Grownup Furniture!
March 31, 2011 7:45 AM   Subscribe

What are great furniture stores, specifically for living room? And in terms of quality, what am I looking for?

I'm getting ready to purchase non-crappy furniture, but I don't know where to get it. I saw this question from five years ago, and was wondering if anyone has new thoughts or updates.

The first item on my list is a couch or sofa and maybe a chair. In that last thread, I saw that a lot of people think that West Elm = CB2 = IKEA in terms of quality. I'd like higher quality furniture, but our budget is still limited. (Around $1000 for the couch is ideal, less, of course, is great.) I'm willing to dive into craigslist but I have no idea what I'm looking for. Are there any brands that are good to watch for? What brands are worth paying a premium for? What details set apart the great from the mediocre?

I'm not in a huge metro area but I can get to DC fairly easily.

Thank you!
posted by emkelley to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
room & board is pretty great in my experience in terms of quality. may not meet the $1000 price tag, will be more, but really beautiful stuff.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 7:59 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Craigslist has some amazing furniture deals, because people price their stuff according to how badly they need to get rid of it, not so much according to its value. Plus, many people don't have a very good sense of how much a piece of furniture is worth in the first place.

I seem to recall someone from the furniture business saying that Pottery Barn (which is the same as West Elm, both owned by William-Sonoma) and Crate & Barrel do have good-quality stuff.

I don't know much about brands, but I look for solid wood instead of MDF, joints that fit exactly rather than approximately (and pieces that weren't designed to camouflage approximate-fitting joints), that sort of thing.
posted by adamrice at 8:25 AM on March 31, 2011

Seconding Room and Board. They have a store in DC, and some of their lower-end couches are $1,000-1,100.
posted by John Cohen at 8:33 AM on March 31, 2011

Macy's is very good. Take a look at their Corona couch. The leather stuff is nice, too. Make sure it is dyed all the way through. I was near buying a lot of stuff from them, but found what I really wanted via the flea market.

Mom-and-pop furniture stores can have very good stuff and will often work with you on the price. You should also consider auctions.
posted by jgirl at 8:42 AM on March 31, 2011

a good rule of thumb is the old bride thing...something old, something too much in one style and its going to look like a furniture catalog (but, y'know, get stuff that works together).

that being said, herman miller has made (and continues to make) some great stuff...look around on craigslist. another good seach term is 'mid-century modern' (a lot of those designs, as well as the materials, have really stood the test of time) remember 'modern' is different than 'contemporary'

hard wood, not pine.

a couch should mainly be comfortable, but a coffee table can be more exciting...
posted by sexyrobot at 8:50 AM on March 31, 2011

There a ton of furniture stores around Room & Board (near 14th & U) in DC. Although I personally love Room&Board, I think they're absurdly expensive for what they are. I also seem to remember their shipping/delivery rates being exorbitant. Still, the showroom's gorgeous, and might give you some inspiration...

I also don't at all buy the argument that West Elm and CB2 are equivalent to Ikea, or even to each other! Among other things, West Elm's stuff usually is solid wood, while Ikea loves corrugated particleboard. Even then, I wouldn't completely knock Ikea's stuff. Some of it's perfectly decent. There's a West Elm out in Tyson's, and a CB2's been "coming soon" to Georgetown for what seems like an eternity.

The other furniture stores in the area are also rather pricey, but you may be able to find something to your liking. Some of the stores are tucked away on the second floor...My favorite one in the area is GoodWood.
posted by schmod at 9:17 AM on March 31, 2011

We went with Haverty's... it's held up amazingly for having 2 kids and a dog...
posted by fozzie33 at 9:25 AM on March 31, 2011

Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel are ok, but not great, quality. Neither of them uses dovetail joints. If there's a Restoration Hardware store near you, go there and play with the furniture to get a feel for what high quality furniture is like. Open the drawers to feel how they glide, look at the dovetail joints where the drawer fronts are joined to the sides. Push on a dresser or table and feel how rock solid it is. Sit on the couches and feel how comfortable they are. (DON'T look at the prices, because you will pass out. They are high.) After you have an idea of what high quality furniture looks like, you'll be better prepared to judge the quality and pricing of the less expensive and/or used stuff.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:14 AM on March 31, 2011

Personally, I'd be reluctant to spend $1,000 on a new lounge. That price puts you in the zone between cheap but crappy and expensive but quality, and whilst you could likely find something that looks good when it's delivered, you may find you'll need to replace it within five to ten years.

Some people don't mind this cycle, but if it were me, I would either:

a) Buy high quality modern furniture second-hand, or

b) Buy vintage.

I love vintage furniture, myself. The quality pieces have stood the test of time, and will continue to last as long as you take care of them. There's often a grace to the designs that you don't see with modern stuff. And, as a bonus, vintage furniture can be really affordable if you do your research and are willing to spend some time haunting secondhand stores, eBay and your local classifieds.

(Admittedly, it helps if you find that kind of thing fun. Not everybody does.)

For modern second-hand, I would follow a similar procedure: do your research, work out what you want, and then be willing to pounce the moment you find it. Your local Fancy Furniture Store is a good place to start.
posted by Georgina at 10:32 AM on March 31, 2011

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