A Discussion: Traditional Furniture Waning?

bbstxAugust 18, 2014

I had dinner this weekend with an acquaintance who is in the high-end traditional furniture manufacturing business (maybe "to the trade only"). She said her business had fallen off to the point she was thinking of retiring. One of the people at the table asked if most of the furniture business was going to "flat-pack-put-together-with-hex-wrenches." The subject got changed and she never answered that question.

What is the opinion of this group? Is high quality traditional furniture going the way of the buggy whip? Furniture-wise, are we more likely to buy "disposable" furniture rather than "investment" furniture? If so, why? Is it money driven or is it driven by our desire to have new and to change our styles often?

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Great discussion item, bbstx!

I don't buy any 'disposable' furniture, but I typically buy antique or vintage, as it's what I prefer for the quality. That goes for accessory items, too, as it's just my taste.

I also don't change styles often; but make minor updates to accessories, and usually change the mantle decor out seasonally. So I wouldn't likely be buying from your acquaintance, but not for the reasons you listed. I love the patina of older items, but do buy high quality when I find what I want, and typically get it at a very reasonable price.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 2:01PM
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If you mean to-order, but national company toward-the-higher-end manufactured furniture (Henredon, Baker, Drexel Heritage etc.), yes I think people are not buying this as much and are replacing it with "disposable" price-point furniture.

I think the relative price of such furniture has possibly risen and the relative quality of such furniture has decreased.

I don't think that the popularity of bench-made or studio furniture (fabricated for a specific client) has decreased and as the wealthy get wealthier and everyone else doesn't full-custom couture level furniture will make gains.

But since we live in a society where it is now easier, if not exactly cheaper, to throw something away when it breaks, wears out, or you tire of it, why not furniture? And since it does get disposed of it Will Break, Will Wear Out and you will probably tire of it --it's all factored in.

Small appliances, TVs, furniture etc. are all regularly abandoned when people move out of apartments here. I had to explicitly tell my tenants that I did not want to walk into a house full of things they decided not to move. As it was they left a pile about ten feet long and 4 feet high of stuff on the sidewalk on the last trash day and left a brand new TV and a fair amount of stuff in the basement.

And of course over all furniture that is not actually antique hovers the specter of "Dated": almost everyone knows that up-to-the minute and ready to start deteriorating is far superior to having a sturdy sofa that belonged to your mother.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 3:41PM
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I just keep using what my grandma got when she got married in 1911 and what My parents got when married in 1943 and a few things we got in 1978 when we got married. None of it is ever in or out of style and just holds up amazingly. We do buy a new bed once in a while and once bought a couch 10 years ago but everything else just gets recovered as needed. My mom was a textile hoarder and I have a never ending supply of old Asian textiles to cover things with or make quilts out of. I save my hard earned money for art supplies and to buy art from talented friends. My daughter is using her great grandma and grandmas stuff in her house too. All she's ever bought was a bed. Generations of my family were not wealthy but they sure bought good quality furniture and rugs apparently.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 3:47PM
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I think it also speaks to the fact that most people just don't like/want formal, traditional rooms anymore...the formal DR, the "parlor," etc...Our lifestyles have become more casual with open floor plans, casual entertaining...and furniture styles have followed suit.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 3:49PM
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I think the days of young couples saving up for furniture piece by piece or room by room is probably gone. If they want traditional shapes, they can buy reasonable facsimiles of reproduction period furniture that is cheaply made in China and probably on par with Ikea quality. If they want more modern inexpensive stuff Ikea's the place. A step up in quality to Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel still doesn't get you finely finished species wood furniture that shows a matched grain. Their stuff is likely to be "expresso" or "wenge" colored, which is code for wood that needs black stain to be presentable, or alternatively, some nondescript wood stained colors like "honey."

Higher end furniture has gotten very, very expensive, though, so perhaps it has run its course even as aspirational furniture. If I were a young person starting out I would probably replace my just-married furniture with the good stuff secondhand via Craig's List or places like Stenella in Pennsylvania.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 3:52PM
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Sadly, Harden a great traditional furniture company made in the USA was just bought by the Chinese.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 3:57PM
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I am not sure that the price of even good furniture has risen as much as other comparable goods and services, a number of which have outpaced inflation.

I've told this story before, but my parents paid $1100 and some odd for their living room sofa in 1968 for the house we moved into in 1969

It had started out at $1500, and their designer watched for sales and markdowns and eventually it was $1100. (We still have the tags and receipts)

1968: $1100
2014: $7662

1968: $1500
2014: $10,312

But in 1968, you could buy a car for $3000 that would be a much more luxurious car than $20,600 would buy today.

Joanie, I don't think the OP means "traditional" so much as a style as a type of construction and merchandizing of furniture. I've seen many more modern or contemporary sofas with $10,000 price tags off the rack than I have traditionally styled sofas with $10,000 price tags.

My father got a third, part-time job solely to pay off the furniture for the new house. I agree that those days are gone. But the reality is that my parents paid much less for furniture than people who regularly replaced inferior pieces of furniture.

In 1969 dollars they've paid $24/yr for their sofa
In 2014 dollars they've still only paid $170 a year.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 4:33PM
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Interesting observations. Actually, I had in mind the more traditionally styled case goods. I didn't necessarily mean custom-made furniture, but high quality such as Baker and Henredon.

I did a little poking around on the internet when I first posted this. The press releases from Baker seem to me to tell a tale of a company struggling.

Even though I was mainly talking about traditionally styled furniture, a discussion of upholstered pieces and well-made contemporary pieces is good too.

I like kwsl's term "aspirational furniture." DD pines for a Bevan Funnell dining table. I don't know how much it is now, but when she first saw it (15 years ago?), it was the price of a small car.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 5:10PM
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Here's just one perspective. I would like to buy quality traditional furniture. But, I have no idea where to go or what is good. Maybe seems like poor marketing if the quality furniture makers aren't getting through to their market. Though we probably could afford it (I think?), we don't want to spend a lot if we aren't confiden t about a choice.

On the one hand, I can buy something easily available on the internet or through a chain store close to us like Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Costco, IKEA, etc. That way I haven't spent hours -- or even days -- shopping, taking time away from work and kids. I don't enjoy shopping. I won't feel so terrible if the furniture piece turns out to be wrong, and in any event whatever we buy will probably last at least 20 years anyway(unless it is an IKEA kids bed). I have no desire to change furniture as long as it is working.

Or, I can hire a decorator, which presents its own set of issues (see beekeeperswife's other thread).

Our parents are still using their own furniture, though we do have some hand me downs from friends.

So, Henredon, Baker, Drexel Heritage, and other places listed above, please figure out how you can come take our money!

[Sorry if this sounded cranky. Did I say I don't enjoy shopping? :-) The easier it is the more likely I am to spend money. As in, look at things online when the kids are in bed, then get a sitter for one evening and run to the chain stores to look at the selected furniture in person. I would love suggestions as to a better approach.]

This post was edited by Oaktown on Mon, Aug 18, 14 at 17:49

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 5:30PM
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I buy this to some extent --although I think that some of it has to do with immediate gratification: we've gotten used to getting everything Yesterday. One stop shopping, instantaneous results.

So you don't like shopping: My father is 90. With the exception of a single recliner, the last time he went furniture shopping was when he was 44, more than half a lifetime ago.

Who do you think has spend more time shopping for furniture *Cumulatively*, you, or someone like my dad?

I am not trying to snark, I think it's a valid question. I know people who hate do to certain things, but they end up having to do it over and over and over, because they won't do it right One time, and get it over and done with.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 6:02PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

My problem with traditional furniture is the unavailability of it locally or at least within a days driving distance. I have had bad experiences ordering based on manufacturer catalog pictures only (at a furniture store), so now, I won't buy something major unless I can see it first.
And smaller furniture stores don't have that much on the shop floor...this applies to upholstery from a swatch too...I need to see it first.
However, I can walk into Pottery Barn and see most items and even take large pieces home with me that day.
Not necessarily that important, but having waited 4 months for a piece of furniture arriving cracked than having to wait another 4 months to replace is disheartening and makes the PB furniture look mighty good.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 6:39PM
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I think there are a lot of issues that come into play. I'm going to answer this from a single middle aged lady's perspective.

1. I'm like Oaktown in that I don't particularly enjoy shopping. With that being said, I now have the means to buy anything I want but my thrifty background keeps me from paying what I consider to be ridiculous prices. Ok, it probably has more to do with an inability to make a decision and feel it is easier to live with a $1,000 mistake than a $7,000 mistake!

Like another poster stated, my lifestyle is VERY casual. My feet stay on my couch and coffee table. How do you get comfortable in a room with a $10K couch and a $3K coffee table?

The answer is you don't. Also, I find that I enjoy the hunt for a good deal.

2. I have recently been visiting some more "high end" furniture stores (e.g. in the design district) and I find some of the sales staff a little "hoity toity" for me. No I don't LOOK like I can afford the stuff they are selling, but in truth I can.

This judgment on sight lends me to take my money where it is more appreciated.

3. My personal observation about family members that have kids is that they consciously decided that the money would be better spent at this time on items of more importance. For instance, private school, college fund, etc.

In the '60s and '70, the local school districts were providing a quality education. Today, if you don't live in the suburbs people of means (upper middle class) tend to send their kids to private school, taking away from funds that might have been spent in the past on higher end furniture.

4. Both brother and sister have recently purchased new homes in the 'burbs. Neither one has formal living areas. While their kids are now either in college or a couple more years to go, formal rooms are definitely not in their lifestyle.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 6:43PM
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I grew up in a home where Ethan Allen was aspirational and I have some still beautiful and well-made pieces from my parents' home.

I had an aunt & uncle whose home was professionally decorated at a more upscale level. He was a top auto executive in Detroit during the 60's and they hosted a lot of work-related events. That was expected back then and was a compelling reason to invest in the best you could afford.

Two major cultural changes regarding the above have come about since those days:

One, fewer of us buy furniture with the idea that our kids will want to inherit it. My son & his family currently live abroad and no way would he want to pay to ship our furniture there and try to stuff it in a European-size home. I think in general young people want to choose their own home decor and most will be moving more often than we did.

Re the second example, there is far less formal entertaining in homes and most people my age (50's) are using discretionary income for travel, timeshares, or casually appointed vacation homes instead of putting it toward high-priced furnishings.

I'm in New England. This may be different in other regions.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 6:51PM
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I think the feeling among many of the younger people I speak with at work is that buying "real" furniture is intimidating. There are so many brands out there, and even if you spend real money there's no guarantee of quality. Plus there's the problem of pulling together a room with collected pieces from different manufacturers. It's much easier to look at a Pottery Barn or RH catalog and say, "Give me a room like that." Plus, all their friends are doing the same thing and people generally want what their friends have.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 7:09PM
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DH and I bought quality furniture and have lived happily with it for many years. Our daughters have taken our cast-offs and filled in with CL or Ikea furniture.

We have traditional (heriloom quality) furniture -Queen Ann DR. mahogany BR, most of which will probably be sold on CL.

We live in New England, where traditional will never really go out of style. Although young people may live in a very traditonal apartment or condo, they want to express their own style. I get it!

Here's our daughter's condo on move-in day 2 weeks ago:
Ikea DR set and a traditional rug on loan from us:

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 7:30PM
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Re: the comments about not being comfortable on a $10K sofa or a $3000 coffee table. I agree if you are not comfortable owning it or are particularly hard on things, you probably shouldn't have it.

But I think it's possible to own it, use it and respect it a bit at the same time. I think this also becomes an interaction: if it's replaceable, people may tend to be more careless with it. If you made a little bit of an investment you may just be careful enough to protect it just a little bit.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 8:19PM
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Holly- Kay

We bought antiques and what we could afford when we first married. Fifteen years and three children later we built a very nice home and furnished the living room, family room, and dining room with mid grade department store furniture.

