Outstanding online furniture stores for medium to high end furnishings?
November 16, 2007 6:50 PM   Subscribe

Hi All, I just moved and have a new job that will, fortunately, give me the opportunity to purchase nice furniture for the first time in my life. I'm more into modern designs, but with a quality touch. If there is a manufacturer that makes super high quality, modern stuff that would be the ticket for me. Anyway, I'm looking for online stores to shop on. I'm looking for literally everything a typical two person home needs. We currently have no furniture save a recliner, so we need a lot! I'll admit I don't know the first thing about design, furniture history, etc. But I do want to learn. The ideal shops will offer quality and education. I'm not looking for IKEA or super cheap options. Basically, just give me some links of some kick ass online furniture and furnishing joints!
posted by Bob Dobbs to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
My advice would be to not be in a rush to furnish an entire home, but rather wait and pick up pieces you really love. Having once in my life spent $3000 on a gorgeous white couch and matching oversized chair, my second piece of advice would be to shop on craigslist for moving sales because I ended up selling my beautiful pieces for $800 when I moved and I am sure bargains like that happen every day. You don't have to buy brand new--lots of people end up moving and selling stuff less than a year old for a lot less than retail.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:56 PM on November 16, 2007

Don't forget the ability to get older stuff reupholstered, especially sturdy classics.

When I was in your position, I purchased a Rowe sectional couch that I adore. I then split up with my partner four days later. I love the couch so much that it is now the focal point of my studio apartment -- and it still fits and looks wonderful.

If you don't mind spending some coin for some awesome "reading" chairs that recline but still look pretty sleek, Ekornes is great. Accept no substitutes. I was lucky enough to pick mine up for $45 at an estate sale (also a FABULOUS place to look, if you luck out on good ones -- you can surely find some midcentury gems here and there), but they usually run $800-$1300 or so for the chairs.

Definitely take your time and learn as you go. Never make an impulse buy, and make sure you know where it will go, what it will go with, and whether it would fit in other places if you have to move it around (within your current home or a new one). You don't have to be matchy-matchy; just pick up accents here and there (like small wooden legs on couches and coffee tables, for example) and use less expensive accessories to make a room more versatile.

Good luck!
posted by Madamina at 7:19 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I suggest you look for used pieces. If you get good ones they'll be better or as good (structurally) as anything new and they'll appreciate in value.

My favorite designers are Arne Vodder, Arne Jacobsen, Illum Wikkelso, Grete Jalk, Ib Kofod-Larsen, Finn Juhl and Hans Wagner. Google their names along with the words sofa or chair to see what they've done.

You can see a few of my pieces here. Everything was found online and they're all old pieces and all will appreciate if kept in good condition.
posted by dobbs at 7:26 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Grrr. That should be Hans Wegner. I always misspell it. :(
posted by dobbs at 7:35 PM on November 16, 2007

The obvious answer is Room and Board. I agree with going local, though. Maybe you could tell us your location? I could give you half a dozen places in Seattle.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:40 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: "The obvious answer is Room and Board. I agree with going local, though. Maybe you could tell us your location? I could give you half a dozen places in Seattle.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:40 PM on November 16 "

I am in Seattle! Please tell me what you know, would be most useful! Thanks.
posted by Bob Dobbs at 8:34 PM on November 16, 2007

I love love love CB2, Crate and Barrel's modern furnishing line—lots of clean lines, good textures and crisp colors. Their catalog is great for grabbing ideas out of.

The blog Apartment Therapy is an invaluable resource for seeing what things are coming into fashion, what people are doing with them, and where to get awesome stuff!
posted by lia at 9:22 PM on November 16, 2007

Room and Board would be my first choice. It's definitely more expensive than IKEA, but not as much as Design Within Reach and the stuff I've gotten from there has been fairly well constructed.

The few things I've gotten from Design Within Reach are built really well, but the prices are insane.
posted by mathowie at 9:23 PM on November 16, 2007

I could give you half a dozen places in Seattle.

(Please share! I need tips.)

When I was there I had time to look through Area 51 (401 E. Pine St, 206-568-4782) and you may find some items similar to what you would find at Room and Board. Though RnB definitely has more selection.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:31 PM on November 16, 2007

Area 51 is a gallery for EQ3, which makes a lot of really nice stuff.

When I moved into a new apartment earlier this year, it was my first time furnishing a place, and I was in a very similar "nicer than IKEA" mindset to what you describe, and I ended up at EQ3. They have a full store here in San Francisco. It's stylish, modern, well-made, and there's a fairly broad range of prices.

I went to the store looking for a couch the first time. After spending well over 3 hours over the course of multiple visits talking to the super-helpful staff, I ended up ordering a couch, chair, and two tables for my living room and two dressers. I made a last minute call and ordered a desk too. Love love love the desk, even though it isn't a perfect fit in my space (that's what you get for impulse buying furniture... avoid if you can). Now I stop in there periodically to see if they have anything else I "need." I picked up a rug there too at a sample sale. I walked in and went to the rugs, and the guy I normally deal with there was like, "Hi JuBu, is that rug for your living room? If so, there's really only one thing in that sale stack that goes with everything you ordered 5 months ago, which I recall perfectly. Let me show you." Then we went through a stack of 40 rugs until he found the right one, which was in fact a perfect match, and I got a sweet discount.

