Style Points: Thoughts on Purchasing Quality Furniture

Periodically, we feel the need to share another writer's perspective about home design, furniture, or other creative industries. Today, we feature the article of James Rusch. He shares his insight about how furniture is made and how long you can expect it to last.


You get what you pay for.

We are living in a disposable society. Our description of forever is different than our parents and dramatically different than our grandparents. Forever, to many of us, is some amount of time less than 20 years, to others less than 5 years and sadly, for some it is measured in days.

Computers are, by design, out of date usually within 6 months of when you buy them. Most things are made to be obsolete in a very short period of time. Automobiles are marketed to consumers to be replaced every 2-3 years (24-36 month lease) even though their usable life is much longer. Why? Because it is in the interest of the manufacturer to do so.

Some things may need to be discarded. Technology is advancing faster than we can keep up. Some people think this is good. Mostly, these are the people who profit by our current lifestyle.

Are there things we can do to cut down on the costs of living in this throw away society? Definitely!

When you are looking to purchase something, don’t look just at the immediate price. My parents and grandparents always said, “You get what you pay for”. If you buy something cheap, most times, you will need to replace it in a relatively short period of time. If you buy a $2000.00 used car, you don’t expect it to last as long as a $10,000.00 car unless you put more money into maintenance.

Another example is furniture. Have you ever seen a piece of furniture in an antique shop that was made out of particleboard with a veneer over it? NO. The reason: it doesn’t last long enough to qualify as an antique. I’ll admit that when you are looking to purchase a piece of furniture, you are not thinking about where it will be in 100 years. But the concept is the same. The manufacturers of these “throwaway” products have come up with all kinds of euphemisms for particleboard. They will say things like “made with solid wood products” (translation: this used to be solid wood until we ground it up into sawdust and made our products with it) or “made with wood solids and veneers (translation: a little wood around the edges to make it look like real wood, but mostly veneer).

Now as far as the cost of “throw away” verses quality. Here is an example: you buy a piece of “particleboard” furniture for $200.00, and maybe spend a few hours putting it together. In a few years, it starts to wobble or the veneer starts to peel off and you want to replace it. Let’s say it lasts 5 years. In that time, with inflation, the replacement piece has gone up to $250.00. You have, in essence, spent $450.00 and in a few more years, you will need to replace it again. If you would have bought a quality piece of furniture made out of solid wood, it might have cost $400.00 right away but it will be with you for years and then you can pass it down to your children. Which is the better deal for you?

All would agree that it costs a lot more to throw something away and buy new than to keep the old one. Sometimes it has to be done, but sometimes it can be avoided by just figuring the “true cost” of something before you make the purchase.

James Rusch is a 6th generation cabinetmaker and the president of The Wood Shed, maker of Solid Oak storage systems for CD’s, DVD’s, VHS tapes, audio cassettes, bookcases, etc. You can see their products at
their website.

Be Creative -


1 comment: said...

Agreed! Quality is definitely the better purchase with furniture. I would also suggest you get to know the seller. Your instincts serve you well even when shopping.