The dining room furniture held up nicely but the upholstered items were horrible and wore through quickly. I replaced upholstered furniture with a decent quality leather and that held up very well for almost 20 years.

This year I redecorated the living room (still traditional) and bought the kind of furniture we couldn't afford in our younger years.. This furniture will last the rest of our lives. None of it is trendy and probably rather stuffy but I love it!

My dear DD has been furniture shopping and I go with her. I am always reminding her how much nicer the quality is in many consignment store pieces that are 40 plus years old. It makes me smile now that she will look at the quality rather than the trendiness. I watch as she opens drawers to see how they are joined. I see the wheels turning as she is starting to understand how to judge quality.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 8:46PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I agree with the notion stated above about being afraid of spending a lot of money and being afraid of the quality still being inferior. To me, Hancock and Moore or Stickley is definitely aspirational and to pay for it would require a big chunk of change. I would hold on to it foreover but I am not confident that if I spent that level of money I would be receiving the value for it. It happens all the time with clothing. So much is rather expensive but still as poorly made as that in Wal-Mart.

We did purchase a beautiful manor bed from Thomasville and have purchased some quality pieces from the Amish furniture store. Beyond that though, we fill in from antique stores where I can purchase a dresser that has held up for many years already, has reasonable lines and has dovetailed drawers for $500 versus something poorly made at Ashley for possibly more and that is overstylized.

The funny thing is that when perusing CL, I see stuff furniture from Ethan Allen circa 1960s or 1970s and I know it is likely well made but even at the good prices, I still would not purchase it and I have to wonder if my Thomasville manor bed with flame mahogany will be looked at by someone else the same way.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 8:51PM
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We had the traditional bedroom set, dining room, and living room, and when I look back on it now I wonder what I was thinking. The best function the coffee table had was to provide something for my toddlers to hold onto while they walked along it, but additional space for them to learn to walk in might have been more appropriate.

The end tables did not have enough room to store our family photos, and the pigeonhole desk was made all but obsolete by the development of the computer and the different height requirements for the typing surface.

I never liked my massive dresser and its enormous mirror, and there was never room in our home to use all of the leaves to our dining room table...and the chairs to the dining room table took up almost all of the remaining room in the dining area, leaving no room for the additional bookcases I craved.

Basically, the old furniture practices did not work well for us, and even the now-popular recliners are problematic, as they contribute to back problems as one ages.

We discarded our livingroom sofa years ago and never bothered to replace it. In its stead is, finally, an "outdoor" metal sofa with replaceable cushions and the versatility of being used as a laundry catchall if we fall behind and a repository of gifts waiting to be mailed to the grandkid. It is lightweight enough to be moved for cleaning, and space sparing enough to allow our cats to sleep under it on their cat bed.

The space occupied by our coffee table is now filled by our two computer tables. The coffee table is in the attic, awaiting transfer to one of the adult kids. The matching end tables are in the back shed, with a similar future in mind.

What we need now, in retirement, is things that are easily moved about to meet our needs as our health or living circumstances change. The arrival of a medical bed placed one bed in storage.

Good quality chests of drawers, "hope" or storage chests, and other pieces that provide efficient storage but are manageable in size are still invaluable, but the hulking space and energy wasters are not. We simply do not have the strength or space to deal with them.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 8:58PM
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I rather agree with Oaktown. Most of the furniture stores in my area do not have Baker furniture, as one example, on the floor. The items would have to be special ordered with a three-to-six month waiting period. How much easier is it to run down to Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware where you can see exactly what you will be getting? The truly fine furniture makers haven't departed from their to-the-trade-only mentality, sadly.

Price is also an issue for many as one can put together a whole room full of Pottery Barn for the price of one Baker sofa, assuming one can find the price of a Baker sofa without going through a designer (slight exaggeration).

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 9:21PM
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Lots of issues here, already stated well above. Women working like mad today, and no easily available showrooms to go and have a look. I think Fun2BHere made the point that you can't even find a retail price of Baker without a big effort.

Huge houses that make people "house poor" and they end up using Home Depot cabinets in the bathrooms and have to fill all that space with something....big things, that can't cost too much.
A peculiar ethic, sometimes, of equating quality with snobbishness--kind of like Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet!). God forbid you should offer your nieces or nephews a few place settings as a wedding gift--they wouldn't dream of choosing a pattern and never would use it. Yet, conversely, they like it when someone else gussies up a table for a holiday meal. So, there's hope!

Also, people like to buy new things---my house is just loaded with hand-me-downs and Ebay treasures....and as I have more resources, I can replace some of these pieces with better, genuine antiques. You have to be interested in design and a pretty space to make that kind of effort--on a budget. You have to search 1st Dibs or CL and then search for fabrics, and find the upholsterer--we're all like hobbyists, because you have to like doing it, and be willing to spend the time.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 10:40PM
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palimpsest, I totally get what you are saying about cumulative time. The problem for me is, the time isn't fungible. Right now it just comes in dribs and drabs. When I was a student, I had all day to drive 5 hours each way to IKEA to get a dining set I could afford (this was an upgrade, my former roommate took most of the Goodwill furniture). Now, 20 years later I still have that same dining set (in 1994 dollars, $40/yr for table + 6 chairs). Why? (a) It was in good shape for a long time -- now worn out and veneer is peeling off and (b) I put off getting a new one the past year or so until we have a larger dining space; and (c) I just have no idea what to get.

In theory I would love "once, over and done with." If I get to 90 I would like to say the last time I bought furniture was when I was 44. We don't replace things unless they are broken. But now that we have money to replace things that are starting to break, it feels like we don't have the time to do it "right" -- feels like I've spent too much time of the house already. Perhaps I am viewing this as a more daunting task than it is in reality. I don't even know how to go about getting started -- and I am guessing to accomplish this I would need to get a decorator or a long vacation from work and the kids (or both). Any ideas or suggestions truly would be most welcome and appreciated. Maybe if your dad has some spare time he can give me some tips? :-)

I still think those quality furniture makers could do a better job going after money by making things more accessible -- and by that I do not mean cheaper. Make it easier for people to find and buy. I think I read somewhere that RH took a big part of this market by raising prices and going for "high end catalog."

(and, the first part of what sas95 said.)

This post was edited by Oaktown on Tue, Aug 19, 14 at 2:19

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 11:29PM
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The abolition of the middle class is destroying everything. We were solidly middle class and I used to never think about how limited one day Henredon, Baker, Sam Moore, Heywood Wakefield, even Ethan Allen, Thomasville, Kent Coffey and Broyhill furnishings might become and what treasures they now are.

I am happy I held on to much of mine and wish I had not given my children any because two DILs like Pottery Barn and such. One DIL treasures what I have given her because she inherited from her mother the taste for well-built furniture of good quality wood.

My sons really wished to keep the furniture I had given them, but we know who is the furniture decider. I only wish they had told me they were about to dump my grandmother's very old cuckoo and gingerbread clocks, and grandfather's pre-civil war chest and bureau at the Goodwill.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 12:58AM
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Oh patricia! Not only the loss of such an heirloom, but the value of it. Ay yi yi. Young people don't value antiques or heirlooms the way older people do.

Like many of you said, I would buy high quality, new, traditional furniture, but it's not easy to find, and not close to me if I could find it.

I still have the bedroom suit we bought when we got married in '75. It was the only quality stuff we bought when we were young. I don't love the style now, but do love the quality.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 1:49AM
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MIL died suddenly. #1grandson getting married, new house to fill. He took much of her furniture--mahogany, very expensive tables,china cabinet, end tables etc...New wife replaced much of it with in two years with IKEA's "finest". Quality is not a concern. It is all about LOOK and young seems to want current. Will a need for quality come with some life experience? Or does it come with rising salaries? Most "children" won't take hand me downs they want NEW MODERN. When we first got married we were given many things, a few very antique but worthless as MIL refinished them all. They were given to her by her MIL and HATED the pieces. She was soooo THRILLED to pass them off to me. I was more than THRILLED to have them. Perhaps we just need a new generation to pass through.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 7:02AM
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My complaint lies with the independent business man who would re-upholster, slipcover, refinish, polish, etc.
In my experience they are overpriced and not high quality enough. I consistently feel I've been taken advantage of.

Although I don't have disposable furniture, from the perspective of not having to deal with delay-mongering prima donnas who are not that good at what they do, it sounds good.

Different thought: Doesn't even the "best" factory furniture today have poly/plastic coating on it, veneers, etc?. I don't even like that stuff, for any money. So why not get the cheap stuff? I mean, if you can't get handcrafted from American trees with a hand applied French polish, and who can?

This post was edited by jamies on Tue, Aug 19, 14 at 9:08

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:03AM
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I think I am guilty of getting rid of a few things I probably should not have. I have also purchased the "disposable stuff" which was still not cheap, but is basically garbage. DH is actually complaining repeatedly about our current sofa set. :(

So now I would like to start buying used good quality pieces. there was a Baker sofa that looked brand new at a local auction place I was going to bid on. The estimate was $1000. It went for $3600.

I am going to start a thread I think. I don't want to derail this conversation with my debate over used furniture!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:25AM
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Wow! I didn't realize how grateful I ought to be that DD appreciates the furniture and antiques I've passed down to her as we have down-sized. She didn't pick china or silver when she married, because she will get mine and/or her grandmother's (Mom and I have the same pattern). I guess we are just a traditional bunch.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:32AM
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I hope people in the marketing departments of Baker and so on are reading this--they have to make some connections/business partnerships with independent furniture companies to keep showrooms filled with things--one shouldn't have to fly to North Carolina to buy furniture. As for Restoration Hardware--those insane catalogues of Biblical proportions, all in beige......

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:47AM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I am not so sure that it is age that determines whether or not someone values antiques. My parents and ILs prefer new things whereas I prefer antiques and so does my 13 yo daughter. I doubt though that you would ever be able to convince them to spend the money on the quality brands.

I have this buffet in my dining room. It is important to DH because it belonged to his grandparents. To say that I am not overly fond of it is an understatement. It is a solid, quality piece but, there is a question of why should one hold onto something that they do not like just because of a relationship to previous owners? In my case, we do because my DH values it but I would not necessarily be unhappy if I should ever have the chance to look for something more suited to my taste.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:01AM
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I have a feeling that a fair proportion of people who use interior designers and buy to-the-trade furniture do *not* have to see everything in real life and test drive every seat that goes into their house before they will buy it.

They would find this a Complete waste of their time and they pay the designer to make these decisions for them and to get it right. In a forum like this where people are interested in design a removal from the process like sounds like it would be impossible.

But I have a friend who works for a couture company and he says he often sells the unsized things like handbags and other leather goods to the customer's assistant, not to the customer themselves, and he does more personalized shopping for people who don't even want to try on the clothes they are going to buy. Of course clothing gets sent back if it obviously doesn't fit or suit. But it's in *his best interest to get these things right, or he loses the client if he makes too many mistakes in either style or fit. I've heard stories of interior design client's whose only Direct interaction with a piece of furniture is limited to a comfortable chair for reading or watching TV (for the husband a recliner, which may need to be sized) and the mattress.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:21AM
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I love quality furniture. I love to buy old, solid wood pieces and either refinish or at least clean up well and use. I love the upright piano from my childhood, and the corner china cabinet that belonged to my mother. My dad purchased a dining room table at an auction for $1. It needed sanded and cleaned up. He put some tongue oil on it and I've had it ever since, that was 20 years ago. However, I purchased a nice sectional sofa 6 years ago for almost $2,000. thinking I was getting quality. It has broken 3 times and I'm ready to junk it. I purchased a nice Broyhill sofa years ago that was worn out in 2 years. I'm either buying the wrong sofas or they just aren't made well anymore. I cannot afford money like that anymore to invest in a sofa that may or may not last. I'm seriously at a point of just buying a "Big Lot's" sofa and considering it disposable. At least I could replace it in a few years without a huge loss.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:24AM
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I think it's due to the fact that until 20 years or so ago, there were no where near the number of possibilities to purchase items of furniture. No Pottery Barns, C&B, Target, Wal-Mart, etc in nearly every fair-sized town to sell to every price range. So families handed down or bought at a range of furniture stores and local those stores usually sold 'on time' to a a range of incomes.

