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Old 05-18-2013, 08:58 AM   #1
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furniture

Hi all, question for all groups (ER/FI/ESR/Dreamers): what do you do about furniture? For furniture you regularly use, what's the most you've ever spent on a piece, especially a sofa or chair? I'm getting at the classic cost/quality tradeoff question. Do you buy a $5-$8K piece that you should be able to use regularly for years (decades?) or buy something less expensive that may start looking worn in a few years?

$8K or more for, say, a sofa seems patently offensive to me, but if I figure 1-2 hours of use a day times 365 days a year times 10 or more years, it seems a little more reasonable.

Any specific brand recommendations for high quality stuff at a good price? How about stuff on the lower price points but that holds up relatively well? Where do my fellow forum followers fall (try saying that fast a bunch of times) on the inexpensive/short-lived vs expensive/long-lived furniture continuum?
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Old 05-18-2013, 09:11 AM   #2
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I think the only furniture I bought was a desk , maybe a couple of pieces at garage sales. Most of what I have is hand me downs from parents/grandparents/aunts etc. Most of it was made back when they made stuff to last ( some of it is 100yrs + ). The wood is solid, been reupholstered a few times.
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Old 05-18-2013, 09:54 AM   #3
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I am not that interested in furniture, no real sense of pride/joy for me. So, I tend toward the less expensive end of the spectrum.

When I first bought new furniture after leaving undergrad (before that, I used what I could find for free or super cheap 2nd hand), I got the cheapest that I could find; and, that held up about as well as you might imagine. As I replaced that, I did so with better quality furniture that was still much less expensive than what normal folks spend on furniture. For example, I waited until I found a sofa that I liked for a price that didn't make me too ill at one of those furniture outlet places; it was well less than $1K and has lasted for almost 10 years with no end in sight of its useful life.

I usually aim for neutral/common colors and fabrics so it will be easy to match additional furniture, etc. down the road; so, when something does wear out, I do not feel the need to replace an entire living room set.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:00 AM   #4
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Furniture making is a hobby, so don't buy anything but upholstered. We decided a long time ago to get nice stuff, but not overly so. (Sofa $1,500?) After 5-10 years even good stuff gets dirty and you can tire of it, so just get new. OTOH we have a leather set of couches in family room that is really looking worn after ~15 years, very comfy and you can just wipe it off. Like after one of the Bassett Hounds has snuck up on it for the evening.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:03 AM   #5
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I'm not convinced that a $8K sofa is going to have a lower long term cost than a much cheaper (but reasonably good quality) sofa.

I don't recall what we paid for the ones in our family room that get daily use, maybe ~ $1,200 each? They are ~ 20 YO and going strong. About 10 years ago, we had them re-stuffed and re-upholstered by a local, highly regarded 'craftsman'. I think it cost almost as much as new, I choked a bit on that, but the guy says (obviously biased, but he seemed to be straightforward and honest) that the materials he uses are far superior to the original. Well, 10 years later they look like the day we had them re-done, so I think he's right.

That still might be $2,200 and they will likely last another 10 years, which might be longer than DW wants that color in the room. An $8,000 sofa would need to last about 120 years for break-even compared to that, not counting opportunity cost. And don't discount the "I'm tired of that, I want new ones" factor.

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Old 05-18-2013, 10:11 AM   #6
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When I was in my 20's (mid-1980's) I went the expensive-but-it-will-last-forever route and plunked down high dollars for Ethan Allen (back when it was higher quality than today, IMHO). Yes, it's lasting forever but my tastes have changed and now I'd love to switch it out but it just seems too good to sell now for a small fraction of what I paid. Plus, the biggest piece I have is now obsolete with TVs having changed so radically.

And once I RE I'll be pursuing furniture making as a hobby as well, so then I'll probably replace some of the pieces if all goes well.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:19 AM   #7
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Furniture is like an anchor. OK if you are certain to stay where you are., makes it real hard to move.

