New Heritage set would cost us about $2k or so for a 4 piece Queen set, and around $2900 or so for a 5 piece set (5 piece would be bed, nightstand, dresser, mirror, and door chest). In this price-range (~3k for a 4-5 piece queen bedroom set) what other options would we have in terms of NEW furniture (would consider going used for dining furniture, but not bedroom)? Is it just lack of snob appeal we are talking about here, or lack of "MADE IN USA" pride, or am I missing something? Clearly, the quality of furniture being made today is not what it was 20-30 years ago...but we felt that this set stacked up favorably to what is out there today. What do you guys think?

Additional Link: New Heritage fact sheet from Universal's website:



Here is a link that might be useful: Example of New Heritage piece

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Looks decent...but the Chinese factor still remains...

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 11:43PM
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Furniture from China and other Far Eastern companies comes in all different quality levels. Universal is normally considered to be a mid-range product, but most of their furniture is not solid wood as this collection is. This appears to be the top of their product line. According to the specifications, it seems to be very well constructed using American cherry solid wood. You should be very happy with this furniture.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 11:10AM
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We just purchased a Pennsylvania House dining room set (Louis Phillip) this last month. I was concerned after I found out that Pennsylvania House furniture was now made in China. However, it is beautiful and the construction is topnotch. We are very happy with our purchase.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 1:52PM
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A major reason shoddy and cheap quality products come out of China and other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Indonesia is because the American companies that go there to manufacture tells the factories the specs and price points they want to hit. No real factory WANTS to put out bad quality products because they pay in chargebacks and returns in the future as well as a bad reputation.

Think of it as this. Someone comes up to you and says, can you make this product cheap. My price point is however low and that's what I need in order to get so and so's business. It all starts off some where, and that's with the US companies that want to sell more bulk which makes the vendors have to lower their prices in order to compete. They go to the factories and present projects with super low price points and what can the factory do? Not take the order and have their competitor take it or take up the order and meet the price points by using worse quality material or less material etc.

It's a cycle...the US consumers are at the forefront of it...not all but the majority. We want to pay less, we get worse quality.

End of story.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 5:32PM
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Thanks for all the replies everyone, makes me feel a little better. Is there anything else I should be considering in this price range ($3k for 5 piece Queen set)?

Speedster - good points. Do you feel that this is the case w. the Universal/Penn House set I posted above, or do you feel that it is quality?

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 6:57PM
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Also, what level of knots is acceptable in Cherry?

If you click on the detail and zoom in, you'll see that some of the drawers have pretty sizeable knots. In the store there were knots, but I felt they added to the character. The one in the pic has even more though.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 7:26PM
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Bump to the top (since a lot of those SPAM posts pushed mine down before my latest questions could be answered).

Does anyone have any general comments on this furniture or answers to my latest questions?

Thanks a lot!!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 7:33PM
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Check out Mobel and Durham for bedroom furniture made in North America with solid wood.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 2:45PM
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I bought a Universal Furniture Cortina set in 2010 and the set is quality does seem to be very solid. I would only suggest that you do not buy it from a standalone furniture store because Universal will not deal with retail customers.

I bought a house and went furniture shopping while they were renovating it. When I finally got around to putting the set together, the footboard was a different size than the rest of the bed.

I went back to the dealer and he had gone out of business.

Universal furniture wouldn't deal with me and directed me to local dealers who didn't seem interested in helping someone else's customer.

It took a couple of years of dealing with Universal and its distributors before I just gave up and put the set out on the curb. There goes a couple of thousand dollars.

So when you buy this furniture, you are relying entirely on the guy that sold it to you to make good on problems you may encounter.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 10:35AM
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You should have been able to solve this problem on your own. I'm sure any dealer would have been happy to sell you a footboard.

Returning the incorrect size footboard is simply a matter of getting through to the right person at Universal. If an email to the President of the company does not get action, simply send a comment to one or more of the many review sites such as Yelp. That should definitely get some action for you.

In addition there are Radio and TV stations in many cities with consumer advocates or volunteer consumer help organizations such as Call For Action. These organizations exist in many cities and will work with you to correct this type of problem.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 10:40AM
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I recently bought a Universal Furniture buffet ($1,500+) through Wayfair.com. Made in China is usually a big red flag. I previously purchased a small cabinet through Amazon & it was a Universal product - it is so well made that we decided (with fingers crossed) to get the buffet. Surprise of all surprises, the buffet is very well made, beautiful finish, dovetail joints, smooth drawer open/close, doors even & open/close perfectly. there must be different Chinese manufacturers that U.S. companies contract with -- some good & some not so good. We love the buffet (& the little cabinet) & recommend the brand. I'm sure Universal pieces are available from many places -- we got ours at wayfair.com which seems to be a good company.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 4:46PM
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Their are many talented artisans in Asia and they do have the ability to make quality furniture.
Where the issues are in quality of the materials they use and to some extent is trust. That you can have any trust in the owner and management in any Chinese companies is rare.
In case goods out of China or Asia, some problems can be found after you have the piece though one summer and winter, or vise-versa, as checking is common and also lifting of the finish or other finishing problems. But by the time this occurs theirs really not much recourse you can take. Other than try to pay someone to repair it.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 8:33PM
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