Mom usually didn't work outside the home, and like Oaktown said, these days "I can buy something easily available on the internet or through a chain store close to us..... That way I haven't spent hours -- or even days -- shopping, taking time away from work and kids."

My Dad owned a furniture and appliance store in a small town until he retired and sold it in the early 80's. Totally middle-to-lower income clientele with the furniture end, but he wanted to serve that part of the population the most. He had friends everywhere and I always admired him for being able to help a family buy a washing machine, sofa or bed they needed. We had better stuff at our own home but nothing grand or ostentatious. Growing up we had the usual 'nice' stuff in the dining room, bedrooms and living room. My brothers and I split up most of the bedroom, dining room, and odd tables when they passed away and are using it. And we have a few of DH's parents things. Some has gone to our kids and may eventually go to our grand-kids if they want it.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 12:10PM
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While there seems to be a gazillion of goods, in the end, to me it seems that they all are the same.
I've been trying to buy a sofa for ages and can't find what I'm looking for: I want a firm seat with firm back (support) that has clean lines. Doesn't seem to exist in this country. Everything seems to be soft, cushy, very deep.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 12:29PM
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My parents had nice things. They were city people (SF) and even though we moved 50 miles away to a small town, they would buy their furniture in the city. They had a two piece sectional (circa 1948-50) that was separated by a large corner table. I can remember at least four different fabrics as they had it reupholstered over the years. After my dad died, my mom moved to a senior living apartment and there was the sectional in a large floral print. When she went into assisted living and couldn't take the furniture, I let my nephew have it because I didn't have the foresight to imagine it recovered with something more to my liking.

I'm kind of like finallyhome. I could afford to get what I want, but I've always shied away from things I need to be consciously careful around. I'm feet up everywhere. I have two cats and always will. If it's not the hair it's the claws. My furniture needs to adapt.

I'm at the stage of life when most things I buy will probably outlive me.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 12:47PM
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AMCK SAID: Re the second example, there is far less formal entertaining in homes and most people my age (50's) are using discretionary income for travel, timeshares, or casually appointed vacation homes instead of putting it toward high-priced furnishings.

Well this is me! My husband and I want to spend discretionary income on traveling.

Buying new furniture is a nightmare for me. While I know I canâÂÂt afford top quality I do like decent. Finding true decent in a decent price range is like walking a maze. Some things that were good yesterday are not good today. Tring to figure out a better decent in a mid to mid high range often leaves one looking at overpriced crap. And, donâÂÂt get me started with mid to mid high range stuff where the seat cushions get squashy after four months (will start a new thread on that). There is a living room chair that I like but IâÂÂm having a hard time pushing the buy key. IâÂÂm hoping to find an old craigslist or thrift mid high quality chair to buy and get upholstered. That would be more like a $2,500 chair today. IâÂÂm to the point that I would rather revamp old stuff if itâÂÂs well made. If the cheap furniture didnâÂÂt usually have those fat chunky dark legs most of the time IâÂÂd probably settle, at least IâÂÂd know I was paying cheap for what often times is being passed off as upscale. My used buffet/media/credenza from the early eighties will stand me in at $650 after the refinish. If I would have bought new in that price range IâÂÂd get something close to cardboard. Bottom line for me is that I would rather buy old good than the stuff thatâÂÂs being passed off as being in the good category of today.

But there is a trick to that too as in finding something that is just short of being all the rage so one can get it at a good price.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 1:28PM
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I don't think age has anything to do with it. I'm most definitely an "older" person and I have no antiques or heirlooms in my home (the only piece I wished I had kept of my parents was a mid-century desk. It was a quality piece but in poor condition). I like quality, and fortunately can afford it, but what I spend my money on is still going to be contemporary/modern (and not what Bevan calls "contemporary" - I laughed when I perused their website. The furniture is very obviously high quality, but calling those coffee tables "contemporary" is a joke).

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 1:42PM
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I live in a large metro area with access to a lot of furniture stores - but honestly - I'm just too d@mn scared to spend a lot of money on something that is supposedly "good quality" that turns out to be garbage.

And that is why we still have my grandmothers DR table (probably 100 years old) that is too small, a living room sectional that was free and came from the basement of the mother of my parents best friends when I first moved out and is probably 90 years old. (We have had ID's, interior painters and furniture upholsterers give us their cards in case we ever want to get rid of it.) It's why I still have the buffet and a corner table that my uncle made in grade 12 woodshop 61 years ago.

I have the time to shop, I have the money to spend, I have a DH who wants new stuff but I'm just too D@MN scared to buy what may turn out to be garbage and there is just so much of it out there.

We finally did buy a new coffee table and side table from a local furniture store but the stains of the two tables didn't match. But, they were so good about sending us to their warehouse and the manager there opened up four side tables before finding one that matched the coffee table and then he carefully inspected every inch of it to make sure it was ok. That is service and we will go back there.

My kids will probably not want our stuff and whoever mentioned that it is the wife who does the furniture choosing is right. My MIL just downsized and I made it perfectly clear, that yes, we need new stuff but hers is hideous and is not to come into our house.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 1:50PM
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we are building a new home, only 2300 square feet and 1000 square ft of porches, but it's exactly what we want
recently, while visiting with friends, we were discussing furnishing our home, it had never occurred to me that i should get new furniture with the home, i love my 1919 dining table, my 23 year old bedroom furniture and my 15 year old ethan allen living room i was considering recovering a few pieces, but certainly not replacing them
no one said it, but the ladies all looked like "you poor thing, not only are you getting a smaller home but you can't even buy new furniture"
then i reflect on their homes, some are over 4000 square feet, no gardens, no shop, and their furniture, for the most part furniture i wouldn't keep if you gave it to me
i'd pick good quality furniture over stylish any day.....

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 1:59PM
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My husband and I have been dating/married nearly 20 years. Besides kids' bedroom furniture and replacing a home office chair here and there, we haven't bought new furniture in 15 years. In the early years (before kid$), we had the foresight to buy the best quality furniture we could afford. There was a furniture company in Chicago that used to make solid cherry furniture, so we invested in dining/BR/sofa, and then Thomasville leather sofa/chair (club style, which still looks pretty good).

Fortunately, our tastes haven't changed much, and we still like the style of what we chose back then. But, today, I would recommend a young family with children to go the cheap, disposable route (or hand-me-downs, if they're lucky) initially, as they raise their kids and also further define their decor style. Later, when needing replacements, they can better decide what to invest in, in terms of more expensive furniture that will require a longer commitment to its style.

We are in the market for new LR furniture, by the way, and I haven't been this frustrated in years...

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 2:04PM
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I kind of don't get the kids necessitating having things that they can ruin. I grew up with good furniture and several of my nieces and nephews spent weeks or months at a time living in my parents house when they were young growing up, and I don't think any of our spirits were broken by the fact that we weren't allowed to write on everything with a Sharpee, jump with muddy feet on the family rooms furniture, and snack around the clock wherever we wanted to. There were no restricted rooms in my parents' house, just restrictions from behaving like self absorbed a------.

(I'm not exaggerating, there have been questions in these forums about Sharpee proof kitchen cabinets, wall paint and textiles, and there are people in the kitchen forum who go to great lengths to design kitchens more around optimal access to snacks by children whenever they want including during dinner preparation--than they are designed around actual dinner preparation.)

I think that one of the reasons the generation coming up and now raising their own kids wants everything disposable and immediately is because a lot of them were raised not having to take care of anything and getting a replacement for whatever was broken or lost immediately. Our generation caused this.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 2:36PM
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Nosoccermom, why don't you have your dream sofa made for you? That's what I did because I'm short and I wanted a shallower than standard depth. Also, I wanted hardwood and coil construction with a spring edge.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 2:45PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Pal, I just see that as making a choice. If one values the quality furnishings/nicer things, whatever, and want to own these at the same time as there are children in the house, then they will choose to spend the time working with their children on such things. But there is definitely effort involved.

That also brings up another ding against much of the finer furniture. There is effort involved in taking care of it, oiling the wood, etc. For some, the simply do not find enough value in the furniture to make the extra effort and would rather do other things with their time. The investment in fine furnishings is not limited to the initial outlay. It is wonderful when people know themselves well enough to recognize their limitations and/or priorities and act accordingly.

For the generational comment, I agree to an extent too. Growing up, I was not taught how to care for furniture/things, simply because my mother was too busy surviving. That meant I had to learn what rules I needed for my kids and I also had to learn all the necessary cleaning skills (still working on that), Pledge was my mother's friend but is not what I choose to use, etc.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 3:13PM
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There have been a few comments asking why the better furniture manufacturers don't keep more stock in local stores where it is more accessible to purchase. I'm sure they would love to have more of their goods out on the selling floors, but the stores themselves will not order it. Once a piece has been on the showroom floor it is a "display" piece and buyers want a huge discount on it--- or order their own instead. The furniture is too expensive for stores to stock a lot of it, and a good bit is still made when the orders come in.

We waited almost four months for a Baker side table because I wanted it in a finish they don't get much call for. I didn't mind because it was a) What I wanted, and b) I knew we wouldn't get it until our interior designer came down for the installation anyway. Had it been in a store I it would not have been in the right wood or finish, so, as Pal says, I trusted our interior designer's opinion and our previous experience with Baker furniture.

The sofa model I did want to sit on, so ID found the Lee sofas we ordered at a store in Atlanta and I drove up there to sit in them and select the cushion fill. It was a day out of my schedule to do that, but since I expect to have these sofas for the rest of our lives, that time was well spent.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 4:00PM
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Here are a few other thoughts:

-Who are the targeted customers of the high-end furniture makers?

-I am guessing that many folks entering the job market in the last 10-20 years had/have considerably more debt than people used to. Student loans, rent, mortgages, car loans . . . with all of that I think some people draw the line at spending a lot on furniture.

-In contrast to the folks with debt, in my area, there now are a quite a few young people with a lot of money (younger and richer than me, for sure) who are still trying to "keep it real." But they will spend on what they perceive as quality. So, they'll wear a hoodie and jeans but drive a Tesla (or bike as a lifestyle choice). I don't see any effort by the Baker Furnitures of the world to market to these people with huge disposable incomes??

-The people I know who use designers/decorators indeed feel they are too busy to research and buy their own. But these are the same people more likely to redecorate every few years (or every new house, which might be every few years), because they have plenty of money and the designers make it easy. Small sample size, so just my observation. Are these the quality furniture customers?

