Quality Furniture – Where to Find It and Why It Matters

Any interior designer out there knows that the fight to source and sell quality items can be a challenge! Price can be an obstacle for some who are looking to buy well-made furniture that lasts, but I’m finding that even clients with a generous budget have a hard time understanding the value. Why is that?

  Gorgeous custom-made rush headboards in    Gil Schafer's hom   e

Gorgeous custom-made rush headboards in Gil Schafer’s hom e

Well, people (me included!) have been trained to want low quality goods because of the basic principles of positive reinforcement. If you are positively rewarded quickly then you are more likely to do that behavior again. Today’s retailers offer both quick service and extremely inexpensive prices, which makes for a hard shopping habit to break. You can end up spending twice the amount on cheap goods over time, but we don’t care because we love the feeling of buying that $40 lamp and enjoying it’s shiny newness now! We don’t feel the pain of cheap goods until a few months or years later when it cracks or becomes wobbly. 



I used to LOVE going to HomeGoods or the Target clearance aisle and buying whatever my fun money would allow me, but I’m not kidding when I say I don’t think I have but one or two of those purchases over the past five years still in my house.

We justify this cycle of purchasing by saying it will allow us to keep up with our ever-changing tastes, but that miiight not be the best desire to play in to. However, I totally get it! It’s immediately satisfying to fill up the house with the latest and greatest and feel put-together, but we aren’t taking the time to discover what we truly find beautiful. Do we really love the new style because it resonates with us, or just because we’ve never seen it before? The latter is a poor motivation, because once we a) own it, b) become accustomed to it, and c) see it everywhere, we no longer have that attachment to it. It’s boring and out-of-style and it heads off to a thrift store, or worse, shoved in an already stuffed closet/basement/guest room. 

Can you imagine any of the things you buy in retail today becoming an heirloom, much less staying around for 15 more years?

  Julianne Hough's home  by designer Jake Arnold

Julianne Hough’s home by designer Jake Arnold

Yikes! I’ve been guilty! Of course it’s not feasible or necessary for everything to last a lifetime, but we’ve gone so far on the opposite of the spectrum that the majority of what Americans own will someday soon be junk. 

I think that’s why I love getting to know my clients as much as I can before making suggestions. They deserve more than a design plan full of things that are “in” and can easily be replaced. Instead, they deserve a design that stands the test of time and truly makes them feel like they are at home. Quality items look charming and better with wear, not worse! Plus, it keeps us from treating the earth like a giant trashcan without ever realizing it.

I’ll admit, it was a shock to me the first time I saw how long it takes to get a new, quality, custom sofa (months!), or how much it costs. I personally have an Ikea sofa because of our current budget, but if I had a few grand to spend on a quality one, you BET I would. They are 100% worth it and one day, I will!

  An old picture of my living room, where this Anthropologie sofa and antique end table are paired with a Target pillow and an ottoman that was a random find in SteinWay (certainly not an heirloom piece!) Not pictured is the Ikea sofa it now faces.

An old picture of my living room, where this Anthropologie sofa and antique end table are paired with a Target pillow and an ottoman that was a random find in SteinWay (certainly not an heirloom piece!) Not pictured is the Ikea sofa it now faces.

So I don’t think there are hard-and-fast rules on exactly where/when to invest in quality pieces. I’m certainly not suggesting that you sit on the floor until you can afford the 8-way hand tied spring sofa with a down blend and kiln-dried hardwood. Several of the pieces in my house (buffet, end tables, dressers, etc.) are well made and will outlive me, and they add greatly to the depth and soul of my home. They were, however, inherited or thrifted and mixed with a few pieces that will last me less than forever. 

I know that some of you reading are disheartened hearing that new made-to-last goods might be out of your budget. I get it – I’m currently in that category! But there are plenty of ways you can still incorporate quality in your home. I have seen friends who turn down beautiful, sturdy, FREE furniture from family members because they aren’t trendy looking! If you like a uniform, on-trend look, then I get that. But to create a soulful, interesting home, you’ve got to incorporate pieces with quirk and a story. Take those pieces from your family!

  My    best friend's nursery   , where we mixed her husband's grandmother's inherited dresser with a new rug + inexpensive crib.

My best friend’s nursery , where we mixed her husband’s grandmother’s inherited dresser with a new rug + inexpensive crib.

Getting quality pieces also means you can’t always frown on taking pieces from strangers. Antique malls, thrift stores, and Craigslist are great ways to find furniture that will last you years and years! Paint, reupholstery, or a good cleaning can go a long way with those finds if you know what to look for. If you come across something you like, test it out! Sit in it like you would at home, open every single drawer, check out the joints, and -yes- check for “weird stains” on the corners. That’s dog pee. Do not buy stuff with pee on it or if it smells like smoke. Just don’t.

If you want to avoid the hunt and hassle and can afford it, that’s what a designer is for. If you paid me the hours it takes to find thrift items for you, it negates the price, but I can source and order stunning quality items that you won’t be setting on the curb in 20 years. 

Overall, quality will always rule with me, because trendy cheap stuff just isn’t sustainable!

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  1. Caroline McKell

    August 2nd, 2018 at 5:25 am

    This so resonates with me. I’m always shocked when I see people filling up their Target carts with every new line that comes out. So far we’ve chosen to invest in our couches and that’s as much as we can afford for now. But I’ve been able to find quality antique pieces at thrift stores and flea markets (our hutch, a couple dressers and a credenza) at really reasonable prices and I LOVE them. The key for me has been slow decorating, buying quality pieces over time as we can afford them. Your clients are lucky that you have this perspective! They will love the spaces you help create for many, many years.

  2. Briana Strickland

    August 2nd, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Oh I used to LOVE when Target came out with a new line. I think breaking that habit just comes after a few years and realizing it all ends up at Goodwill once the trend is tired. I will say, their latest stuff has some classic elements that I am using because they won’t get old!

About Briana

Hey! I'm Briana, the author behind this blog.

I'm a self-taught interior designer from South Carolina who loves sweet tea, cats, and open windows on a nice day.

If you prefer a home with soul and life over a "perfect" home, then browse on my friend.