We have a mix. Some fine, high quality, good looking and comfortable furniture, some inexpensive pieces, some expensive items that are not all that functional. In the things we have there is not a clear relationship between price, functionality and quality. Looking back many years later, we see things we were sure would last more than one generation that probably won't, alongside furniture that, 20 years later, now look to outlast us and in much better shape than we are, and we never suspected it at the time it had that potential.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:23 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by someguy View Post
Hi all, question for all groups (ER/FI/ESR/Dreamers): what do you do about furniture? For furniture you regularly use, what's the most you've ever spent on a piece, especially a sofa or chair? I'm getting at the classic cost/quality tradeoff question. Do you buy a $5-$8K piece that you should be able to use regularly for years (decades?) or buy something less expensive that may start looking worn in a few years?

$8K or more for, say, a sofa seems patently offensive to me, but if I figure 1-2 hours of use a day times 365 days a year times 10 or more years, it seems a little more reasonable.

Any specific brand recommendations for high quality stuff at a good price? How about stuff on the lower price points but that holds up relatively well? Where do my fellow forum followers fall (try saying that fast a bunch of times) on the inexpensive/short-lived vs expensive/long-lived furniture continuum?
If you are really hard on furniture you might want the best made stuff, but on the other hand why spend the money for something that will get beat up? You will look at it a long time so I suggest you buy for comfort and the look/style you like.

We just bought a nice little upholstered sleeper sofa for $600 from a small furniture store to replace a 30+ yr old couch that was still functional but uncomfortably sagging and shabbied up and not worth reupholstering/slip covering. We also have a leather couch and chair from Marshall Fields (moment of silence for the departed mothership...) that together were around $3000 12 years ago and are going strong with daily use. (We are also giving the Salvation Army our lovely Ethan Allen obsolete TV armoire that was around $2000 and we have no need or space for in a converted form; that one hurts.)
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:24 AM   #9
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Obsolesence can be a pain, especially dealing with electronics. Built a nice armoire type cabinet for 36" Sony tube TV. Now it's in bedroom with shelves for sweaters! Then there's the current electronics cabinet with 6 dovetailed drawers that nicely hold about 1,000 cd's. Of course they've all been ripped to the computer and just sit there. And the newer receiver that was too big to fit inside so is not on top. Oh well.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:25 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the feedback so far. I was finding it very hard to swallow the high price of this "heirloom" stuff. Plus, any time someone attaches adjectives designed to tug at emotions/heartstrings, I get suspicious. But I tend to be a cheap a$$ with most things so it's always good to get balanced opinions. The changing tastes is the thing that really gets me -- I don't want to feel stuck because I paid a fortune for something even though I no longer like it.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:31 AM   #11
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Anyone have specific comments on sofa or chair brands? Ideally purchased at least a year or two ago but within the last 5-8? I agree that a lot of brands have gone downhill, or have introduced lower quality lines to meet lower price points. We have a three piece set purchased for maybe $1200 from a value furniture store that has held up shockingly well despite a lot of abuse while a much more recently purchased and better treated leather sofa in the $2-$3K range has flaking leather and horribly sagging cushions.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:31 AM   #12
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Also, you could check out estate sales. I furnished my first apartment with an awesome wing chair from an estate sale (and a bed, and a table, etc., etc., for virtually nothing) that we had forever until a puppy decided to cut her teeth on it. So many people on e-r.org have written about clearing out their parents' homes, and I imagine there is a lot of very gently used quality furniture being offered out there.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:33 AM   #13
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I grew up with a lot of antiques. Our dining room chairs (8) were originally boardroom chairs from the 1910s. They were carved oak, indestructible, comfortable, and looked fabulous when my Dad reupholstered them (ER project). Mom bought them at auction for ~$2 each in the early 1960s.

