Dear. your father and I would love to pass our heirloom dinner table to you, but the bolts fell out.
January 1, 2009 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Sadly, we seem to have outgrown Ikea. What now?

Well, the inevitable has happened. My husband and I excitedly went to Ikea today to look at a dinner table, and we realized that the majority of Ikea furniture is cheaply made, non-durable, and not really our style anymore.

Where do we go from here? We want to replace our desks, dinner table, bed, couch, book shelves, entertainment center, and just about everything else, but we can't stand MDF and pressboard and "veneer." Where else should we be looking?

Here are a few things to consider:
1. We are comfortable, but we're not the Hiltons, so price is a factor.
2. We have a small hatchback car that can fit smaller furniture, but probably not a sofa, so delivery is helpful.
3. We're also hoping to find solid wood construction, and pre-built, hopefully.
4. We live in Chicago.

We're already looking at Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, CB2, and West Elm. What are we missing?
posted by santojulieta to Shopping (37 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Vintage/antique furniture.
posted by box at 6:54 PM on January 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Room and Board, though a notch up in price. You've got the standard list of non-custom options. If you know what you like, you should try calling woodworkers in your area just to get a ballpark quote in case you might be able to afford it.
posted by rhizome at 6:55 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

2nding Room & Board. Stumbled onto them during a trip to Chicago & loved their furniture so much that we shelled out extra to have them to deliver to Baltimore. Super customer service, too.
posted by azure_swing at 6:57 PM on January 1, 2009

Cost/Plus World Market seems like it fits in the group of stores you've listed. I couldn't guarantee you that their furniture section is MDF/veneer free, but most of the furniture items I've seen in person and read reviews for on their web site are solid wood, and usually affordable.
posted by PY at 7:01 PM on January 1, 2009

I feel like you're missing a whole furniture store section between IKEA and Pottery Barn. Pottery Barn (and others of the same ilk) always strike me as a bit overpriced. I'd visit a local craftsperson that could make me something custom before I dropped the several G's it would take to get all that stuff at Pottery Barn. They can usually mimic those styles at come in at or below the price. Plus, you get to support a local craftsperson.

Anyway, in our area there are quite a few basic chain furniture stores that stock mid-quality furniture at reasonable prices. It's not going to be the fancy designer stuff that you'll find at Pottery Barn, but most of it is made of actual wood. They usually stock a variety of styles and materials. I'm not sure what furniture chains you have out near Chicago, but here is a link to the type of store I'm talking about. There's going to be a lot of "sets" and stuff there, so if that's not your thing you may well be better off looking at the vintage/antique ends of things. Most of these stores have clearance/closeouts rooms with slightly damaged or outdated stuff that you could fix up really really cheap if you know what you're doing.
posted by theantikitty at 7:03 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know if others agree, but on the back of my napkin I'd say that solidwood construction starts at about 3x Ikea prices, 5x if hardwood. Much less used, if you're into vintage stuff.
posted by rhizome at 7:05 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

yes, go antique. it even mixes well with the ikea stuff. check out Praha on Lincoln Ave, and other Lincoln Ave.-area antique shops. Also, architectural savage shops (there's a few in West Town, around Fulton and Ashland) have surprisingly unique things. You'll find better deals outside of the city, even as far as Michigan (a day trip). Also I like Restoration Hardware for the chunky wood look. You might find good deals on a sofa from a small shop that can customize it (sorry, no names come to mind).
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:09 PM on January 1, 2009

To expand your choices, you could look into Danish Furniture stores (or, more generally, Scandinavian Furniture stores). Check the Yellow Pages -- they're usually local and carry gorgeous, real-wood, made-in-Scandinavia items.
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:11 PM on January 1, 2009

Oh, and theantikitty caused me to think: there is an in-between store: EQ3.

Pricewise, I'd rank my standard "modern-ish" list:

EQ3/Cost Plus
Crate & Barrel
West Elm/Pottery Barn (go figure)
Room & Board
Design-y stuff

Don't forget Target, too. They sometimes have decent designs (and durability) in lamps, ottomans, nightstands and other detail pieces.
posted by rhizome at 7:12 PM on January 1, 2009 [5 favorites] has some nice deals on real furniture.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:14 PM on January 1, 2009

Stickley Audi


Restoration Hardware
posted by Zambrano at 7:24 PM on January 1, 2009

1. We are comfortable, but we're not the Hiltons, so price is a factor.

We're already looking at Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, CB2, and West Elm. What are we missing?

This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Price is a factor, so you're looking at Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel? That seems like saying that I'm looking at cars and price is a factor, so I'm looking at Lexus and Acura.

