Don’t Believe What You See

A trend started in the world of home furnishings a few years back. The idea was that if people expect to pay $300 for a chair, then manufacturers would say, “Let’s create a chair worth $300.”

How can that happen when the fabric alone is worth $300?  Well, that’s easy: put fabric on something that’s not worth anything. Manufacturers have used rough wood from pallets and cut-down cardboard boxes. Instead of foam, manufacturers used shredded rubber left over from making foam.

How did people get the idea that a chair should cost $300?

That’s what our parents or grandparents paid for a chair. Rationally, how does one expect that furniture today should cost what it did 50 years ago? And truly, that’s what I hear people saying. In my first internship 50 years ago, a very nice (but basic) chair cost $300.

That same chair is $3,000 today. But, aren’t there chairs for sale at $300?  The $300 chair you’re seeing is a theatrical illusion. There’s a reason they call it “staging.”  These pieces look like furniture – but be careful! If you use them, they will fall apart. And, if they fall apart, it’s because you used them.

Some Modern Furniture Isn’t Built To Last

Furniture that was meant to be used and still performs with comfort and beauty is not the norm.

In today’s world, people want their homes to look furnished immediately. In years past, homeowners purchased quality furniture collections over time. Today, on a tight budget, how does one accomplish that?

Many people buy the cardboard-and-pallet-wood furniture that’s no more durable than the temporary furniture used on a stage set that lasts three months. Then, you throw it away. The advantage is that changing the look of your room to match trends is easy when you keep starting from scratch. Furniture stores appreciate the idea: it’s called built-in obsolescence.

Obsolescence keeps you coming back even if you have to live with the poorly-made furniture for two years (and it was uncomfortable for a year and a half). You have no choice. You spent the money, and now it’s time to live with it until you can afford purchase something else.

During the summer,  I helped out in my neighborhood cleanup day. It was interesting to see what people are throwing away. Used-up furniture pieces went into the city garbage truck. As you can  see in this video, this furniture was easily  disposed of.  Our furniture today is built so poorly it takes very little to crush it into nothing.

The Fallacy of “Less Is More”

Today we’re talking about” less is more.” That’s because money is tight for home furnishings, so the market has promoted the idea that you only need less.

Actually, that’s not the definition of less is more. The famous architect, Mies van der Rhoe , frequently used this term. He’s often misquoted, because he was actually referring to simplicity of design.

Of course, the phrase works well for today’s social media,  because now you’ve been trained to believe that you should be comfortable with two chairs in your living room instead of a sofa and three chairs.

In contrast, Grandmother’s furniture that was built so well has lasted through time. It’s desirable and still beautiful. Some of these pieces may be 100 years old and are called antiques now.  The quality of materials and craftsmanship from that era contributed to something that is worth owning.

What To Do Instead

What’s the solution? You need to furnish your home, so you’ll begin with a plan. Then, you won’t be distracted by the “shiny things” – the furniture that looks good, but won’t last.

Start  by drawing a floor plan. Place the furniture pieces where they need to be. It’s important to measure for the correct sizes of items.

Now, you won’t be tempted to buy the sofa that’s too big just  because it’s on sale.

Once you have the plan, start with the basic pieces.

If your best bargain is for a chair that is very well-made over a very basic sofa that is very neutral, it might actually be best to start with the chair.

Designing a space is a lot like a jigsaw puzzle. So remember, once you start purchasing items, it may be the last time you buy that piece for a long time. Select things that will be easy to add to in the future.

When I do this, I think “little black dress.”  You will buy the accessories later. They’re inexpensive and will change the theme of your room. Now, you will be able to add to the pieces with smaller parts of your budget.

It’s the same story when building a house. You don’t go buy the lamps and artwork before you have your basics constructed. You are building your future.

Select Quality Workmanship

You select good pieces of furniture that cost enough to provide for quality craftsmanship. You want to buy pieces that have the great design and a classic look, as well as durability, so that you can build upon that foundation of design in the future.

This means that instead of spending $1000 for a sofa every three years,  every two years you will be purchasing something else. It will be a better quality piece that could last you even 10 years. If you love the classic look, you will not get tired of it.

It’ll be much easier to change a piece of art or to change out the lamps to update the look of a room as time goes by. Even an accent chair that’s less expensive could be your new approach.

Once the basics are in place, have fun.  Now is your chance to play with an item you like. Consider that it could move to another room in the future or even to a guest bedroom down the road. That’s the easiest and most inexpensive way to make a large impact when you’re ready for a change.

You can have beautiful and durable furniture and a well-appointed home if you plan first. You’ll save money in the long run because your sofa  and chairs will last. And, you can still be contemporary by adding new accents – like pillows – as trends and color palettes change.