Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quality takes a backseat nowdays it seems...

Has everything in life become disposable??? Totally off the topic of stitching, but I figured if anyone would "get" why I'm so peeved, you guys would, as stitchers, heirloom and handcrafted mean something to us.

Mom and I went furniture shopping last week. She wanted a new bedroom set, since dad's passing a couple months ago she hasn't been able to bring herself to sleep in their bed, so she figured she would use that set for the spare bedroom.

Our first stops were to the large chain stores since we figured they would have the best selection. Wrong. Even though some of the sets were over $5000, not a one was solid wood. They were all veneers of hardwood over cheaper wood or pressboard. From a distance they looked nice, but upon closer inspection you could see where the grain didn't match up where the veneers were glued on. The salespeople looked at us like we were crazy when we said we were looking for solid wood, preferably North American made, they all said no one makes stuff like that anymore, it's too expensive. You've got to be kidding me.

Well they were wrong, we did find a store that sold it - several in fact, though all carried pretty much the same stuff, because there are so few companies that still make it. Most of them are Mennonite or Amish by the way, since there are so few proper woodcrafters and cabinetmakers left nowdays - but that's another rant.

I always thought of furniture as something you invest in, when it looks aged or worn, you don't throw it away, you refinish it. It's something you hand down to your kids and grandkids someday and it lasts for generations. I mean I'm not what you'd call affluent, but I was raised by a builder and live with a carpenter - quality means something. Apparently that's not true anymore. The stuff most places are selling you couldn't refinish, you would HAVE to replace them. I don't know if it's just me, but you'll spend more in a lifetime buying cheap replaceable furniture instead of a one time purchase that lasts forever. Sure it'll take years to pay off, but it's worth it. Maybe that's why these big chains don't sell the good stuff anymore - it's not a matter of expense, but because they want you to keep coming back every few years to replace one piece or another as they wear out - ask me about my 3 year old sofa that I got suckered into and is already worn out, and guess where I WON'T be looking for a new one. Well that and the fact that most people nowdays don't care about quality, it's all about price and cheap garbage from China is what you'll find most places.

I have had three heirloom quality bedroom sets, my childhood set had been my grandmother's and then my mother's, then mine, and then my son's. I still have it, though it needs to be refinished, and will keep it for my son's children. The first "adult" set I had was a gift from my grandmother when I got married. When I got divorced, I kept it for my son (he's now using it and will for the rest of his life). The second I bought myself after my divorce, it's 15 years old, solid oak made by Stickley, still in perfect condition, and will last me the rest of my life. I did have a beautiful mahogany antique dining room set that I was having stored, but my ex apparently gave it away (loooong story) which I'm very annoyed about. I bought it from his father for $400, yet it was worth 20 times that easily. Someday when I have my own house and the means to do so I will add to my collection of heirloom furniture.

For anyone interested in really good quality home furnishings, here are a few of the North American companies that really impressed me:

Newton Furnishings


Kincaid Furniture

Buhler Furniture

Stickley Furniture

All are custom made - most of the sets can be purchased in several different types of wood/stains. Some will even custom make pieces in the style you like with different dimensions. Mom got pieces from the Florentino set from Newton.

As far as expensive, it WAS more than the chain stores were charging for their garbage - $7500 tax, delivery and set up included, custom built to her preferences of wood type and finish (dark golden oak). It was so hard to choose, there was so much beautiful stuff! Someday it will be mine because my brother doesn't like it - it's too old fashioned. To me it's not old fashioned, it's timeless, classic and elegant. Then again, my brother changes furniture like he changes his clothes, he tires of it and replaces it every few years.

That brings me to my point. When I was telling everyone at work about this, nobody got it except two people - one who is in the market for new furniture for her whole house since her house burned down last summer and she lost all of her mother's antique heirloom furniture. The other was my boss who obviously gets the quality thing, he's a butcher and won't sell anything except the highest quality. I was astonished that everyone else thought it was insane to spend that kind of money on something you're just going to sleep on. Yet these same people bitch about the influx of Chinese made crap on the market - and they just don't see that they're the ones who have enabled it. And when they're in the market for their third new bedroom set, I'll still be enjoying the one I already have. ;)


  1. I agree with you 100% I would rather spend a little more and get good quality furniture that is classic and will last a long time. The set your mom chose from is gorgeous! I have a cannonball bed that I bought new about 10 years ago and it's holding up very well! Solid wood, too! :-)

  2. You said it, Nicole! Good quality is worth paying for.

    Here are a few other furniture makers that I know of: Johnston Benchworks, Benner's Woodworking, Bucks County Furniture, Greene Brothers, and Salado Fine Woodworks