Furnish me with furnishing ideas
September 13, 2007 7:30 AM   Subscribe

After years of enduring slapdash, el-cheapo furnishings, I'm taking the plunge and buying honest-to-goodness, real furniture for my living room. That growling noise in the background is my gut clenching in fear. Help me with advice on purchases!

First, I know what I want to get. Sofa, love seat, sofa table (to go behind the sofa). Sounds simple, but stylistically, I'm aiming for the heavy oak stuff with vertical wooden slats -- I think it's referred to as "arts and crafts" or "mission," but I'm not sure which term is appropriate. (Set me straight?).

Of course, I'll be buying replicas of mission or arts and crafts, not the real stuff from way-back-when. I'm not an antiques kinda guy.

The big issue is, my living room has a southern exposure. It gets pounded, yes, pounded in the afternoons by Mike Tyson-level blasts from the sun. Everything in there gets bleached out after five years or so. Carpets, everything.

I can't use blinds in this room, because the windows . . . well, let's just say that the original architect exercised creativity with their shapes and placement that don't conform to the dull geometry of curtain makers. Blinds are out.

So I'm thinking, to protect the furniture against the onslaught of the sun, maybe I should use leather instead of cloth for the cushions. Does this make sense? Also, what should I do about protecting the wood? Are there any finishes that hold up against sunlight better than others? Or types of wood that are known to resist sunlight?

Problem number two. Ordering the furniture. The stuff I'm looking for doesn't seem to be available in my local furniture outlets, which seem to specialize in plump, overstuffed couches and chairs. Think "Carmella and Tony Soprano," and you'll get the picture.

What to do?

Are there any stores with an online presence that are known for this type of livingroom furniture? And, when I'm ordering online, what caveats should I be watching out for?
posted by Gordion Knott to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm distracted by your comment about curtains. Unless you live in a dome, I can't think why you couldn't get curtains made (and if you do live in a bubble house, Mission isn't really the best style of furniture for it). Have you looked into custom curtains, which would help with some of your furniture concerns?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:41 AM on September 13, 2007

Direct sunlight will cause fading in leather also, so I don't think what material you choose will make a difference -- maybe your best bet is getting some sort of UV film for the windows? (If you go with the window film, I suggest hiring a professional to do it...DIY film is tricky and very very frustrating.)

The biggest problem I see with ordering furniture online is that you can't assess its comfort factor. There are plenty of couches and chairs out there that look good but are no fun to sit on. Also, seeing a piece of furniture in person is much more helpful for getting a feel for how well it will fit in your room, in terms of how much space it will take up.
posted by puritycontrol at 7:45 AM on September 13, 2007

Custom blinds for the windows, man. I've got a 5-segment bay window with stained glass at the top of each segment. Custom, fake-wood blinds really tied the room together.

The sun's gonna bleach out just about anything, so your best bet is blinds or window tinting.
posted by notsnot at 7:46 AM on September 13, 2007

Seconding the corpse's idea on custom curtains or blinds. At the very least please post photos of the architect's creativity.
posted by mmascolino at 7:46 AM on September 13, 2007

Here's a whole pile of links to local and small-scale furniture makers that make arts and crafts stuff.

Hope this helps!
posted by LN at 7:46 AM on September 13, 2007

I also meant to mention: I don't have pics of the bay window here at work, but will try to post them when i get home tonight.
posted by notsnot at 7:46 AM on September 13, 2007

Response by poster: On the blind/curtain front, I should also add that one of the doors that lets in sunlight is a slider. I've used blinds and curtains in front of sliders, but they always present an obstacle when you're constantly moving in and out (my slider leads onto a deck).

Also, I'm a little lazy. I'd like to forgo the hassle of raising and lowering blinds or curtains everyday. If it's doable.
posted by Gordion Knott at 7:46 AM on September 13, 2007

I think that the fabric protection that you can have put on sofas at purchase also includes UV block. If not, there are products that you can apply to fabric and wood that should help. I'd be more worried for the state of the leather, since if it dries out in the sunlight, it could crack.

Mission is probably the word you are looking for. The Arts and Crafts movement had a lot of styles for fabric, furniture and houses, but nowadays it's the Mission style that people think of and use extensively in marketing. Prairie is another keyword that leads to Mission style oak furniture with a Frank Lloyd Wright feel.