Finally, the comment about a generation viewing things as disposable -- I don't know. I spilled ink on my bedroom carpet when I was a kid, and that same carpet with the stain still is there in my parents' house. But, there are a lot of useful points in this thread that I will try to keep in mind with my kids, about investing in Quality and Respect for objects as well as people. Thanks all.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 4:00PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

In olden times, pre internet, the design world wasn't rapidly changing as much ( due, as we all know, to marketing) and people were content with what they had.
It takes a strong constitution now to not give into the continual decor bombardment of "what's in".
Based on most of the posts here, nearly everyone wants the latest up-to-date look although, of course, not the fads!
But, old styles once popular, are usually painted or replaced in the attempt to remain up to date.
Which brings us to traditional furniture. While it might appeal to our inner frugality to buy something only once, "I will have this the rest of my life!" I would be very surprised if that still remains the case 20 years from now when the furniture is worn and sadly, even dated.
Plenty of people realize that: that they don't want to own furniture forever, they like changing things up, and even expensive furniture can get quite ragged looking with regular, even careful, living over time.
So, why go to so much trouble for something less than forever? Furniture is more like a car, these days.
(For some reason, elaborate weddings come to mind also)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 4:31PM
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I'll second what Palimpsest said about taking care of things: my mother had collected a lot of nice Statton furniture. That early American style isn't for everyone, but that's not the point--with the exception of a headboard on our tester bed that was scratched from going to bed at night with rollers in our hair!--two girls sleeping in a full-size bed...everything else was just about pristine, showroom condition. We just knew that my (lower middle class ) mother had one shot at the apple, and we knew not to put wet glasses, throw footballs in the living room, and, in general, to respect our surroundings. Five kids, and the house was in fine condition when she passed away at the age of 98. I'm still writing at her solid cherry desk, and sitting in a nice big wing chair. By the way, Statton resurrected itself as an employee owned venture and now builds to order--maybe other fine companies will have to change their corporate structures, too.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 4:49PM
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kswl, I think the business model you're describing is very problematic. That is a lot of trust to expect from new customers. And presumably legacy customers will not need to make lots of repeat purchases since the quality is so good ;-)

It is one thing to continue to sell to families who have had quality furniture throughout the generations and are familiar with the "right" brands. But there is a chunk of the population out there comprised of people who do not have this kind of history. In our area, lots of first and second generation Americans. How does one go about learning about Henredon, Baker, Statton, Bevan and these other names (seriously, some I am just hearing for the first time)?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 5:26PM
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I subscribe to Traditional Home magazine. However, I will not be renewing my subscription. The reason? The homes they are showing in the magazine are not "traditional". Not sure what the style is, but it's not traditional.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 5:33PM
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Life has changed in the last 20 years. Everything is faster and people don't want to be tied down with heavy furniture. Something else we should keep in mind. Trees are being cut indiscriminately and there's awareness that we should preserve forests for our health and well being, as well as for animals and birds. The rigid styles of fifties and sixties has disappeared. Home living is more relaxed and one hopes easier to maintain.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 5:50PM
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"Trees are being cut indiscriminately and there's awareness that we should preserve forests for our health and well being, as well as for animals and birds"

As good an argument to buy old furniture rather than new and keep whatever you have forever as I can think of :)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 5:58PM
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Out of the entire houseful of furniture we bought when we moved into our home a few years ago, I actually "saw" exactly 2 items in the store before I ordered. Our bed and 1 of the 3 couches we bought. Of course I did take a look at representative other items made by the manufacturers I was considering, but each manufacturer has such a large catalog that it is impossible for a store that stocks multiple brands to carry more than a few items. I did insist on seeing all fabrics and samples of wood stains in person, but the rest was sort of a leap of faith.

One goes about learning about all the different brands by doing some research (even asking people here on GW about their experiences with a brand) and talking to people in furniture stores. People at a good furniture store that carries multiple lines will usually be more than willing to help educate you if you're interested. I knew next to nothing about different brands when I started the process. We moved so many times I had been reluctant to buy much, fearing it wouldn't work at the next place. But I feel as if I know pretty much now, because I delved into the subject a bit before I spent my money.

That said, one other argument for not investing in really high end furniture when one is younger is changing taste. When I was first out of school and finally saved enough money to buy "real" furniture, i was living in New England surrounded by people with very traditional taste in furniture. So I bought myself a few huge, colonial looking Thomasville dressers and some stuff for the living room. Several years later I decided I hated them. And that I don't really like traditional furniture, except an occasional piece here and there. This time, years later as I am finally really furnishing my house, I have a much better idea what my taste is, so I am buying things that I'm pretty confident I will keep liking.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 6:09PM
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No soccer mom

I really like our crate and barrel sofa. Got it about a year ago. Had rectangular arms, and is an apartment length. Very comfy and not huge!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 7:58PM
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With respect to the practice of keeping furniture one's entire life, Bumblebeez, I can attest that the practice is alive and well. In my house right now I have a Hickory Chair sofa my mother purchased in 1963, which was recovered several times while she owned it, once when it lived at my brother's and twice since he shipped it to me because his new wife didn't like it. I also have a Baker coffee table my mother purchased in the early 70's, a Baker buffet she had custom made for size, finish and granite (unheard of at the time) on the fold out top. And a Baker breakfront, double pedestal dining table and chairs, two oriental rugs, a Portuguese needlepoint rug, Japonaiserie lacquered bench as well as Chinese vases, Foo dogs, a silver tea set, pair of pheasants and many other tables and accessories .( Thank God she was a shopper---but she had to be, as she was the youngest child in her own family and got none of their stuff.) From my MIL I have two Hepplewhite demilune chests from George Smith. And my mother purchased a round dining table and six chairs from George Smith that were better suited to her smaller condo dining room, so **somebody** will get that and all her other wonderful furniture.

The furniture I've bought is similar quality and our children have all expressed a desire to own it. Our youngest son uses the headboard from the double bed DH and I bought when first married. The club chair in his bedroom has been recovered multiple times. They've grown up knowing that you buy good furniture and just keep on re-upholstering it. I update with accessories and occasional pieces, but the core of our furnishings was all purchased by someone who knew that quality would last. And it still looks pretty darn stylish, IMVHO.

From my mother: lacquered Japonaiserie Chippendale bench and Baker buffet server (right side of bed) now being used as a night table:

In the dining room, my mother's Baker breakfront, table and six chairs, and two sets of two other chairs, all of which were just reupholstered. Table and six chairs was purchased in the 1950s:

Living room rug from my mother:

Same room as the rug above, things I have purchased that my children will own: an antique Regency bookcase and one of a pair of Hickory Chair walnut faux bamboo side chairs that I purchased 15 years ago and have been recovered once already:

Forty-year-old Hickory Chair sofa, Baker table, oriental rug from my mother; two Martha Washington chairs from Hickory Chair that I purchased 10 years ago and have been reupholstered once already:

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 8:25PM
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Lucystar1, I also did not renew my Traditional Home Magazine that I used to love but not anymore.

This is a great topic.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 8:37PM
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Thanks for advice on finding a sofa. I've been to all the usual stores; however, I want to sit in a sofa before I buy. Maybe custom is the way to go, but even there I want to try it out.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:20PM
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Pal, I've often wondered about the theory of having crummy furniture until the children get older. I wasn't raised like that, and I didn't raise my child like that either. I think it does a disservice to the child not to teach them good manners from the earliest age.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:43PM
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Like kswl, I have pieces I love from family. Like my3dogs, I enjoy the antique and vintage furniture and items I collected years ago - these items are like old friends, and every single piece is still in fine condition. Occasionally items are added, like the Stickley pieces last year. I anticipate cherishing what I own for the rest of my life. ...Mentioned in other posts my daughter has taken my formal cherry and mahogany (and most of my mother's when she passed.) DD's home is quite formal, she frequently uses her large set of sterling she purchased last year, loves using her grandmother's good china...likes antiques, appreciates fine quality and is willing to invest time and money, as in driving 3 hours each way to buy a gorgeous fine brass and vaseline bullet glass chandelier... like bbstx's daughter, thankfully not all 20 or 30 yo's want disposable furniture and decor. I have hope the interest will grow.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:48PM
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My hand-made kitchen table is 58 years old, my Baker mahogany dining table and sideboard over 68 years, dining chairs are over 120, solid mahogany bed and dresser well over 40, and flow blue Middleport pottery about 120 years. Just to mention a few of the items in our household, which we are still totally satisfied with and our children would love to inherit. The traditional and/or 1800âÂÂs antique furniture still appeals to us and we can easily afford to purchase anything we wanted to replace it - yet why should we? I see little out there now, (in our area, that is), that can compare. And I have no desire to drive 5 hours to the closest âÂÂbigâ city to shop for furniture, when what we have is so well loved.

95% of our furniture is family hand-me-downs, pieces bought at auction or wedding gifts. Our DD has received many of our antiques with much appreciation and respect toward their provenance, which she is passing on to her children, as well.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:59PM
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When shopping at Baer's Furniture in Florida 2 years ago for furniture, we looked at a Bernhardt poster bed. This was high end furniture ten years ago. The salesman asked me if I liked the high posts on the foot board or the low posts.. He then said it doesn't matter, as they are shipped from China with both posts. My mother has an original wall phone in her home from when I grew up. She does have newer cordless phones elsewhere. Our phones are now disposable. The buy good furniture is in the past, I'm afraid. When visiting Hickory Furniture Mart a couple of years ago the place was empty with many stores shuttered. Most of the major furniture companies have sent their production overseas. I desperately try to buy from American manufacturers, but am having a hard time in trying to do so. I have recently purchased from Hancock and Moore and CR Laine, both made in North Carolina . I think the option of buying good furniture to last a lifetime is gone with the wind.

Here is a link that might be useful: Where is furniture made?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:18PM
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p.s. Tishtoshnm, I will gladly take that buffet off your hands.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:22PM
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Bbstx and Pal, sometimes kids have accidents, even with the most mindful parents--hard to believe! When my son was younger, he developed a fever, and I let him rest on the FR sofa and watch cartoons as he recovered. At one point, he fell asleep and had an "accident." In addition, our DR furniture and rug have a few permanent memories of family meals where we helped our kids learn dinner manners in a more formal setting, used the good china, practiced holding dinner conversation, etc. Yes, over the years, milk spilled and crumbs fell, but these were accidents, not a reflection of our allowing our kids to abuse our furniture. Frankly, I've seen homeowners allow their pets much more leeway on their furniture than I've ever allowed my kids.

Keep in mind, too, that with today's open concept kitchen/FR, many young families entertain other young families in these living areas. We regularly entertain, and children are welcome. While we may do our best to tactfully enforce some groundrules, some of my friends' kids simply have different habits than mine do, from clumsily bringing plates to the sink after a meal, to how well they wash their hands after dinner.

My DH and I have never bought disposable furniture, and we have some painful "scars" on our expensive stuff. But I understand why some young families choose cheaper options, from practicality to price. Doing so doesn't mean they're neglecting to teach their kids manners.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 12:35AM
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Adding another response here that part of my perspective that disposable furniture isn't as horrid as we think involves my regret that I didn't allow myself more indulgence and delight in the decorating process when I was younger. I am very frugal, and my husband, although not frugal, insists on quality. This made for some boring choices.

When we were setting up house and choosing furniture, my SIL was in the same stage of her life. She focused on color and style of furniture, while I was paying attention to construction and quality. We both liked what we bought, but I can tell you she had much more fun in decorating her home than I did. She *loved* *loved* *loved* her cranberry sofa from a cheap chain store, while I consoled myself in my traditional, well-built, boring club-style leather. Again, the fun was on her side. Life's too short for always being "sensible."

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 1:12AM
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The name escapes me(Hancock?), but when we bought our 'good' DR furniture, 40 + years ago, it was the 'top of the line' for *us* because it was what we could afford. I was heavily into the very traditional QA mohogany, as I felt it was a style that would endure, but at the same time ordered a rug from EA and was told 'it will take 6 months to make since it's coming from Belgium'. It took even longer than 6 months, and did say 'handmade in Belgium' but am sure it was machine made. With that said, at the time we had 3 kids, with a 4th on the way, and knew the DR wasn't a place we would spend too much time, so,knew the furniture/rug would last 'almost' forever.

Family room was black 'leather look' w/wood, but we had a Berne $1000 sofa in the LR~back in 1970, that was a ton of buck for a sofa, but again, not a room we used often. Like everything, you need to make your choices, for whatever reason. We opted for FR furniture that was inexpensive but 'looked good', but chose the more expensive stuff for the public rooms and bedrooms.

The kids always had nice, though not expensive bedroom furniture, and it was purchased from the 'local furniture store', since we chose to support our local businesses in the small Midwest town. One piece was usually on the showroom floor, so other pieces were always ordered~it came fully assembled, brought straight from the store where it had been cleaned up and polished. I don't think there was ever a time when something needed to be sent back because of flaws/scuffs or poor quality.

