Forever Furniture

Trends come and go, but your décor doesn’t have to. Buying furniture for the long term makes a lot of sense—and you don’t have to sacrifice style to do it.

You have a lot of options when you’re shopping for furniture, options that range from the near-freebies on Craigslist all the way up to second-mortgage caliber sofas and chairs from the Merchandise Mart. But before you finalize that budget, you might want to consider more factors than simply how many people you want to squeeze around the dining-room table on Thanksgiving or whether you get a free HDTV included in the purchase of a bedroom suite.

Consider Where It's Made

Construction quality varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and some consumers prefer American-made furniture. They may believe the quality is inherently higher in comparison with goods made in other parts of the world, or they may prefer U.S. furnishings for more ideological reasons. People in the latter group often choose American products because there are fewer unknowns regarding, for example, minimum wages for workers or environmental standards for factories. 

Renee Degelau with Stevens Design, a high-end furniture retailer in Fitchburg, says her store works exclusively with domestic companies for both reasons: to ensure not only quality but also environmentally sound manufacturing. “We focus on the important aspects of the construction and materials used,” she says. “We represent American manufacturers that focus on sustainable forestry management practices that will ensure the health and growth of our forests for future generations.”

Buy Once

Consider buying high quality right from the start, says Jacob Harlow, manager at The Century House in Madison. This costs more at the outset, but you don’t have to replace pieces as often—if at all—and that can save you money in the long term. This is also an eco-friendly shopping strategy since you aren’t discarding entire rooms of furniture time and time again.  

“Buying quality furniture that you will not have to replace every few years makes a difference in the long run,” Harlow says. “You are not only reducing waste, but creating heirlooms that you can pass to your children. Buying locally also affects your furniture’s carbon footprint.”

Degelau agrees, noting that high-quality furniture is less likely to end up in a landfill. But just because you hold onto something for decades doesn’t mean that it has to look old and stuffy. “Quality furniture can be upholstered in fresh, new, trendy fabrics to be passed down from generation to generation,” she says.

Take to Trends

Trends are fun even when you’ve got investment-quality furniture. Incorporating new colors, styles or design motifs can make old rooms feel new again. “Today’s trends are bright, vibrant colors that reflect the gorgeous colors of nature, from turquoise waters to vibrant orange blossoms,” Degelau says.

Harlow says trends can be smart, too. Sometimes a trend brings along the perfect solution or perfect fit for your home. Then it makes total sense to jump on the bandwagon and snatch up the latest and greatest and incorporate that into your décor. And just because you’ve found the perfect gray hue for your walls doesn’t mean you need to abandon it when the trend passes. “ [Trends] don’t have to be temporary,” Harlow points out. 

Ignore the Trends

It is fun to be fashionable, but you don’t have to be a slave to the current styles. For instance, maybe you find gray to be too cold or institutional. Or you may think woodland themes are too cute to incorporate into your living room. Perhaps you really like oak even though all your neighbors are going with cherry or maple. 

Harlow says to follow your heart more than fashion pages—especially when it comes to big-ticket items like furniture. “Regardless of how many times you hear about how fabulous that piece of furniture is, it has to speak to you or you shouldn’t buy it,” he says. “Quality furniture lasts a long time, so buy what you love.”

Degelau says ultimately your home is, well, your home; it should reflect who you are and what you find comfortable. “The furniture you see should be the furniture you want to sit in, live in, entertain in and relax in,” she says.

Make a Statement

The thing about trends is that they’re everywhere. That’s part of why we like them so much: The more we’re exposed to things, the more familiar and desirable they become. But sometimes it makes sense to step out a little bit and select furnishings and accessories that put a unique stamp on our homes. 

Pianos are a great statement piece, says Peter Reschenberg, a salesperson for Heid Music Company, which has stores in Madison and Appleton. Grand pianos, of course, pack the biggest punch, but uprights, consoles and even digital models can add warmth and entertainment, too. Plus, sophisticated new player systems that can be utilized with most any piano can bring music to any household regardless of whether you’ve got a pianist under your roof.

Of course, with a big-ticket item like a piano (grands at Heid start at $6,995 and go all the way up to six figures), it pays to do your research. Heid salespeople will come out to your house with wood samples and templates to make sure your selection fits your space and style.

Never Stop Shopping

Most of us don’t outfit our homes in one giant shopping spree. We acquire pieces, suites, and whole rooms over time. That means we have to mix pieces from different periods and trends. Somehow it all has to work together.

And it usually does, Harlow says. “Don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to buying one style of furniture or it won’t match,” he says. “Buy what you love and build your collection as you go … being patient until you find those right pieces to pull things together will be worthwhile in the end. You will end up with a space that is uniquely, completely yours.”

-Jennifer Garrett

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