I was very mobile in my youth and never got to use any of my parents' furniture. Like most people I started out with modest furniture, upgrading as circumstances permitted. I like clean lines without too much ornamentation. I have no antiques, but I still have some low cost favorites that have stood the test of time and multiple moves, so the effect is eclectic. My sofa and armchairs were quality custom orders in 1997. The sofa cost $3000 and looks like new. Of course, I don't have kids to jump on it! I find that a professional cleaning once every few years keeps upholstered furniture fresh. I am considering ordering custom slipcovers in a lighter color, which would permit seasonal changes. However, that is not in ths year's budget.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:35 AM   #14
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Garage and estate sales, and craigslist, should have some good options, especially if you are patient and can transport. Second hand furniture is very inexpensive.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:36 AM   #15
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This is a good suggestion but, at least around here, we run into one big obstacle. We almost never find something that looks nice enough to put in our home; I realize that this is an almost completely subjective measure. Oak stuff with the dark/heavy grain is unattractive to my and DW's eye. Older items get you out of oak, but they are almost always very traditional, which again doesn't match our house or style. Is there a secret I'm missing?

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Also, yu could check out estate sales. I furnished my first apartment with an awesome wing chair from an estate sale (and a bed, and a table, etc., etc., for virtually nothing) that we had forever until a puppy decided to cut her teeth on it. So many people on e-r.org have written about clearing out their parents' homes, and I imagine there is a lot of very gently used quality furniture being offered out there.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:42 AM   #16
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This is a good suggestion but, at least around here, we run into one big obstacle. We almost never find something that looks nice enough to put in our home; I realize that this is an almost completely subjective measure. Oak stuff with the dark/heavy grain is unattractive to my and DW's eye. Older items get you out of oak, but they are almost always very traditional, which again doesn't match our house or style. Is there a secret I'm missing?
Tastes change! Your taste sounds like mine. Victorian furniture in particular I find over embellished. For cleaner lines, look for Shaker or Art Deco. However, it's difficult to find good Art Deco pieces in my experience.
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Old 05-18-2013, 11:13 AM   #17
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A little over 20 years ago I spent $9500 for a sofa. It was a sleeper sofa covered in very expensive purple suede leather. I also had a matching armchair and ottomon.

I finally threw the sofa away when I moved into my current house this year. My son has the chair and ottomon in the sitting area in his room.

The thing is that the sofa was actually indestructible and still felt great to sit on when I threw it away. However, the leather was worn and stained and looked awful. I had the sofa before I got married and 3 kids later it looked atrocious. However, the sofa itself was still great. I considered reupholstering it but the cost to do so was way more than that of buying a new sofa.

Usually I don't spend a lot on furniture. When we moved into our current house though we took the opportunity to replace a lot of our furniture. We found a local store that has a lot of import furniture that we liked. Not cheap but not hugely expensive.

I bought my office furniture form Pottery Barn which was a mix and match set where you could get different small pieces and then build basically exactly what you want. It has been great.

Right now all my furniture looks good excpet for my office chair which was a very cheap office chair I bought about 3 years ago. It is OK for sitting in (I replaced a part under warranty about a year ago though) but it is very worn looking (because it was very cheap it wasn't very durable). I'll probably replace it in a year or two with something a bit better quality.
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Old 05-18-2013, 11:24 AM   #18
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I think the most expensive piece of furniture we ever bought was a $600 sofa 20+ years ago. We still have it, and it looks fine despite regular use. But we don't have children or pets either.

Mostly we buy new, but shop carefully and won't buy anything that isn't on sale.
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Old 05-18-2013, 11:29 AM   #19
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Being a single guy with a house, I have never been into buying expensive furniture, but I enjoy looking at it. I have a nice house, but if a burgler stole everything but the paint on the wall, I still don't think I would have an $8,000 claim.
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Old 05-18-2013, 11:29 AM   #20
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Yes. Check out Smith Brothers of Indiana. Run and built by second or 3rd generation Swiss craftsman. They have great upholstered furniture at reasonable prices. The wife just bought a very nice sofa, tilt back wingback/armchair and matching ottoman. Very good quality. We did pay $2800 but that was for all three pieces. Believe me, being a frugal LBYM type it hurt to spend that because I was very happy with the 15 year old couch. In fact that 2$800 was about a full 8% of our typical yearly expenses. But you know what they say, happy wife, happy life.

My brother actually runs a furniture store in Massachusetts and this is one of his featured premier brands. He says it is very well made and it appears to be. He carries some of the other "big names" and says a lot of the quality has gone way down hill on the "high end" stuff.
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