The DR chairs are still in use by my best friend with a glass top table, and she also has the rug! Neither have aged much, which is more than I can say for myself of the past 40+ years! ;)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 1:42AM
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"The DR chairs are still in use by my best friend with a glass top table, and she also has the rug! Neither have aged much, which is more than I can say for myself of the past 40+ years! ;) "

Lol, Patty!!

Voila, I also try to purchase goods manufactured in the United States, and some of the fiurniture companies can still honestly say "made in the USA." Our recent purchase of two sofas, two chairs and two side tables for our basement is the most new furniture I've ever bought in a single setting, and I bought from Lee and Baker and Hockory Chair for that reason.

OTOH, the daybeds came from Pottery Barn, and while they are nicely finished and painted, fine furniture they are not ---- and I have no idea where they were made. They fall somewhere in the middle....at $2700 they are not disposable, exactly, but their manufacture is not providing domestic jobs with benefits, either.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 5:09AM
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"I subscribe to Traditional Home magazine. However, I will not be renewing my subscription. The reason? The homes they are showing in the magazine are not "traditional". Not sure what the style is, but it's not traditional."

The irony...

Back when, there was a magazine called Colonial Homes, it featured decor( and architecture) in the colonial style-- Queen Anne, Chippendale, William and Mary to Prim...it became kind of predictable and stale after awhile and they evolved.

Colonial Homes morphed into Traditional Home

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 12:41PM
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I understand all children have accidents, including mine who was otherwise perfect (yeah, right). Even big people have accidents (such as my BIL who got chocolate on a silk-upholstered chair). And we clean up after the accidents - or re-upholster, if necessary. What I don't understand is the mindset of "I can't have anything nice until the children are older." If they aren't trained to be mindful of their surroundings when they are young, how can they be expected to take care of their surroundings when they are older?

Chijim, interesting. Wonder what Traditional Home will morph into?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 1:56PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Voila, I will keep that in mind should I ever be able to part with the beast.

This also brings another element to the discussion about differences between then and now. That buffet is 8 feet long. It is a challenge in many modern houses to find a wall that would accommodate such a piece. It is also 2 feet deep, which is quite an intrusion into a room if one is trying to include room for chairs to pull out. We accommodated it by having a custom house.

Some furniture was built for people with different proportions. Dh, who is short, likes older chairs for the height differential. I am taller and find older chairs more difficult/less comfortable.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 2:07PM
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I have felt like Traditional Homes morphed into a showcase for show houses and builders' model houses. I also feel that "Transitional Homes" is more descriptive of style.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 2:12PM
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sas95 said: One goes about learning about all the different brands by doing some research (even asking people here on GW about their experiences with a brand) and talking to people in furniture stores. People at a good furniture store that carries multiple lines will usually be more than willing to help educate you if you're interested.

The problem is, how many people in the wider world are willing to put that kind of research in? Is it realistic to expect potential customers to do research to find out you exist? And expecting that, how long do you think a company can stay in business? The OP was talking about a long established furniture company that is closing its doors due to lack of business. Perhaps expecting their customers to seek them out is the reason?

Second, I don't put a whole lot of faith in the word of showroom salesmen. They'll tell you what they can to make a sale. So you really have to go to several to learn the common themes in order to be really educated.

I spent over a year shopping for my current couch. I thought I had bought better quality than "disposable". I waited 10 weeks to have it delivered. It's been 5 years, and we could stand to replace it. The spot where my husband sits every day is crushed at the front. I'll start the hunt for the new couch once we're moved into the new house.

But I agree with the points several people have made.
-The "good" brands are unknown to me, and I'm not willing to hire a designer just to buy me a couch.
-Even when I do spend a little more, I don't necessarily get quality.

So I might as well spend less and not expect it to last more than 5 years. At least now I know I can buy a fabulous red sofa, knowing that it's only temporary.

To palimpsest, re: Re: the comments about not being comfortable on a $10K sofa or a $3000 coffee table. I agree if you are not comfortable owning it or are particularly hard on things, you probably shouldn't have it.
But I think it's possible to own it, use it and respect it a bit at the same time. I think this also becomes an interaction: if it's replaceable, people may tend to be more careless with it. If you made a little bit of an investment you may just be careful enough to protect it just a little bit.

I currently have my feet up on my couch. I am not interested in changing my lifestyle to suit my furniture. I believe my furniture should suit my lifestyle. If buying the $10k sofa means that I can't put my feet on it, then maybe this is also part of the problem. Lifestyles today are very casual. If there is a segment of the furniture market that is only geared to the formal living types, then I'm not surprised they are suffering economically.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 4:25PM
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When DS1 was small we had a kids play group that met once per week. One of the families lived in a house that they were going to tear down or completely remodel and they had old furniture. They allowed their son to treat the house and furniture like a demolition derby arena. The rest of us had to watch that kid like a hawk when it was our turn to host the group. He would scrape and bang toys on the walls, climb and jump all over the sofas, etc, He didn't know that you shouldn't do these things in a house, as he was never taught to be careful. They ended up moving to a new house in another town and left our play group.

We didn't buy disposable/cheap things because we had kids. When the kids were young, I said these phrases many times, "Please don't touch Mommy's decorations" or "Mommy's decorations are not toys". They learnt pretty quickly. Even today, the teens are reminded once in a while, that they need to respect and take care of things we have worked hard to be able to purchase, including house, furniture, cars, landscaping, etc.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 5:00PM
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"I currently have my feet up on my couch. I am not interested in changing my lifestyle to suit my furniture. I believe my furniture should suit my lifestyle. If buying the $10k sofa means that I can't put my feet on it,"

This is what I don't get? How dirty are peoples' feet? I sit with my feet under me all the time including on my parents' sofa which is the current equivalent of a $7-10K sofa, and put my feet on the seats of my Milo Baughman chairs and my Paul Mccobb stools any of which I could sell for thousands, used. I am not bragging that I have this furniture, I just have it. The Mccobb Stools are pale blue leather. They are made to put your feet on.

So I put my feet on them, but if I am dirty, I take a bath...I don't do anything if I am physically dirty until I clean up. And I wear inside shoes or no shoes in the house.

I am not accusing anybody of being dirty, but on the other hand people have been sitting or napping on my parents expensive sofa on the same upholstery since 1986 including plenty of babies, feet and pets (only the occasional dog, no regular dog in the house) and it is Not Dirty at all? I don't get it.

This post was edited by palimpsest on Wed, Aug 20, 14 at 17:27

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 5:16PM
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palimpsest, I got the impression that you were telling finallyhome that if she bought the $10k couch, she'd learn to respect it a little more than a $500 couch. But I think that's a case of fitting your life around your furniture, which I would never want to do.

I treat my $3000 couch the same way I treat my $700 couch. Actually, the $700 couch is probably treated better, it's in the basement, never used, and lives under a sheet to protect it from the dog sleeping on it. Whereas the $3k couch gets used daily, and the dog regularly pushes his blanket aside to sleep on the bare sofa. It doesn't matter how much I paid for the furniture, I don't jump on it or kick it, and I clean up my wine spills immediately. But I'm not going to stop enjoying a glass of wine on the couch because the couch is too precious to withstand that.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:10PM
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I *do think people, without becoming a prisoner to their possessions, take better care of things they pay more for. People didn't used to throw out flat screen TVs when they moved when they cost more. It doesn't mean they put it on an altar, but nor did you find as many on the curb on move out day.

Sure, if you want, take it to the extreme that you destroy everything you touch and buy cheap --I don't care. I have a client who hosts dinners on 100% disposable everything, including a table cloth from the Dollar Store and at the end of the meal picks it up by the edges and tosses it all--table cloth, all disposable dishes glasses and utensils. That's fine, so be it.

But when she had a sofa from Dave's Discount she wouldn't even wipe up spills and after a couple years she would haul it out to the curb. When I convinced her to buy a sofa that actually wouldn't disintegrate underneath her (Only $1100, but a lot more than the garbage she usually bought) --she still spills red wine on it, she still has her feet all over it, it's still a dog bed for two labs. But she actually wipes up spills and vacuums it on occasion instead of throwing it away. I don't think that is an incredible hardship.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:25PM
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I think this conversation can best be described as "single people" vs "married people" ....

Single people can have a party at their place and have everything they own destroyed overnight and end up having to replace all their furniture for around 250 bucks (used, at salvation army, goodwill, ect...)

Married people ... well, the moment someone breaks a chair that goes to the kitchen table, the party's over and you're still out 150 bucks (to replace the chair) ... or more....

The difference is, of course, in quality of workmanship. Generally speaking, single people get away with mismatched deals and flimsy workmanship in their furniture. It's not made to last and wasn't meant to be a permanent fixture in their life.

However, once married .... the mindset totally changes. You want something that will last a very long time, that resists change, and contributes to the beauty and harmony of the household. Solid wood furnishings that will stand the test of time, meant to be passed down and enjoyed with love and admiration.

In my case .... I'm single, but I'm also a woodworker. I'll use the cheap crappy flimsy deals from goodwill till I make something better to replace it, using some fine oak that will last a hundred years or so...

I don't have parties at my place so .... :) But if I did ... I'ld just build it all over again.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:26PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

For sofas or cushioned chairs, replacing the cushions alone or even flipping them inside the pillow cover will give extra life to something not quite worn out.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:33PM
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Pal, I've got one better. DD/SIL get a real tree every year. They also put new mini lights on it every year because when they dispose of the tree, the lights are left on! I've been telling my DD ever since it started, those lights are going into the landfill. She says it's DH who takes town the tree and it goes right to the curb, and i tell her to go to the curb and remove the lights. She looks at me like I must be crazy. Grandson is getting older so I will be teaching him the 'habits' of recycling.

"C" is lazy, and that's just the truth! Middle 40's, will barely change a lightbulb(he has everything done for them!), will throw out anything if it's expired even one day, and everything seems to be easy come, easy go. He's had his own business for almost 20 years, which is very successful so money isn't an issue, but I find it all very wasteful. I agree, it's definitely a younger generation thing.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:08PM
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Skie, you describe my college and grad school years, but once I started earning a paycheck, I chose carefully. And so did my DH (then-boyfriend). When I met him, he had a few fabulous hand-me-down pieces from his parents, including a black leather sling Wassily that our kids love today. He also bought expensive electronics, a hobby of his, that we still use, as well. Our circle of friends "partied" at bars, but when we were earning decent money for the first time in our lives, we had more respect for our own, and one anothers' possessions.

I hope you have clients who appreciate your workmanship. I believe the appreciation for hand-crafted furniture and the labor that goes into it has declined, unfortunately.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:22PM
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I think the problem is the middle ground between fine antique and disposable contemporary. When you have 20 year old furniture it looks dated. It takes about 60 years for a trend to be repeated, and over a hundred years to be considered a valuable antique. Our possessions are imbued with meaning to many of us. If we loved our past, we might still love the objects we were surrounded with. Sometimes, we want to move along and create a new space for ourselves. I like to mix cheap and new upholstered pieces with old and/or well made solid wood furniture. I don't care for the middle,myself. But frankly, real antiques are an appreciating asset, while new stuff just loses value.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:33PM
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real antiques are an appreciating asset

Only if you can find someone to buy them :-)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:43PM
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" When you have 20 year old furniture it looks dated."

I am not trying to be contrary but I think this really depends on the styles you buy. Of course upholstery fabric will also get dated, depending. But take a look at Boop's thread on "Buying used furniture":

Sofa #1 and Queen Anne chairs. Sofa shape is still made and that sofa is probably 40 years old. Fabric very dated.

Queen Anne chairs, a variation made for 300+ years. Velvet isn't dated, color could be depending.

Tufted sofa: terrible lumpy sort of shape even when new.

Kreiss sofas: can still buy sofas like this, and fabric. Probably from the 80s or 90s though.