When you went to the local furniture store, did you only look at the floor models? They also have tons of books that will show other styles, what you want may be in there. Here's an online option too, found by searching Furniture Prairie.
posted by saffry at 8:03 AM on September 13, 2007

Try looking at www.rustique.ca to get furniture ideas.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:05 AM on September 13, 2007

Maybe some window film will help protect your stuff.
posted by amtho at 8:09 AM on September 13, 2007

Go with LN's advice on getting furniture made by custom furniture manufacturers. The quality is exceptional and the cost isn't unreasonable. Any Mission-style furniture you buy at furniture retailers is most likely made in China. As far as I know, China was never historically associated with the Arts and Crafts movement.
posted by JJ86 at 8:16 AM on September 13, 2007

Try Pompanoosuc Mills. All handcrafted-hardwoods, made in Vermont. Each piece is made to order, one at a time. We have a dining set from them that is 20 years old, and people still ask if it's new. My house is filled with their furniture, and I have never been unhappy with the quality. Their showroom staff is tops, too, and you can now order online. It's very pricey, but you will be handing it down to your grandchildren in 50 years.
posted by Flakypastry at 8:27 AM on September 13, 2007

Smith and Noble offers all different kinds of blinds in custom sizes. Even if you have something irregularly shaped, I'm sure you could get something made to fit in there. I'm really interested in seeing what shapes your windows are.

Also, I really like Room and Board which has a huge mix of furniture, including some that are arts and craft inspired. While probably not exactly what you are looking for, you may find some pieces that you like.
posted by hazyspring at 9:00 AM on September 13, 2007

What about replacing your sliding door with one that has internal blinds?
posted by onhazier at 9:07 AM on September 13, 2007

Lots of good ideas here regarding furniture places so I'm gonna address the southern exposure. Do you have a yard -- plantings are what you need! If you want year-round sunlight protection, get yourself some kind of evergreen. If you want warmth in the winter to cut your heating bills and shade in the summer then go for a deciduous tree. If you don't have a yard but have eaves, consider hanging planters. Add those with some interior shading (blinds or curtains) and you're going to be much much happier and you can worry less about your furniture.
posted by amanda at 9:10 AM on September 13, 2007

I asked a very similar question a little while ago here.
Specifics to our respective situations aside, I got some good answers in there.
While I've since discovered that I'm actually looking for more Art Nouveau things, that may still be helpful. Mission, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Craftsman-style, all of these keywords will bring you closer to what you seek.
posted by lilithim at 9:21 AM on September 13, 2007

I have the very sofa it sounds like you're describing and would love to sell it (email's in profile). Here's a picture of the one I have (a Stickley prairie settle, [links to manufacturer site, not a picture of my own] but mine's in fabric, not leather). You can also start at the Stickley website. They list dealers. Or search "stickley" on ebay or what-have-you. I think even folks who sell reproduction often call it by this name. As others have mentioned, craftsman, mission, and art nouveau will also get you similar styles.

I can tell you that mine (10 years old) has stood up to a lot and still looks great. It has been in full sun in several apartments and the wood hasn't been affected at all (or at least has been affected uniformly enough for me not to notice). The fabric has faded and I think you're right that leather might stand up better.
posted by cocoagirl at 11:01 AM on September 13, 2007

One piece of good news is that re-covering the faded cushions is pretty straighforward, and much cheaper than upholstering an over-stuffed sofa. Or get slipcovers -- now or later.

I have an oak floor that's been bathed in bright southern sunlight for decades, and it's none the worse for wear. Sunlight can change the color of the wood and finish quite a bit, but if you have the normal mission darkish stain, it won't be noticeable.

Leather does fade from sunlight -- but maybe you'd like that look better than faded fabric. It's easier to clean, in my experience, and dust isn't an issue. Leather on mission furniture can look really great.
posted by wryly at 12:04 PM on September 13, 2007

My advice is to not buy everything at once. I'm not a fan of everything matching precisely. Leather will fade, but if you like it, go for it. The color red is quite susceptible to fading, so you might want to avoid it.

LL Bean has some leather furniture in Mission styles. I live near an outlet store and have a couple pieces of LL Bean furniture that are well made and comfy.

That Stickley settle is absolutely gorgeous.
posted by theora55 at 3:59 PM on September 13, 2007

Get a high quality leather sofa and club chair plus ottoman for starters. (Ours are dark blue; we've had them 22 years, and they've been in 12 or 15 different settings.) Get a classic style with nailheads, bun feet, comfy cushions (lie down on the sofa to read and fall asleep in 10 minutes). After that, mix and match with semi-classic pieces or, as some previous posters said, gorgeous Stickley and prairie style. (Unless you live in an adobe hacienda; then I'd do the Santa Fe look.)
posted by Smalltown Girl at 7:38 PM on September 15, 2007

« Older whats in a name?   |   Software needed to create a DVD from multiple... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.