Home Furnishings
January 23, 2004 7:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a furniture store/company to help furnish a house we will be buying. [more inside]

The wife and I like the simplistic/minimalist/functional look, yet we still want it to be family friendly. Ikea is not located anywhere near me, but it is within enough driving distance to rent a uhaul to get whatever we needed (and of course to visit the showroom). Can anyone recommend any other decent stores/companies that would fit our criteria. Catalogs, informative websites and shipping ability are pluses.
posted by jasonspaceman to Shopping (12 answers total)
west elm is pretty neato and they have a catalog you can request. The prices aren't too bad either.
posted by contessa at 8:16 AM on January 23, 2004

I haven't seen the West Elm stuff in person, but flipping through the catalog, I suspect it isn't really built to last. They're trying to apply a fashion-industry approach to furniture (ie, these are the hot colors this year, you'll be sick of this stuff next year and buy more).

Design Within Reach sells a lot of classics of 20th century modernism. One of my neighbors seems to have furnished her entire home from their catalog, and if I had a little more scratch, I'd be buying from them too.
posted by adamrice at 8:21 AM on January 23, 2004

Stay away from Ikea for anything substantial (bureaus, entertainment centers). The prices are sexy, but that stuff is so poorly made. We bought our daughter a new dresser a month ago and one of the drawers fell out yesterday. The screws that hold the drawer glides had ripped right out of the wood, leaving gaping craters in it. At Ikea it's best to stick with the cheap and good looking dishware, desk accessories, that kind of stuff.

One way to save money is find an unfinished furniture store with (good quality) stuff you like. You get the markdown now for the lack of finish, and you can paint/stain things as you get time. This also helps with coordinating things (wall colors, finish on other furniture)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:56 AM on January 23, 2004

Go out looking and find a piece of furniture or a rug or a piece of art that you absolutely love. Then work around it.
posted by theora55 at 8:58 AM on January 23, 2004

Furniture Find has a variety of stuff and most have good prices. They work with manufacturers that you probably can't find in a store, so the stuff is built when ordered. It takes time, but you save a lot of money since they don't have a showroom.
posted by evening at 9:11 AM on January 23, 2004

What stupidsexyFlanders and theora55 said. Unfinished furniture is the way to go... a) it's, for the most part, real wood, b) you can have it any color you want to match the center piece of your design, c) typically, even bottom of the barrel stuff (We got my two birch shaker-style dressers and stained them with a cherry-toned stain) is well-built with solid wood facings and details (even the drawer faces!), properly made/attached joints (mine even have sunken screws, which is definitely not a detail you'll find on ikea furniture, d) You can also buy pieces from different collections and even manufacturers, and as long as it's the same wood, it'll stain to match.

If you do go the unfinished furniture route, prep by sanding with a relatively fine sandpaper (haven't woken up enough to think of the #), then stain using a gel stain (no fuss, no muss, rub on with a rag!), let the stain dry, and then apply a couple of coats of Deft, which you can get in a rattle-can at your local Home Despot. Or, if you're like my dad (tool geek!), you'll buy it in the can and apply it with a finish sprayer and air compressor ... anyway, after you've got about three coats of deft on (allowing time to dry between each coat), rub it down with some fine steel wool until it's smooth. Voila! A nice, smooth, mostly waterproof matte laquer finish with out the chance of brush streaks or splotches, and no need to compromise on color or design.

Most furniture sold today, 'cept the really expensive or bespoke stuff, is shite. Don't buy *anything* made out of particle board... plywood is ok, but particle board is horrible stuff that should die, die, die and will disintegrate shortly ... sometimes within months.

(Oh, and besides, you get to show the wife that you're all manly with your finishing furniture out in your new garage! ;) )
posted by SpecialK at 9:22 AM on January 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

Hey Jason, where do you live?
posted by silusGROK at 10:49 AM on January 23, 2004

I will have to say West Elm is pretty damn cool. You'd at least impress a lot of people. The prices aren't too bad either.

Ok I hate to derail but I would really like to know what kind of style/furniture is shown in this Dolce & Gabanna showcase. Paticularly the far left one with the guy on the bed. Like the whole ad reeks of ultra-cool and European but I'd seriously redesign my abode with those furnishings if I could figure out what style they are, and where to buy.
posted by geoff. at 11:39 AM on January 23, 2004

You might also consider going to a local furniture/designer showroom that deals w/several manufacturers - check your phonebook and look for a place that has a good quantity of stock catalogs for you to browse through (which should *far* surpass what's on the showroom floor) and a knowledgeable design staff.

I went to one place (a Saxon Clark here in central FL), drew a dorky little picture of the type of coffee table I wanted, and the designer found several models for me to choose from - I got a damn fine solid wood piece with drawers and a glass top inset, and haggled the price (which included shipping) to something you'd never find in your "what's on the floor is all we have" furniture store. Getting a designer to help you find furniture does not need to be expensive.
posted by Sangre Azul at 11:54 AM on January 23, 2004

I just wanted to note this website that was forwarded to me: eco-furniture.com.

Thank you all for the tips ... you are all very kind! I am certainly going to follow up on all of them.
posted by jasonspaceman at 12:15 PM on January 23, 2004

Room and Board and Retrospect. Affiliated stores; R&B is a little more contemporary, while Retrospect is a little more traditional.
posted by warhol at 12:21 PM on January 23, 2004

I recommend a search for vintage modern furniture. You can take a trip to The City™ or poke around online. The quality is generally better than anything you can find today. Prices will vary. Go with what you like and take things slowly.

You'll find some surprisingly useful things at a Goodwill and other thrift stores which can make fine placeholders: i.e. need chair now but not happy with what I am finding and I can give this back when I tire of it. Or they may be all you need with some new upholstery.

Don't be afraid to mix styles/periods. A clean minimal look is often more about pacement than style. Keep your eyes open. My wife just found a set of 6 Thonet chairs for about the cost of one -- and two of the six are arm chairs. It was a lark -- she saw them while passing a "antique" shop in Sharpsburg, MD -- not a place known for its lean towards modernism.
posted by Dick Paris at 5:34 AM on January 24, 2004

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