Floral roll arm, tight back sofa. This shape has been made for most of the 20th c. Fabric is dated, but more "taste specific" and you can still get upholstery fabric like this

Blue Velvet Knole sofa: Very taste specific Color, but not fabric. The Knole shape has never been popular in the US but this is an English style sofa made since the 16th or 17th century. (On the originals the arms hinged up and down).

Milo Baughman. Classic contemporary shape, dated fabric

Charles of London armed sectional and sofas. Sofa style continuously made for about 100 years. Classic fabrics on both.

So if you pick a fabric that you Like that is pretty Classic, that's more than half the battle. Most of the sofas in her post are aged by the fabric, not the frame. There are a lot of frames to chose from that have been made for a long time. The stuff that ages quickly is usually something attached to some trend and it is often the cheap stuff.

Even the lumpy Century sofa is a fairly old fashioned shape generally, it's just a clumsy execution and that one looks both dirty and like it's been dropped or something.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:16PM
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It matters too that many people can count on having many more jobs during their lifetime, often in different states, on a much more frequent change schedule than in generations past. Quality furniture can be very heavy to move, and expensive if there is a houseful of it being shipped back and forth across the country! I have a solid cherry dresser (a $55 thrift store find) that two strong men struggle to carry, even after all of the drawers have been removed. A houseful of such items, having to be moved frequently, would be very challenging both physically and financially.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 9:28PM
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GF, I thought of that today. Perhaps our nearly-nomadic lifestyles are contributing to a decline in the purchase of expensive high-quality furniture. I haven't move much compared to some friends (one has lived in 17 places in 21 years!), but it seems that every time I move something gets damaged. It gets fixed, but it is disheartening.

When I moved 7 years ago, the legs to my silver chest were lost. Since much of my furniture went into storage, I didn't realize the legs were gone until we closed the storage units and moved into the new house. Too late to make a claim now. I can't decide whether I ought to have new legs made to match, or scrap the whole thing. It wasn't an antique, so I suspect it would be cheaper to buy new.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 9:53PM
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As the youngest person (I'm positive) on this forum I feel the need to defend my generation: I love antiques. And I would love to have more of them in my home. I feel like I am teaching my friends an appreciation for old things. I wish we could afford more of them. But antiques are expensive ya'll.

Unfortunately, most people just don't care about design at all. They don't care what brand of sofa it is. They want to sit on it and watch TV. They want an easy no fuss buy. They are interested in hiring a designer or shopping around for quality.

Since I (and many fiends) are recent graduates of either college or grad school, living in general is very expense. I have tens of thousands of dollars in school debt and a terrible paying job. That 1000 dollar sofa is expensive. And I need something to sit on.

So, most people buy the stand in and then maybe never get around to buying the real deal. They loose interest in design. They get so busy with children. They never make as much money as they'd hoped.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 12:30AM
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Someone brought up,young people and their preference for new rather than antique furniture. The area of the country could also be a contributing factor. Here in Austin, I see a fair amount of young people in the antique mall as well as at auctions where antique/ vintage furniture is the norm. I believe there are young people who still appreciate antiques, as well as traditional style furniture. The other day I saw a young man walking around with a hurricane table lamp, another young woman asked about a table in my booth which was painted blue/glazed, as that's the 'standard' for all my furniture. It seems the 'younger ones', especially the girls(the dictators)do prefer vintage furniture, but they prefer it to be painted, rather than in the natural color of the wood, so it's really more about the finish. They see stained furniture as what their parents / grandparents might have had, although the style may still be 'tolerated.'

There are always going to be people who feel wood just shouldn't be painted, but I see it flying out the door at the mall! If I can purchase a dresser for $50, give it a little sprucing up with paint/glaze/poly , and turn around and sell it for $300 or more, I 'll keep on painting the wood. There are buyers who don 't want the cookie cutter PB, Arhaus, and the like, nor do they want to spend that kind of money. What they do want is something more unique that still says vintage, w/o looking old.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 1:09AM
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"So, most people buy the stand in and then maybe never get around to buying the real deal. They loose interest in design. They get so busy with children. They never make as much money as they'd hoped."

I think these statements are true. And it is becoming clear that a new class of advantage lies not in wealth or social class but in whether or not someone has student loan debt (which by law can never be discharged in bankruptcy) and how much. That one factor can affect the trajectory of a person's career by dictating which job is taken when loans must be repaid. It is almost like a new form of indentured servitude....

Re painted furniture--- I think Patty Cakes has this absolutely right: "What they do want is something more unique that still says vintage, w/o looking old." When we were first married I felt this same way....we filled in with painted pieces (some of which we still have and I love) because they were interesting and unique and relatively cheap!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 2:37AM
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Selcier I agree with your statement in that there are a lot of people in your situation. But there are also a lot of people in your age group that aren't in your situation and they *still aren't buying furniture I don't think.

I live in a neighborhood that has come up in the world and become trendy in the decades I've lived in it. It is full of recent graduates, graduate school students and pre-children (or pre school-age children) couples. New apartment buildings are being built and it is now chock full of real restaurants instead of diners, luncheonettes, alky bars and porn theatres.

Anyway, we have made a concerted effort to try a lot of these new restaurants. Drinks are $10 a pop. Entrees are $25, etc. We concentrate on small plate restaurants, split entrees and don't order drinks so we can get out of there for maybe $35 a person --and then we can try a new one every week.

Every single night of the week these restaurants are crammed with twenty-somethings, drinking and eating. I imagine there are large segments of the neighborhood who are spending $150 a week eating out, $1000 a month each on rent, and lots of other stuff.

They carry a lot of school debt ($100K + is common), they spend a lot on clothes and entertainment. Their next move up is to an even nicer apartment or condo, or an expensive house in the suburbs. It's a different sub-population than yours, but they *still never buy furniture*. My two employers live in $3M and $900K houses respectively, both drive Porsches and *still don't have decent furniture. The $3M house is 10,000 sq feet and has vast swaths of empty floor space dotted with meh furniture.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:06AM
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palimpsest, do you think those folks lease their Porsches? Doesn't sound like it takes much to get them to part with $. So if the high-end furniture makers don't want to reach out and target those people, and expect those people to go looking for them ... well, seems to me that someone is just leaving money on the table.

Perhaps if not interested in better marketing those furniture makers could consider moving to a lease-consignment business model. That might better cater to the whims of fashion as well as the desire of other folks for quality at a lower price point. Consignment stores in our area seem to have shuttered up over the past decade. And I think there is a segment that would be willing to pay a premium for organized consignment as opposed to Craigslist -- both for convenience and for the assurance that they are not buying low quality lookalikes. I know I would.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:45AM
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Getting back to the OP I had dinner this weekend with an acquaintance who is in the high-end traditional furniture manufacturing business (maybe "to the trade only"). She said her business had fallen off to the point she was thinking of retiring.

Perhaps her product line was diverging from what people who can afford it want and need ... what I see in much of the old-line top end stuff is that they are still furnishing the home of the settled executive with "traditional" taste and a 1990s McMansion.

Most high-paid younger workers are also mobile and if parents, indulgent. They may want quality stuff, but it has to be movable into that 3rd-floor loft and then into the suburban town home, and child and pet-resistant.

They like eclectic, have been told it's trendy, but don't really know how to do it ... help with this and you will make sales. To them, Scandinavian modern IS traditional ... it's older than their parents are and their grandparents probably bought it as new and trendy.

So she needs to introduce smaller scale pieces, multi-function pieces, suites that can mix and match across "name groups" and less of the 9-piece all-matching suite kind of thing.

The showrooms should reflect this ... I walk into Stickly or Henredon's Scottsdale rooms and I see ... suite by suite ... stuff that is too big for my house in all its matchy-matchy boredom.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:03AM
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What a great thread! Wish I had seen this sooner.

I could pretty much have written what 3dogs said. Just about all of our wood pieces (tables, chests, some chairs, etc.) are antique. I love the quality and patina of the old pieces.

My parents taught me to buy the best quality you can afford and we have done that in furniture. My mom and my grandmother both bought well made, good quality sofas and I can remember them having the same sofa for YEARS. There is still one at my grandmother's house that has probably been reupholstered at least 4 times. It is a timeless style. If the springs were not finally starting to wear out, it could be used again.

I also don't believe 20 year old furniture looks dated. There are some things (trendy) that of course would; but timeless, classic styles only need to be refreshed with new upholstery.

"Based on most of the posts here, nearly everyone wants the latest up-to-date look although, of course, not the fads! "

I don't agree with that statement either. I think there are many here who do not care about the latest up-to-date look, color, etc. I am one that would rather have my own style expressed rather than follow the crowd.

Other than our first sofa, we have gone the custom route and have had great success with that. Apparently I am quite picky on fabric. LOL


    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:06AM
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When I bought my first house 15+yrs ago, I bought LR, kitchen, DR and MBR furniture, all Stickley and Baker, La Barge mirrors and tables, etc like my parents always had. I also bought outdoor furniture by Brown Jordan. To do it all in one fell swoop was as much as the typical starter home in some areas. But it was what I was taught,so I planned for it, and it was an 'investment". I distinctly recall my DH and I buying our DR table together, which to me was as symbolic as getting engaged (we weren't at the time).

Today, I still appreciate the beauty of all these things, but they feel like liabilities, to be honest. It makes no sense to sell them, so I have to fit them in. They were bought for a different style house with different rooms, of course. I have managed to find a way to use most of it, but not always optimally. And I have 10 dining chairs stored in our (climate controlled) basement for want of a place to use something so formal ...

If I had to do it over again, I don't think i'd "invest" (who is kidding who, only very rarely does a layperson buy furniture that would appreciate, first having to get over the hurdle of huge markups) as much. I would try to find more used furniture and or antique, so that it would not kill me to update or change styles.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:13AM
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I walk into Stickly or Henredon's Scottsdale rooms and I see ... suite by suite ... stuff that is too big for my house in all its matchy-matchy boredom

I totally agree with that sense if you look at Stickley's showrooms, but they have actually branched out in their furniture offerings to include some more modern choices. And not everything is huge in scale. It's too bad they are displayed so poorly, in such an unimaginative and matchy-matchy way in the showroom. We bought several pieces from Stickley for rooms throughout our house and none of them are in their "traditional" style and none of them are matchy. But most of the items we bought were not discovered by me from their showroom choices, but rather suggested by the store designer we used who was familiar with their whole catalog and my taste.

But the quality of everything we bought from them has been great, and if you hit them at the times of their biggest sales you can get very good value for your money. When I have shopped there I have seen younger people shopping/buying there, but they could do a much better job making the experience less stuffy and intimidating.

This post was edited by sas95 on Thu, Aug 21, 14 at 10:37

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:34AM
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My parents had nothing to pass down. My dad was the youngest of 6. His dad was a math teacher; no extra money. My dad was a priest so nothing was passed to him anyway. My mom came from a more middle-class family. My mom was a nun, so again, nothing, except a very modest DR set was given to her.

I have liked antique furniture since I was a child. My parents had an MCM bedroom set that I disliked. My mom liked Scandinavian Design, and she still has most of that still.

We inherited a bedroom set from my husband's family. So large and not my taste. Very well made, likely from the 80s. Early American. Eventually I replaced it with antique oak furniture, and we have many problems with drawers. Looks better and smaller but not as functional.

Pal, I think the problem is that children are indoors more. We eat only in designated rooms at tables, no Sharpies, etc., but the sofas get so dirty just from body oil. If the kids could run around the neighborhood more (I am paranoid), I bet furniture would hold up longer.

I feel like there is a lot of competition for good, used furniture. CL, Ebay, and Etsy all show there is a market. Deals get snapped up immediately. Maybe most people aren't buying used, but there are enough who are. Thus, even with used furniture, I still can't afford the best.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 11:23AM
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BTW, I just read the other posts and had some comments. I think that furniture has become more like fashion (because of HGTV and similar, shelter mags, catalogues, etc) and hence is going through shorter cycles. People are less likely to invest because they see it as fashion.

