When I moved into my apartment last year, I loved that the change of scenery gave me an excuse to replace furniture that had seen better days. I wanted my money to go as far as possible and ordered pieces from online discount retailers, for the most part. A bed frame, headboard, dresser, media console, desk and two dining chairs later, I now have a different perspective on the pieces I want to buy and where I want to buy them from. The dresser and the chairs were the only pieces that came from local shops. These are also the pieces that will be in the best shape when it’s time to move again in a few years.
In the age of online shopping for just about everything, convenience can outweigh the quality assurance of buying in person. When my media console came, my husband and I carried it up to our 3rd-floor apartment, unpacked it from the tons of styrofoam and cardboard packaging and started assembling. As it came out of the box, it was immediately evident that the “solid wood” furniture we thought we had ordered was actually damaged particle board with a wood veneer. At that point, with the amount of packing material, effort of carrying it and the desire to have our living room set-up complete, it felt worth it just to keep it and jigger it to work rather than send it back. It’s not that there aren’t reputable online furniture stores — there are great sources online to find quality pieces — but there are also ones that promise low prices that are so enticing, we put the items in our virtual carts and hope for the best.
Images above: (1) Katie and Tim thrifted almost everything in their San Francisco living room. While it might take a long time to pull an entire room together with pre-owned pieces, the cost, quality and lack of packaging can make it worth it. (2) Wood and leather chairs in Karyn’s Salt Lake City dining room will stand up to constant use for years and years.
It’s unrealistic to stop buying online and to see all future furniture in person before purchasing (especially in Des Moines, IA). What is possible is to weigh quality, company reputation, materials and country of origin against convenience. The amount of packaging, freight and effort that goes into receiving a piece of poorly made furniture that may end up on the curb in a few years makes the choice easier for me: I’d rather go without for a while, save up my money, and feel confident in the things I bring into our home.
Another way to ensure the elements I invest in last is through timeless style and design. I’m on the lookout for gorgeous homes, new furniture trends and unique ways to decorate constantly. It’s hard not to feel the need to update, improve and purchase new interior pieces often for any of us that spend time online. The hard part is choosing what I truly love and what to pass on. When looking for furniture that will last more than a few years, I like to imagine it paired with different styles and accents before committing to it.
Image above: A campaign style chest of drawers in David and Rumaan’s Brooklyn home was passed down from David’s maternal grandfather. Campaign desks and drawers can be bought new or found in consignment shops.
Furniture is an investment. Super-low prices, convenience and trends used to drive my purchases. When those pieces were headed toward the landfill not long after assembly, it became important to me and my husband to collect items that could be useful for years to come and then useful to others once we were ready to update (consign, donate, pass down, etc.). Ideally we’d love to find these pieces locally or pre-owned, but when that’s not possible, we want to be financially, environmentally and ethically responsible with our purchases. –Lauren