If price is a factor... Ashley? Department stores?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:27 PM on January 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I actually bought my solid wood and beautiful dining table from JC Penney -- $700 for a table and six chairs. I get tons and tons of compliments on the set, too, and everyone's always really surprised when I tell them where it's from. Apparently it's just not the kind of place anyone thinks of to buy furniture at. So...don't forget about Department stores!
posted by echo0720 at 7:29 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

We got a bookcase from Gothic Cabinet Craft in NYC for much the same reasons you cite (watching IKEA stuff disintegrate slowly is not fun) and we like our nice big bit of solid wood furniture.
posted by merocet at 7:30 PM on January 1, 2009

You don't have a showroom near you, but if you don't mind looking online Pompanoosuc Mills stuff is very nice and well made if you like that sort of thing.
posted by The Bellman at 7:39 PM on January 1, 2009

Vintage/antique furniture.

Absolutely. If you're looking for quality, modestly priced furniture, low-end antiques are a really good way to go. As they say, "they don't make them like they used to". Try Craig's List and the for sale ads in your area too.

Another consideration is that if you're willing to put some work into your furniture, you can get thrift shop stuff or even "shop the curb" and make those pieces look really good by refinishing, repainting, or reupholstering. And these things truly aren't high-level skills, though they are time consuming. If you've got a sewing machine and basic knowledge about how to operate it, you can reupholster. Just take off the old fabric, use it as a pattern to cut out and stitch together the new fabric, and put it back on in the same way. Look for shapes you like, make sure the piece is mechanically and fundamentally sound (i.e., no broken springs in a couch, doors that shut properly on a cabinet) and you can build on that.
posted by orange swan at 7:42 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just have to give another recommendation for checking out Room & Board. I still daydream about the cherry butcher-block dining room table I once had from them. (Since sold for a big move.) Also, I had nothing but great customer service experiences with them. Example: they replaced a part for free by mail even though they really didn't have to.

Antiques and vintage are a good route to check out, too, but Room & Board is one of the very few companies I go out of my way to recommend.
posted by veggieboy at 7:51 PM on January 1, 2009

Seconding Pompanoosuc Mills!! They are somewhat expensive but worth it. Great stuff, solid hardwood, simple but elegant designs. We try to buy a piece or two every year so as to avoid breaking the bank. You won't get a house full of furniture quickly this way, but what you have will be high quality and it "ages" very well. If you're serious about getting some heirloom-quality furniture, check them out. Their catalog is very good, and free.

Finally their delivery service is extremely careful about not dinging either the new furniture or your existing stuff. (We had two really bad delivery experiences with Norwalk furniture so I'm very conscious of that.)
posted by txvtchick at 8:05 PM on January 1, 2009

To those recommending Restoration Hardware--say wha? OP, my brother and his girlfriend both worked at the aforementioned company and I strongly suggest you ignore this advice. Extremely low quality items are sold for a hefty return, and you will have difficulty with exchanges...additionally, as someone who has had a product immediately degrade from RH, I can otherwise personally attest to how much it sucks. I can't believe anyone would diss IKEA only to recommend a store that hides its cheap quality with large price tags!
posted by nonmerci at 8:05 PM on January 1, 2009

It's a bit pricey, and they don't sell everything to furnish a house by a long shot, but I love UO for accessory pieces. There are a few stores in Chicago, too.
posted by big open mouth at 8:07 PM on January 1, 2009

I can't believe you've never been to Dania before. They have stuff that is much better than Ikea yet you can find very reasonable deals and better stuff than CB2, Pottery Barn and West Elm.
posted by JJ86 at 8:12 PM on January 1, 2009

PB and CAB are much higher quality than West Elm, by the way. Although I like the look of WE stuff a lot, it's lower quality than high-end Ikea.

Other folks are spot on about the low end antiques. My nice furniture is from Craigslist, Ebay, or the Rosebowl flea market, and includes a pair of marble topped Baker nightstands I got for $250!
posted by crabintheocean at 8:24 PM on January 1, 2009

Nadeau Imports is on Ravenswood just north of Montrose (east side of the tracks). It's part of a California-based chain that sells assembled, solid wood furniture — the pieces definitely have a "World Market" look, and it's affordable because the furniture showroom is a warehouse.

The owner posts photos of new shipments on a photobucket page.

I've stopped in there a couple times, but I've never bought anything.
posted by limeswirltart at 8:30 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another vote for department stores. Sears and JC Penneys have pretty decent stuff. You probably won't find everything you want there (desks for example) but I bet you can find something and the service will be good.
posted by fshgrl at 8:30 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's got to be a independent/small chain (2-5 storefront) furniture store in Chicago or the 'burbs. (I say this because I live in a small town between two small cities, and have access (less than an hour's drive) to four independent furniture stores, at least two of which sell Skovby Danish Modern chairs to match the table we got from my mother when she moved.) Look in the phone book, ask around at work.