As far as kids, i think its the same issue as guests. Everyone is expected to be careful and respectful, but accidents will happen. If it would truly greatly distress you to have something ruined by an accident, you should not use it to begin with. As DH says "it's the cost of doing business" that something needs to be repaired or cleaned now and again.

"the private school share of total enrollments has decreased over the past 15 years, from about 12 percent to 10 percent."

I think entertaining at home has risen; hence huge islands, great rooms, outdoor kitchens. "...consumers today are using their homes as a hub of activity, opening their
doors to their neighbors and family, and expressing their creativity through
home entertainment."

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 11:24AM
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Okay, I had to read that twice. Dad was a preist and Mom was a nun? Forget the furniture discussion, I want to pull up a chair and hear more! LOL

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 11:29AM
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Me too Anele! That is fascinating!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 11:45AM
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Holly- Kay

I could never be accused of having matchy matchy in my living room. Out of the three new pieces we purchased (all in leather to go with older upholstered pieces) two are a burnished leather and look ancient as though they have been there forever. I have always loved antiques so the old look just seems to fit right in.

I still have some pieces that I have had since starting housekeeping almost 42 years ago and other pieces that were my DM's. They were antiques when I got them and they have aged well. I never felt that they were out of style and they will reside in my home until my body gets carried out feet first or I have to go into assisted living.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 12:39PM
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I gave all my solid wood DR furniture I inherited from my parents to my DS and DIL, whose house it fits better. They are thrilled. I bought a little "cheapie" table and chairs to do until I figure out what I want to replace it with (DH doesn't care what he sits on as long as he gets fed!) I haven't found anything I really like that has the "heft" of the older traditional furniture without the size. And now we're thinking of putting the house on the market in the next year or two, because I will be retiring at some point in the not-so-distant future and we want to move south, so ... do I buy now for this house or wait to see where we end up? I think that is a dilemma a lot of people are facing as a lot of the population reaches this point.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 12:42PM
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Part of the way life is changing is how people choose to display their powers of acquisition.

People will buy large houses with impressive facades (or small houses designed to look bigger with impressive facades) rather than buying something more modest and actually furnishing it. They want to impress people they don't know more than people who actually make it inside the house.

A lot of people will lease very expensive cars and buy clothing with obvious designer labels (and fake designer labels) and have the latest phones and anything that they can carry around to display their discretionary income.

I know of one woman in NYC who has a decent job (over 6 figures which means less in NYC than most places) and wears genuine Chanel and other designers, and eats out at all the trendiest places.

She's not a young woman starting out, she's middle-aged.

Her apartment contains a bed and a TV set. She could buy a reasonable sofa for what she pays for a single Chanel handbag. But no one would be as impressed by a sofa as they are by the beautiful clothes she wears every day.

This is an example taken to the extreme, and maybe she has a table and chair, now, I dunno, this was a couple of years ago.

If you compare this to my mother and some other women of her generation: my mother wore good, well-made clothing but she thought anything with an obvious designer label or insignia on it was "vulgar" and she wouldn't buy it. She complained of her favorite handbags being "Ruined" when they started putting an obvious insignia on them.
She would also tell people that her diamond engagement ring and earrings were fake, if it was someone she didn't know well who asked about them and she thought was drawing attention to them. I think that sort of discretion is dying with that generation. Now so many people need to impress people they don't know on a daily basis.

Since this is a forum for design interested people, I don't think this really applies here...we are interested in having nice houses whether we spend a lot on them or not. But I know people who could buy a decent sofa in a relatively short period of time if they would cut back on expensive eating and drinking, and phone upgrades and completely nonsensical spending on clothing they may never wear and consumables from Target than they bought in bulk because it was on sale. But they won't.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 2:39PM
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She could buy a reasonable sofa for what she pays for a single Chanel handbag. But no one would be as impressed by a sofa as they are by the beautiful clothes she wears every day.

I agree that there are plenty of people who are only interested in impressing the outside world, but there are also people who love clothes, jewelry, etc. and couldn't care less about furniture. Before I bought my house, we had moved around quite a bit and I wasn't interested in acquiring expensive furniture for a variety of reasons. But I have always loved nice clothes (not clothes emblazoned with designer logos, but well-tailored, fine fabrics, etc.) so that's what I spent my money on. I'm sure people who visited our home-- if they chose to notice the disparity between my choice of clothes and furniture-- could have concluded that I was merely concerned with appearances and I was out to impress strangers, but that was hardly the case. Making assumptions about people's priorities based on this type of assessment, without more, is dangerous, IMO.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 2:49PM
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I'm sure that at some point people could have drawn comparisons between my meh clothing and my good furniture. But my good furniture was hidden from most people. I get your point, people care about different things. I know people who spend all their money on travel. That's fine.

But I think I can draw a conclusion about someone who has a mattress on the floor and nothing else but carries different $1500 handbags on a daily basis, that she is out to make an impression to the outside world and not be far off the mark. I see nothing dangerous about this assumption at all.

I know people who have to make choices between rent+clothing or furniture and have no furniture, that's different.

But in my example, she was making a purely discretionary decision between Chanel, et al. and No furniture.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:06PM
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I finally plunged into a thread, and what a fascinating read!

I found its increasingly difficult to buy nicer lines of manufactured furniture and that design centers are scaling back. Like in society, the gulf between the low end and mainstream and the upper echelons has widened. And as Pal noted, the newer generations place a lower priority on these things -- actually, anyone younger than Boomers.

Personally, I've found my own purchases moving lower end over the years, even as our ability to pay has risen. I will admit to being dissatisfied with quality, however.

The most interesting thing, however, is Anele's fascinating family history.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:20PM
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What I don't appreciate are the frequent assumptions that the values of a previous generation are either superior to those of subsequent generations, or are no longer appreciated--too much idealization of our parents' and grandparents' generations, and not enough credit to the thoughtful, creative, and resourceful youth that are out there today.

There's a lot that can be explained about our disposable economy and our throw-away furniture that has more to do with the choices of our parents, than the preferences of our youth.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:21PM
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I guess that depends about which generation you mean when you talk about "parents" and "younger".

I think the increasing amount of disposability started with My generation, which was born around the time "back to the earth" and "Earth Day" and "ecology" and "environment" became household words.

KInd of like "fat-free" foods appearing and obesity skyrocketing immediately after.

I don't think the younger generation and their propensity to discard is as much their fault as it is the fault of my particular generation. We raised them to do it.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 4:02PM
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Consignment stores in our area seem to have shuttered up over the past decade. And I think there is a segment that would be willing to pay a premium for organized consignment as opposed to Craigslist

-Isn't that an oxymoron? If those people were out there who would be willing to pay a premium for organized consignment, why would those consignment stores have been shuttered?

I feel like there is a lot of competition for good, used furniture. CL, Ebay, and Etsy all show there is a market. Deals get snapped up immediately

-There is, when it costs $100 or $200. Nobody's selling this stuff for gobs of money.

But I think I can draw a conclusion about someone who has a mattress on the floor and nothing else but carries different $1500 handbags on a daily basis, that she is out to make an impression to the outside world and not be far off the mark. I see nothing dangerous about this assumption at all.
I know people who could buy a decent sofa in a relatively short period of time if they would cut back on expensive eating and drinking, and phone upgrades and completely nonsensical spending on clothing they may never wear and consumables from Target than they bought in bulk because it was on sale. But they won't

-I see nothing dangerous about it either, but I do think its a misconception. Just because you care more about your furniture and less about your clothes, why shouldn't someone else care more about their clothes (or food or travel, whatever) and less about their furniture?

-I still have some pieces that I have had since starting housekeeping almost 42 years ago

We also set up housekeeping over 40 years ago. 2 years ago, when we sold our suburban home and moved to a city loft, we got rid of nearly every stick of furniture we owned. We wanted new stuff, and we wanted a different style. Gone, and not missed.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 5:17PM
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>>>>Consignment stores in our area seem to have shuttered up over the past decade. And I think there is a segment that would be willing to pay a premium for organized consignment as opposed to Craigslist
-Isn't that an oxymoron? If those people were out there who would be willing to pay a premium for organized consignment, why would those consignment stores have been shuttered?Sorry I wasn't clear. I meant kind of like the lease/sell back programs that carmakers have. Organized by the major manufacturers themselves to provide legitimacy. "Certified pre-owned Baker sofa" or something like that ;-) They could offer upholstery services, etc. I'm not sure who else would be able to provide the function and have a large enough inventory/volume to make it worthwhile. Just an idea.

I am guessing at least part of the reason some mom & pop consignment storefronts closed up even in wealthy areas like Los Altos and Palo Alto is sparse inventory and difficult rents -- I also think they focused more on jewelry and decorative items (makes sense given their size). Those naturally would be the folks to move to eBay, Etsy, CL . . . That just makes their stuff even more inaccessible to someone like me who actually wants to do some due diligence before making a purchase. Can't just go look, have to make an appointment . . .

This post was edited by Oaktown on Thu, Aug 21, 14 at 18:49

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:01PM
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Well, in our area consignment stores will take stuff at simply insane prices. There's one where I looked a few years ago for wheelback Sheraton chairs. She had a set, the same junky ones I could buy in a place like Kirklands, but the consignment shop wanted as much for each chair as a whole set would have cost me at Kirklands. We're not talking Baker here, but Homegoods quality. Those chairs are still sitting there gathering dust.

I'm not surprised consignment stores are closing. Around here they made no attempt to reason with their clients about just how much you can expect to get for used furniture that isn't stylish, and willingly price stuff at or near the same price fit would fetch brand new.

Especially odd when you can get it for almost nothing in a thrift, or for a more reasonable price in a regular antique/estate sale place.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:12PM
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"Part of the way life is changing is how people choose to display their powers of acquisition"

Part of, Part of, Part of, Part of Part of, Part of, Part of, Part of, Part of,

the reason patterns in furniture buying are changing is because of this. No Value Judgment Attached. (In most cases, but yes I am probably judging some of it)

There didn't used to be designer clothes and goods that were identified only because of their label announcing what they are. No such thing as cell phones and portable electronics. Having a house phone was what $20 a month? TV used to be free and tethered to the inside of your house. Now its $100s a month and you can carry it all around. But the change in spending means somewhere less money is spent and I think that One area of this is on furniture and/or on being house proud. Other things have supplanted it.

The ways that people have to spend their discretionary income is changing and in some ways it's much more public. The Chanel woman was an extreme and perhaps Bad example of that type of spending.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:14PM
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I don't think there's a 25-year-old in the country who would trade their smartphone for a sofa. That's just a fact of our culture. (Also, FWIW, I live in a desirable Chicago suburb, and the store that's expanding in our trendy mall is Forever 21. Designer brands are more popular at our "outlet malls", but that's a whole other story. I don't see where today's youth is placing much emphasis on clothing labels.)

Furniture manufacturers (and every other manufacturer, for that matter) need to adapt to what consumers want, but only the lesser quality ones have done so--lazygardens made some excellent points above. So does this presentation I've linked below. For many in the younger generation, a "quality of life" doesn't equate to a massive DR table with matching hutch or a hefty sofa that's built to last 30 years. If you take the time to view the presentation, skip forward to about 2/3 of they way through for his recommendations for multifunctional furniture. Again, perhaps extreme and ahead of its time, but this type of ingenuity is what's appreciated by the 20-somethings, not solid oak and dovetail drawers...

Here is a link that might be useful: Less stuff, more happiness

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:48PM
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These days everyone's trying to follow the latest fad all the time and it would be too expensive to buy high quality furniture and replace it as often as people seem to want to. So they'd rather buy something cheap and replace it often than high quality and replace it almost as often just because they want to change styles.

