Buying Furniture (caveat emptor)
I have a confession to make, I am becoming a furniture snob. As you know, I love anything that relates to decorating the home, especially furniture; my heart beats faster when I see a quirky, vintage chair, or a table, so exquisitely built that my sense of reason (and budget) is momentarily lost. Take me shopping, and I will touch everything that catches my eye, thinking of inventive ways to take it home, strapped to the roof of my car if necessary. I will obsess over it, creating stories in my head that explains why I must include it in my life. I may not take it home, but I can guarantee that I will dream of it that night …
But, recent experiences have tilted me towards furniture snobbery, and I hope it makes you feel the same way. Have you bought a dining or bedroom set lately? Did you see the signs that said “Wood”, and the description that said it was “Cherry”? Automatically, you would assume that it is made of wood from a Cherry tree. Right? Wrong. I just clicked to the website of a very well known furniture store. Went to Dining Room sets, and hit the Cherry option. A 7 piece set (which is code for a table and six chairs, go figure) was $2,300. Go to the product description, and you find out that Cherry is the color, and it is “…..crafted of hardwoods, cathedral cherry veneers and exotic avodire veneers”.
Don’t get me wrong, veneers and composites are a wonderful, and possibly sustainable (?) way to produce furniture, but it is also a way to cut costs and create things that appear to be what they are not. If stores are going to use them, and charge those prices, then say what they are, don’t try and trick the consumer into thinking they are getting a quality, solid wood piece of furniture. Veneers and composites have more parts, therefore they will automatically have more issues than solid wood – the veneer may lift up, the glues can come apart, and the stain will often wear off more quickly. I did contact the company about their $2300 dining room set. With your purchase, you get a free one year warranty that covers manufacturers defects, or, you can spend an additional $230 to get their 5 year warranty. This will cover all sorts of spills, dents and normal wear and tear.
It used to be that wood was more expensive than veneer, but somehow that has shifted a little. I found a comparable, solid wood dining table and 6 solid wood chairs for $1600, at a very good on-line home store. In my opinion, solid wood has a couple of advantages. One, it will wear well (there is nothing to peel off or come apart), and two, it will probably last longer, and definitely look better as time goes on. FYI, soft woods (pine) will dent easily, whereas hard woods (oak, mahogany etc) will resist dings.
Whatever your preference, promise me to do some shopping around before you buy. If you are buying from any store, ask about the warranties and look for feedback on their website. Consider on-line catalogs and home stores; these used to be a lot more expensive (and style specific) but are now much cheaper, and offer a lot of solid wood choices. Also, if time is something you have to spend, go to some local thrift stores or second hand retailers – older pieces tend to be more solid.
Furniture can be an expensive, and permanent, purchase for your home, so don’t be afraid to do your homework first. And, if you’re wandering the stores, undecided, just give me a call!
p.s. Photograph of this lovely, mis-matched, reclaimed dining room set is from House Beautiful
For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to: http://www.thebluegiraffe.com/