Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reader Question: First Pieces of Furniture or Art


Reader Question for the Community:
I have especially been interested in the wonderful furniture and picture photographs you have on your site.  They match my taste more than the current minimalist styles that are everywhere else. My fiancĂ© and I live in an apartment now but will be buying our first house within a year or two.  How should we start our real furniture buying?  What are the first pieces to get, and where are good places to get them?  We can store anything with my parents for now.  Thanks to you and to anyone with thoughts they can share.






















18 comments:

  1. I know that this is something the inquirer does not want to hear most likely, but here goes. Before acquiring furniture, above and beyond basics and needs, make sure that the priorities of life are funded first, i.e., emergency fund retirement, life insurance, health insurance, etc. That being said, and this not being a finance blog, first pieces are a good bed and a good sofa. A solid table and chairs for eating meals is up there also. Scour good antique stores, auctions, estate sales, etc. to look for quality furniture. Read about how quality furniture is made and don't be afraid of a few scuffs when buying used. Good quality furniture can be reupholstered. Save up, buy selectively what you like a piece at a time and build your collection over time. It doesn't have to be antiques, just be sure the quality is there and it's what you like.

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    1. Wow. You nailed it. I can only add to go to estate sales, thrift stores and antique stores with an open mind and a clear eye. Enjoy the experience.

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  2. Anon@ 11:03am. I could not agree more. We bought some wonderful second hand items, many antiques at yard sales, and the local Episcopal thrift store often has stuff lightly used for a bargin, ( they even had a small pipe organ for a bargin when the Lutheran church decided they needed a " new one"and if I had the space, would have purchased.) and most cities have some quality thrift shops. Most of these items will last our lives, our child's life and our grandchildren's lives....

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  3. Yes, all above is good advice. Prioritize and build slowly, enjoy the process over time. Quality items with history and character always seem to work together. Avoid stainless steel appliances--they make kitchens look like morgues.

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    1. I agree about all the stainless steel.

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  4. These are great comments with excellent advice. I also offer from my own experience that depending on your community, consider carpenter/craftspeople who make furniture for reasonable cost. We purchased some simply styled coffee and end table set from a local tradesman as a "starter" and these durable, timeless "cabin" style pieces are still very much in use some 30 years later.

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  5. My wife and I have been fortunate to inherit some furniture and art & a clock from my grandmother and great aunts, and have been able to purchase some other items (tables & a chesterfield) at a bargain price from friends of my parents.

    We also make a point to visit antique shops when we travel - we've been able to obtain two beautiful antique floor lamps that have been re-wired and fitted with LED bulbs and new lampshades.

    Being in Canada, we also have access to Kijiji, which is an online 'classifieds ads' site owned by eBay - free to post items and you can meet in person for transactions. We've purchased some mid-century Scandinavian dining room chairs and a cabinet for our turntable and stereo through that site.

    New furniture often cuts corners on construction, especially in the stuffing used in cushions (which bags out prematurely). However, items can be reupholstered, or even just re-stuffed with higher quality foam.

    As has been mentioned before, a piece at a time, consider second-hand, and do not buy many items at once. Waiting until there is a need or an opportunity is usually much more rewarding in the end; I believe it results in more of the 'eclectic and considered' taste that many of us find appealing.

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  6. So far, all practical advice I agree with. While acquiring staples and decorative items, choose only those things that speak to you, that you absolutely love. Be open to hand-me-downs from family. Your choices should tell a story. The most interesting houses I've seen have evolved. Never be so desperate as to furnish a room overnight. Scout around and take your time. You should never tire of your choices - they should last a lifetime. Remember: quality over quantity and keep it simple.

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  7. What a good topic. I would add only a few points. First, make sure the sofa you purchase is comfortable. I find many of the newer ones are way too deep to sit on comfortably; you have to sprawl on them. Second, don't be worried to use the things you have. Our kitchen table is about a hundred years old and it is only getting more scratched up with time. May be we will refinish it some day but right now I feel like the marks are a record of our family's life. Best of luck!

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  8. Try to avoid allowing your acquisition of the necessary pieces to morph into simply accumulating "stuff." You will find you spent the first two thirds of your life surrounding yourself with it, and the last third trying to get rid of it.

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  9. Speaking from experience, I bought most of my first pieces at the Salvation Army, flea markets, tag sales, and auctions. I then took upolstery classes for about five years. These pieces are heavy, well-made, and still in my home. Eventually, I inherited some lovely Chinoiserie pieces but I still have a special fondness for my "finds." Today there are also online options such as Letgo and Chairish where one can search for goodies. Refreshing to hear that you like the cozy, comfortable, traditional style.

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  10. Having spent my adult life traveling before finally coming back to settle, I find that we are also looking to supplement our household with some quality pieces. It takes time and a bit of searching. I also have realized that I need to be ready to purchase and transport any finds immediately as they are often not there the next time! I'm looking forward to nosing about my favorite places this summer with my daughter. We may happen upon a treasure or two along the way.

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  11. Very good advice. Our kitchen table is an old Detroit Public Library table I bought for $5 at the Salvation Army in 1975. I wouldn't part with it for anything. Scour estate sales, auction houses and the like. As said before, don't try to furnish a room overnight and buy only those things that speak to you, you won't regret it. Have fun!

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  12. The items pictured are just lovely. You are unlike our 2 kids, who love our things, but always end up at Ikea. Pretty old chests, such as those in pictures 2 and 6, would be a great start. If you have access to an antique piece, slide out a drawer and see what hand cut joinery looks like and how dove tailed corners often show some of the pencil mark where they were scribed before cutting. See what the bottom of a drawer that is hand planed is like. Take good note of the height of the piece that pleases you. Many pieces in antique stores are just too short to combine well with other furniture. These are things my mother-in-law taught me 30 years ago. When my husband and I browse antique shops today, we often see beautiful chests that are low priced. I am less a fan of reupholstering than the other commenters. Good quality work is very expensive in our area. To give you an idea, my last 2 wing backed chairs were around a thousand dollars each to reupholster. If you have no qualms about using a preowned sofa, try Craigslist or find a consignment shop in a high end area. I will bet you can get a great looking piece at a reasonable cost. I was just walking through a furniture consignment shop in Palm Desert this week-end and that was certainly true there. When it comes time to upholster, I would look more towards having slip-covers and zippered cushion covers made, if you can avoid a full reupholstering job.

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  13. Now, I know you should buy really good new mattresses. Unless you inherit, buy very good new upholstered furniture. Reupholster when you think it's needed. Never buy new hard case goods, tables bookcases, sideboards, chests. Wish I had known this 50 years ago. Would have saved me a lot of money.

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  14. I'm not sure I would start the acquisition process prior to the house purchase. Even with the benefit of free storage. Sometimes even the coolest square peg doesn't fit the round hole.

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  15. Suter's Furniture is well-made, has classic styles, and also is Made in the USA. www.suters.com

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