Apartment Therapy on the High Cost of Furniture

Apartment Therapy on the High Cost of Furniture

Maxwell Ryan
Jun 13, 2005

I've gotten used to a few sharp voices on the site always saying things are too darn expensive. But I've been thinking about it afresh and lately felt prompted to weigh in on the subject of furniture prices to try and balance the conversation.

The truth is good furniture costs MONEY, which is why we should be treating these purchases as INVESTMENTS and not as consumables (see also our post on Protein v. Carbohydate Furniture).

On a number of occasions when I worked with clients, I considered building a table or shelf for a client only to be stopped by the walloping high price. And one of my high end resources, Ronald Signorelli, who builds custom made desks and cabinets for Wall Street CEO’s that can cost up to $50,000 apiece, once told me,

“Don’t build it yourself unless you have a lot of money. Go look at Crate & Barrel. They do a good job and no one can compete with their prices.”

When we asked him how come their prices were so much lower, he said,

“Because they make their furniture in quantity. If you make things in quantity, you can really bring down the price. Anytime you build something once, such as in a custom situation, you have to pay for the full cost of making it. “

While we have all grown used to the furniture prices we see commonly advertised at our national stores, such as Ikea, where a sofa can cost $300, we have forgotten that these prices DO NOT reflect the real cost of building an individual piece of furniture.

At least not in this country. These prices can only be achieved by very large companies that can manage to produce and sell furniture in quantities.

Smaller stores and custom made retailers who pay living wages to skilled craftsmen in this country (or even overseas) have to charge a lot more for a sofa.

And in most cases, there is a HUGE difference in the quality; you are buying something that will last far longer and be a better investment.

This is not a pitch for spending a lot of money, just for spending it consciously.

Don’t always think you are getting a great deal when something costs LESS than you expect, and don’t always think you are getting cheated when something costs MORE than you expect.

On this site we always strive to cover the spectrum because we believe in buying a few nice pieces when we feel flush and are really inspired by the design and the craftsmanship. But we also know that there are some awesome affordable pieces to be spotted out there, and we often depend on the creative use of these things to finish our homes. We also know there are some readers out there who can afford anything and some who are on tight budgets all the time. 

Hopefully, over time, we all will experience a rise in our ability to spend on and improve our home, and remember that...

...nothing you do for your home is ever wasted. 

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