Also, everyone wants everything right away without having to wait for it or save. They'd rather buy something cheap just because they can have it right away than to save for a year to buy something of high quality. The cheap stuff might even look almost as good when it's brand new - and they're too short sighted to realize that in a few years the junk will look like junk where as something of high quality will still look as good as new as long as it was well treated. They'd rather buy cheap things every 2 years than buy good things that would last a lifetime.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:46PM
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Peony4, loved the TED Talks video you linked. I don't think I could live in 420 square feet, but I think we hit our own "sweet spot" with our new house.

This is totally off the subject, but I've attached my favorite TED Talk. It is Amy Cuddy's talk and it is powerful, especially when you hear about her challenges.

Here is a link that might be useful: Amy Cuddy TED Talk

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:53PM
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Bbstx - fascinating Ted talk. My profession involved a lot of public speaking, and we used to use an acting coach. I now realize some of what she had us do before going up on stage is very similar! I'm going to have my kids watch that too.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:43PM
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robo (z6a)

Speaking as a somewhat younger person (ok, somewhat middle aged), my friends definitely don't place a high priority on expensive furniture. They would be more likely to spend big chunks of money on experiences (like a nice dinner out, travel, or kayaking) than expensive stuff for their homes - aside from the computer or tv of course. I approve of this mindset as I think experiences are generally more life-enriching than possessions.

I also think we could think in a different way about people buying homes at the top of their budget and then underfurnishing them. For most people, a house may not be the financially wisest investment, but it's generally decent and stable. It sure has a better return than new, expensive furniture. You will never ever recoup even close to your investment in new furniture. It's sheer consumption spending, like a fast car or a vacation. It can be very pleasurable but it's not something to take on debt for.

In a house purchase, location and amenities tend to drive prices and also tend to have a direct impact on your quality of life. The quality of life increase from a $10,000 couch is a lot more tenuous. Not that I think everyone should live in a huge mansion (I certainly don't). But I also spent a lot less than 10% or even 5% of my house price furnishing it - because we spent almost the top of our house budget to get a nice old house in a great urban location. That was SO much more important to us at the time than making sure it was decorated nicely, I mean, those two priorities weren't even on the same page.

A second chunk of money (10% of house value) went to renovations - but once again, improving the functionality of the house again took precedence over nice things. Bottom line, we have to take our time (and bargain shop!) furnishing our house. That said, I've made a pact to at least try to buy solid wood furniture wherever possible. I prefer vintage (MCM) furniture and it is extremely hard to find in my area. I look at Kijiji (our craigslist) for "teak" "walnut" and "rosewood" every day. Am considering paying the shipping premium to shop on ebay.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:05PM
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Furniture in terms of return on investment is about as bad as a car: it loses half it's value upon delivery.

A house doesn't give that great of a return on investment either, I don't think. Not if you factor in how much you actually pay for it with mortgage interest and how much you pay for upkeep and repairs. Especially if you live in a non-urban, non-expanding area.

But ultimately furniture should provide a place to sit, to sleep and to eat comfortably and a house should provide a place to live, primarily. But I don't think it's a good investment to purchase the same thing repeatedly, either.

I agree that it's a fact of our culture that a 25 year old wouldn't trade a phone for a piece of furniture. At 25 I was not much interested in furniture either. I think that's pretty natural. But the thing that's changing is that I think a larger segment of American society is going to stay disinterested in permanence. I probably know a weird subset of people but the Chanel woman I mentioned is middle-aged, and high income, not a young person starting out. And I have other friends that are older than I am --in their fifties, and gainfully and adequately employed, and they don't have much of anything "permanent" to show for it--including savings for retirement. And while some people thrive on an unencumbered life, for some of my friends it seems to have left them a bit disaffected and rootless, as if this unencumbered life just "happened" and was not a conscious choice.
Of course I don't think that having a good sofa is the answer.

This post was edited by palimpsest on Thu, Aug 21, 14 at 22:41

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:39PM
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I first heard Amy Cuddy talking about The Talk on Public Radio. I think it is fantastic! I always tear up at the part about her personal challenges (I want everyone to watch it, so I'm being a little cagey about the "challenges"). I've sent it to my child and my niece and nephew.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:48PM
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Thanks for that link, BBstx, I sent it to a few peoples who I know will benefit from it. It seems like a very practical manifestation of this idea expressed by Mahatma Gandhi:

âÂÂCarefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.âÂÂ

And so what we think, we become, and what we express non verbally as well.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:49PM
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I would love high end furniture and adore my antique dressers but cannot see spending that type of money when I can be comfortable with more affordable pieces.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 11:08PM
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super quote, KSWL, thanks for passing it along

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 11:42PM
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I think one thing that has changed, and that has had a huge impact on how people decorate their homes, is the speed with which trends and styles move these days.

In decades past, trends moved more slowly. The sofa you bought today would still look fresh and in style 10 years later. But today, even with large, expensive pieces like sofas, the styles are changing faster and faster.

So if you want your house to look "current," you need to replace your furniture more often. Instead of what my parents and grandparents did, which was to buy a sofa and consider their sofa shopping done, perhaps for the rest of their lives.

There are those who think it necessary to change out the furniture in their rooms at least every 5 years, and completely redecorate from flooring to paint to curtains. This is my (ex) sister-in-law. She was upset that her kids got upset when she tried to re-do their rooms. They loved their comforters and beds and didn't want new ones, while she looked at the same furnishings and only saw "old, out-dated."

She repaints her kitchen a new color yearly, and tosses out all the decorative accessories (and there are a lot, it's a big kitchen) and buys all new ones. She's been in her house 12 years, and the first floor has seen three complete re-dos--wallpaper, furniture, fabrics, accessories.

When you are buying furniture that often, you don't want investment pieces, you want something that looks good short-term, but ages rapidly enough so that when you are tired of it, it looks worn enough that you don't feel bad about throwing it out.

Me, I have my great-grandparents' bookcase and my other grandparents' armchair in the living room. Both still going strong, and over 75 years old.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:36AM
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robo (z6a)

I love older things too. I have the solid oak bookcase my grandfather made in junior high shop class about 80 years ago, and quite a few other sentimental furniture pieces he made. At some point I have to save up the cash to get them all refinished - he was good on construction but man, he didn't put a lot of time into the finishing. Just for example, I have a solid birds eye maple dresser he made for me, I can't even guess how much that wood must have cost, and the whole thing is covered in about 1/8" thick, rough poly.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Fri, Aug 22, 14 at 9:07

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 9:06AM
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robo, how lucky you are to have such wonderful pieces from your grandfather. I am pleased for you that you recognize the underlying importance of the piece instead of just looking at the finish and dismissing it.

Are you in a place where you can strip the piece and french polish it? It would add another layer of family history to the chest. Your grandchild could say, "this chest was built by my great great grandfather and the french polish was applied by my grandmother/father" (I don't know your gender)

I have a friend who is a fantastic woodworker, too (retired engineer so all is very precisely done). Like your grandfather, the building of the object is much more important to him than the finishing of it.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to french polish

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 10:05AM
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As an aside, at one time we were "into" antiques. We didn't have any money then, but we bought a couple of very nice pieces (not necessarily valuable) - an American oak dresser and mirror, and a hallstand. We used the dresser sans mirror in the hall in our previous home for years, but the hallstand lived in the attic. Last year, I listed both on Craigslist. The highest offer I got was $50. I ended up giving them away to an elderly person who needed something for her new place at an assisted living facility. I have no idea what they cost originally, but as far as the marketplace goes, they had no dollar value in 2014.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 1:44PM
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I think palimpsest might have a point that it's all about impressing people.

But I think that was true as much in the past as it is today. Someone mentioned an uncle who was a Detroit executive who had fancy furniture because they hosted fancy parties. Even people employed in lower levels cared about their furniture because of the entertaining aspect. We HAD formal living rooms that nobody in the family ever entered, they were for guests only. Now that we're no longer entertaining at home very much, we no longer need the fancy furniture to impress others. Now we need the stuff we carry or drive to be what impresses.

But people "back in the day" were just as much about impressing.

If anything, they were MORE concerned with outward appearances back then. Why else would a man of the 50s never leave the house without a jacket and tie, but now it's hard to get some of them to ensure their shirt at least has no holes?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 3:31PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I'm not sure what the difference between impressing with your clothes or house is but pretty sure the clothes are cheaper even if you carry a Birken. But at least with house impressions, generally, the furniture is comfortable. Maybe.

I often tend to think that those with nice houses could/should buy much better clothes.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 3:49PM
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I am not trying to say that one form of doing something to impress is better than another form, but one is more public than the other.

You may have a $26,000 sofa or you may have a $26,000 Birkin Bag--or whatever they cost now. Any stranger on the street who recognizes Hermes will see the bag, only people who are well enough acquainted to be invited into your living room will see the sofa--and the people you invited into your house are more likely to be like you than a stranger on the street. They may have their own $26,000 sofa and think nothing of yours.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 4:01PM
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My point is that people had more strangers into their homes 50 years ago than they do today. Maybe not strangers, but work acquaintances, neighbours, parents of other children, etc.

They might have their own $26k sofa, but all the more reason that you need one. You wouldn't want them comparing your $500 sofa to their $26k one.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 11:41PM
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"My point is that people had more strangers into their homes 50 years ago than they do today. Maybe not strangers, but work acquaintances, neighbours, parents of other children, etc."

I don't agree with the above, and I think it depends upon more on your location, personality, style of entertaining, etc, than it does on anno domini. When our kids were small we hosted tons of events for school, birthday parties, etc. When I was active in service organizations we had committee meetings and parties in our homes, and people have always hosted church events at home. Now we are on kid's college and alumni committees and purely social events as well. We don't entertain nonstop, but often enough that I still want the house to look as nice as possible, not to "make an impression" but to provide a lovely and comfortable background for social interactions.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 5:46AM
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Duplicate post

This post was edited by kswl on Sat, Aug 23, 14 at 5:48

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 5:47AM
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"You wouldn't want them comparing your $500 sofa to their $26k one. "
Seriously, this is why you would spend an INSANE amount of money on a COUCH? WOW.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:02AM
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It's hyperbole.....very few people spend that much money on a sofa.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:21AM
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$26,000 came up because it's the approximate price of an iconic handbag.

I wonder if more people have the bag, or more people spend that on a sofa. I'm guessing the bag, nowadays.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:44AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Wow. Interesting discussion, I only had time to skim. As other people touched on, this is all part of a broader cultural shift. For example I know a very upper middle class in the suburbs of Philly. Certainly not "philistines" - I think he went to a good engineering school, she went to Smith. They have a nice > 1 million house, but not a historic one. It's tasteful new construction. But I can tell the furniture isn't Baker or Henredon quality. OTOH, they have about 3 huge flat screen TVs on their first level - in the family room, kitchen, and study, and obviously one in their bedroom. They have Showtime, HBO and all the other premium channels, which means they spend, what $200 a month just on TV? And obviously everyone has a smart phone with an expensive data plan. My point is people have different priorities these days...the prestigious of furniture just isn't one of them. I loved the anecdote about waiting for prices to drop. Reminds me of my Mom in the late 80s who told us at the dinner table for a couple months about how she was trying to get a better price on a Labarge coffee table. She finally did.

Worth mentioning on a forum called gardenweb btw - that the same thing is happening in horticulture. People used to be willing to shell out for "prestige" plants from "prestige" nurseries. Not anymore, or not nearly to the extent they used to. A few years ago I called around Philly area nurseries - some like Waterloo are gone now of course - and was shocked how hard it was to find cultivars of European Beech. Whereas as recently as about 1998, when Styers (the original, before the series of buyouts culminating with the purchase by Urban Outfitters) first posted a list of available plants online, they had many many cultivars and I remember stopping in to see them when I visited relatives in the Philly area.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 7:36AM
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