I'd buy Ethan Allen or Thomasville before I'd buy Pottery Barn -- they're a less 'trendy' than PB, and I think their stuff is better built. Penney's has nice hardgoods (tables, shelves, cabinets). I've not been impressed with the upholstered pieces we've purchased there, but that's mostly because they were purchased to Mr R's taste, not mine.
posted by jlkr at 8:31 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

On the north side of Chicago is Dania, a sort of IKEA competitor, but they go higher end. In particular, their pressboard stuff has a very tough wood veneer that's far more durable than IKEA stuff, and looks much less like it came packaged flat.
posted by fatbird at 8:50 PM on January 1, 2009

Apparently now they've got five locations around Chicago..
posted by fatbird at 8:55 PM on January 1, 2009

Admittedly I'm not in Chicago and not up on economic issues there (a little more familiar w/ POLITICAL issues ; ) But where I live in Oregon, many furniture stores are having amazing markdown sales, (like most items 50-70% off) and quite a few are closing due to the economy. If you find a quality product and are sure you don't want to return it, there are many deals to be had on furniture right now in my area, anyway. Some will even discount prices on the spot for cash and a fair-sized sale.
posted by mumstheword at 9:10 PM on January 1, 2009

You can also get custom bookshelves at 57th Street Bookcase & Cabinet. And Yelp has a lot of reviews of furniture stores.
posted by limeswirltart at 10:40 PM on January 1, 2009

You might want to have a look at the Apartment Therapy shopping guide for Chicago. They review local vendors, list current sales, and have classified ads on the site.
posted by paulg at 11:20 PM on January 1, 2009

2 words - GARAGE SALES.

Save the forests.
posted by watercarrier at 3:34 AM on January 2, 2009

When I lived in Nebraska, I purchased a three-piece matching antique mahogany bedroom set: a tall-boy, an enormous dresser with a giant tilting mirror, and a bed. Built ~1890. Even the backs of the drawers were solid mahogany.

Cost: $350.

I wouldn't be able to get that kind of deal from IKEA. I would probably even have a hard time getting a deal like that from Wal-Mart. In conclusion, antiques.

There's simply no better option.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:08 AM on January 2, 2009

estate sales.

google/check the yellow pages for estate sale companies and then get on their mailing list. i have no idea what the scene is like in chicago, but where i live there are a variety of these companies, some whose clients are very wealthy and the sales are all fancy schmancy, but some whose clients are regular middle class folks and the sales have much more reasonable prices. both can be fun and the source of good deals, though, you just have to figure out which companies . i recommend estate sales over garages sales because i think they often have more nice furniture because they're selling almost everything, not just stuff they don't want anymore (often due to a death in the family, etc).
posted by dahliachewswell at 10:31 AM on January 2, 2009

Price is a factor, so you're looking at Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel?

Neither are high-end retailers. So the answer would be yes.

If you're looking for quality, modestly priced furniture, low-end antiques are a really good way to go.

No. Low-end antiques gets you poor quality crap.
posted by Zambrano at 10:36 AM on January 2, 2009

Can't believe no one has mentioned consignment shops.
posted by dinger at 11:26 AM on January 2, 2009

Sometimes I wonder how anyone can really get into IKEA. For the price they sure rip everyone off on quality and longevity.

Your best bet, depending on where you live, is to head out to some nice furniture stores (Raymour and Flanigan happens to be one of my favorites). You live in Chicago so I'm sure you have them there. Crate and Barrel is a good suggestion but make sure you thoroughly check the quality when it arrives for no damage, scratches etc and always try to get stuff on sale or reduced price. They can be pricey.

I would even recommend taking a drive out to the country and seeing some woodworkers who craft their own pieces. You get something unique, handmade and constructed with extra care big-box companies tend to lack these days. It's sad but my taste in furniture is very similar to my parents and I went all over Pennsylvania as a kid (we're from NJ) to see Amish furniture makers. These pieces have lasted 15+ years and look brand new and didn't break the bank either.

What style you like is also a big factor, like contemporary, country or vintage etc.
posted by PetiePal at 12:35 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you want to go the vintage route, spend some time reading BackGarage. The author has lots of solid advice on where to find vintage things for the home in Chicago.

The only other things I'll add are my opinion that Dania is not worth the trip (it's only a tiny step up from IKEA) and that Room and Board has a great sale every 12/26. Unfortunately, that last one won't help you for another year.
posted by Xalf at 5:54 PM on January 4, 2009

« Older Yet another Magic: The Gathering Question   |   Heat Miser vs. Jesus Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.