Frequent moving - with Stuff
August 27, 2012 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Sturdy furniture for the often-moving.

We may be moving every 3 years or so.

Yes, we've seen this question, but it's not quite it.

We're past the Ikea stage, and we'd rather have decent, sturdy furniture that can be easily assembled and disassembled multiple times. It should fold flat or fit into boxes. The flat pieces or boxes should be light enough that two people can move it up and down stairs without a problem. Bonus if we wouldn't need to hire professional movers, we could just rent a van/SUV (not a truck). Less concerned about price, far more concerned that our apartments not look like dorms/frat houses/temporary living and that the furniture lasts.

Example item: the 3-shelf bookshelves that fold into themselves and are easily covered in saran wrap.

So where/what should we be looking for? Keywords? Specific stores?

Note: This is not about renting a furnished apartment or selling and buying furniture every time we move.
posted by a robot made out of meat to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
When I was moving a lot, I was always glad to have Nexel wire shelving. It's durable, adjustable, easily assembled/disassembled, and each piece is light enough to be carried by one person. Useful for storage spaces, kitchen, and, depending on your aesthetic, all-purpose shelving. You should be able to find it at a hardware store/Target/etc. in white, chrome, or black.
posted by googly at 7:28 AM on August 27, 2012

Folding works for bookshelves; the cases on Amazon are pretty decent (I own a couple, purchased elsewhere). I like the look of Legare Furniture, though I do not own any at this time.

For things like kitchen tables, I'd crawl under ones at the store and see how they're made. If the legs are held on with sturdy bolts, assembly and dissasembly should be easy enough. But from what I've seen you may need to go with an older piece as more modern tables don't seem to have that "feature". Additionally, I'd get a leaved one if possible, to allow for varying dining area sizes.

I wouldn't recommend folding chairs, no matter how pretty/sturdy, unless you are prepared to not get a ton of use out of them, or unless they are older orchestra /style chairs with replaceable hardware. Depending on your use (daily or occasional), they will need repair and replacement the more used they are (I have had several, passed on to my parents because my kids were too rough on them). You might look, instead, for chairs that are actually both comfortable and stackable to compact up nicely at moving time.

Sofas - I'd go with sectional style sofas. Again, flip it over, see how the legs are put on. They can't get a lot smaller than without the legs unless they are an ultramodern style (and then make sure the frame is sturdy and disassembleable.

When you look for "folding beds" you get futons or fold away beds. Again, up to you if that works for you. Otherwise, I'd look for a sturdy frame that can be used with and without the head and foot boards (space issue - I have a sleigh and it fits in our room one way but not the other).

"folding" works for desks, though the foot print may be smaller (and modern desks assume a small pizza box or in-the-screen computer from my experience).
posted by tilde at 7:41 AM on August 27, 2012

Have you searched for "flat pack furniture"? Some decent examples here:
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:00 AM on August 27, 2012

I liked the folding bookshelves. No assembly required.

I have a Danish Modern Desk that's 32 years old. I've moved it about 15 times. What was great about it was that it could be a two level desk, or you could flip down the storabe cubbies and it could be a table. A most Excellent piece of furniture. A bit non-ergonomic for a computer user, but otherwise, top notch. This desk has been taken apart and put together a bazillion times.

Part of the problem with taking apart and putting furniture back together is that doing so stresses the wood. Screws strip, holes get bigger, and eventually, your stuff is going to look like it's been through the wars.

This is nearly a mutually-exclusive thing. Either you buy heavy, strudy, furniture and it will last for years, OR, you buy furniture that you can take apart and move frequently.

There just isn't a whole lot out there that does both.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:19 AM on August 27, 2012

My wife and I are frequent movers, and always appreciated having a metal bed that could be easily broken down and reassembled. It was a nice Crate & Barrel bed called the Pathway which I see has been discontinued... but C&B does have one called the Scholar that looks kind of cool & retro (and really anything is better than the cheapo bed frame that you'd get at a mattress store).
posted by BobbyVan at 8:23 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Either you buy heavy, strudy, furniture and it will last for years, OR, you buy furniture that you can take apart and move frequently.

Seconded. I find stuff you can pack and move either to be very overpriced or not very comfortable when you're using it the other 364 days a year.

I've moved internationally a few times in the past few years (so moving every 3 years doesn't seem that often to me). I'm now considering saving up for 2-3 core pieces that will move with us, and the rest will either come with the home or be Ikea. So we might invest in a couch, dining table and desk that we would be willing to ship from place to place. They will probably be better value in the long run even including moving costs.

Otherwise, I know you are not so into Ikea but I've had some luck with Ikea on moving their shelving systems a few times.
posted by wingless_angel at 8:29 AM on August 27, 2012

The Elfa standalone units/components disassemble easily and have survived our moves. Same goes for Doron Lachisch shelving (Cubitec, Cubits, Ladoro), which has the bonus of being incredibly lightweight.
posted by evoque at 8:32 AM on August 27, 2012

BobbyVan - thanks for the reminder. One of the things that has been in the family for at least 50 years is an old metal bed similar to this or this - a few pieces to assemble, then disassemble.

Key words seem to be simple assembly.
posted by tilde at 8:40 AM on August 27, 2012

I have a folding book case from the container store. It's not light, but it's sturdy.
posted by oceano at 6:00 PM on August 27, 2012

There is whole bunch of good , sturdy , traditional beautiful furniture used by people always on the move.

You might look for "campaign furniture", used by army officers , look at the time of Napoleon maybe ? Very well made, good looking, super easy to use, move and install. There are basically trunks (nothing to pack, they are packing crates themselves -- and stuff are already there). You assemble them by simply putting on top of each other or on foldable legs.
I think that "Ikea stage" often looks bare, and good fabrics will magically change that .
Nomad tribes use lots of carpets . You can get these, or few yards of beautiful heavy fabric -- and it will make any kind of place to look like a royal residency. These fabrics should feel nice to the touch, and be sturdy; heavy enough to be almost like carpets . I would want only quality natural fibers here. You might cover with it your bed, table, box(-es), hung it on the wall(-s) . I think American quilts are a variation on this, maybe you like that style instead ?
When you move, you can wrap things in it , or roll/fold it easily. It will cushion other stuff while moving.
posted by Oli D. at 6:50 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I enthusiastically recommend the steel beds from Room & Board. I have this Parsons Bed and it is incredibly easy to move. Does not require a box spring. Easy assembly. Lightweight but solid. Can't be bent or broken. It will last forever. Made in Minneapolis, MN by Bell Manufacturing. I ordered it from Room & Board online and it really looks just like the pictures. If you'd rather have a bed without a footboard then the Webster Bed might be something I'd consider. These steel beds all look kind of severe but with the right bedding and a few nice pillows they are quite welcoming. Full size would be cheaper than the default display choice of queen size... I can tell you these are well made enough that it is a very good value in my opinion.
posted by belau at 7:24 PM on August 27, 2012

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