I include the story not only because I want to praise the specific store and sales rep (Hi Skip!), but also because I found it incredibly valuable to talk to people who actually knew something about furniture when I was shopping. I knew nothing, but they knew the questions to ask to draw it out of me. We went through multiple revisions and drawings of how I wanted to lay the rooms out, etc. If you're a first-time furniture shopper, I'd say make an effort to talk to the staff when you go to stores/galleries. Put their knowledge to your use. From talking with them, I got a much better idea of what would work in my apartment and what wouldn't, and I'm really happy with the result, both in terms of specific pieces and how the rooms look overall.
posted by jewishbuddha at 10:57 PM on November 16, 2007

I have seen the inside of my EQ3 leather sofa and I am not impressed with the quality. I opened it up b/c the frame on one side was loose & turned out to be cracked in several places. The frame is 1/2" plywood, mostly stapled together, with cardboard stiffening/shaping across the top of the arm, the sides & back. No hardwood, minimal bracing, light foam padding.
It was a good deal from Craigslist tho....
posted by pgoes at 11:31 PM on November 16, 2007

i view cb2, eq3 and west elm as on par with ikea, just with a higher price tag. nothing against any of those though -- i just spent all night putting together ikea storage shelving.

places to poke around:

http://www.umodern.com (especially bontempi casa)

and then play around on mocoloco and apartment therapy...you'll find lots of good stuff.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 11:43 PM on November 16, 2007

Design Within Reach is expensive, but even if you don't buy a stick of furniture there, you should visit (in person, not online). Why? 1) The people who work there (well, at the one near me, anyhow) are real design wonks, and will gladly educate you about modern design, and probably recommend books you could read. 2) They have many of the classics of modern design, things like an Eames bent-plywood chair or an Eileen Gray table.

CB2 and West Elm are OK, but they're a lot closer to the Ikea end of the quality spectrum than to the DWR end. In some cases, I think their products aren't as good as Ikea's, in fact. Whether that difference is one that is worth paying for is another question.

I'd also recommend hunting around in antique stores. Start with the big ones, that are more like malls. You'll probably find a booth or two with a modernist specialization. I'm a big fan of Heywood Wakefield furniture, which is handsome (IMO) and built like a tank.
posted by adamrice at 7:54 AM on November 17, 2007

Crate and Barrel or CB2 are pretty crappy and overpriced IMHO. Most of it is built in the 3rd world and sold for 1st world prices. You may actually want to check Ebay. You can find very excellent modern vintage furniture for less than new prices.

DWR offers some good stuff and is worth a good look but a favorite of mine is Dania which is well worth it. I have a few pieces from them. I visit the Chicago store but see they have a store in Seattle. too.
posted by JJ86 at 8:18 AM on November 17, 2007

Sorry for the delay, here's my Seattle recommendations:

Definitely check out the Kasala outlet, it's on Occidental in SoDo, near the Krispy Kreme. There's a Kasala downtown which is sort of overpriced for what it is but I have found great stuff at the outlet.

There are at least two places in Ballard for funky, second hand but modern furniture: Space Oddity and a place called Collective on Ballard Avenue. While you're in Ballard, check out Enlighten which I haven't been to, but a friend recently told me to check it out.

Someone else already mentioned Area 51.

We have a few things from Deep Interior, which isn't exactly modern, but they have some really unique beautiful stuff. Deep Interior is in the middle of Seattle's furniture/interior design ghetto and there are probably a dozen other furniture stores within 4 blocks.

Egbert's on First Avenue is an independent store that has been there for ages and deals in high quality modern furniture.

If you think you might have a place for an Asian-themed piece, definitely look at Far Fetched which is sort of fun just to walk around.

I don't know if that makes half a dozen so I will throw in Dania for good measure.

Good luck to you. My wife and I had to furnish a house in a relatively short period of time and it's definitely fun to buy a bunch of stuff all at once. I will say that the favorite pieces in our house were not things we bought during this spending spree, they were things we found randomly when we weren't looking. Try to resist the urge to buy things you don't love just to have them, you will find better things down the road.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:40 AM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

i suggest you splurge on the big ticket items (couch, bed, dining table/chairs, light fixtures etc) and spend less on smaller pieces (side tables, chairs, window treatments, etc). i've found that what works best is to mix things up: for instance, i have a lot of danish modern vintage pieces (picked up from ebay and vintage stores and garage/estate sakes) picked up for less than what a new item would cost (some as low as $35 for two barrel chairs, or $20 for a vintage steelcase desk, some items for free even), a few pieces from west elm (which i think is a step up from ikea), CB2, room and board, kitchen kaboodle (they have recently started selling some great furniture pieces), design within reach, jonathan adler, and from other local modern design shops. this both keeps your house from looking like a showroom from one store as well as from looking like you bought into a style wholesale. it also makes the less expensive items look more expensive if they blend in well with the spendier items.
posted by violetk at 11:37 AM on November 17, 2007

Oh yeah, West Elm! Duh.

I always think it's funny that everyone's complaint about Design Within Reach is that it's so damn expensive. More like Design Out Of Reach.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:03 PM on November 17, 2007

Throw away the recliner.

Not mentioned already:
posted by lovejones at 5:38 PM on November 17, 2007

any more suggestions? Thanks!
posted by Ligament at 11:32 PM on January 15, 2008

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