Big Chains: What's Worth Your Money?

Big Chains: What's Worth Your Money?

Leah Moss
May 27, 2009

We get a fair amount of negative feedback here at Apartment Therapy about products from large retailers such as Pottery Barn and Ikea. However, every time their catalogs come in the mail or we visit their stores, their sleek displays and "great deals" spark our consumer curiosity, and we start imagining a home decked out in KARLSTAD sofas and PB ticking stripe duvets. Chances are, you've bought an item or two from one of the major retailer giant's too. So, what we want to know is, was it worth it? We've conducted an impromptu survey among friends and family, and here's our quick list of "safe products" from a few of the country's favorite chains....

All of these products have been given favorable reviews by discerning consumers with regards to the durability and cost ratio.

West Elm:

• The ever popular Parsons Desk- its success seem to be in its versatility and simple construction. Its simple design allows it to serve equally well as a writing desk, console, or small dining table with storage for napkins and the like.

Wood Trays- WE is always offering it in new colors. Set on top of an ottoman it makes a great coffee table, or on an entry console it serves as a useful catch-all for mail and keys.

We've heard complaints about: rugs (they shed, some say they have a persistent odor)

Pottery Barn:

Classic Flatware- there's a reason that this has remained on the PB roster for so long. Its heavy, not easily scratched, and sturdily constructed. I can give a personal vouch for the flatware, nothing but praise.

Great White Dinnerware- Its timeless, fits any decor, and seems fairly resistant to the scratching and etching that often plagues white everyday dishes.

We've heard complaints about: wooden items such as tables and salad bowls (delicate finishes make them prone to easy scratching), window shades (rarely resemble their catalog counterparts, delicate stitching unravels easily, many lack the self-locking cord lock system)

Crate & Barrel:

Sofas- in general we've encountered pleased reviews of their sofas. They're not impervious to sagging upholstery, but for those sofas boasting a kiln-dried hardwood frame, the construction seems solid enough to last many years.

Restoration Hardware:

Lighting- fairly expensive, but it's reliable and holds up nicely, in addition to being beautiful.

Beds- sturdily constructed with durable finishes.

Turkish towels- easily the plushest towels form a major chain. They're durability makes them worth the higher price tag.


LACK series: the simple design makes it versatile and fairly reliable. In general, it seems like "the smaller and simpler, the better" is a good buying guideline when it comes to the LACK. For example, the bookcases are not impervious to the infamous Ikea sag, but the side tables and wall shelves seem sturdy for several years of good use.

• The children's SVALA table and chairs- suprisingly sturdy.

We've heard complaints about: Dressers (fine on the outside, shoddy on the inside. Shelves sag and hardware comes off easily), lighting (attractive, but finicky an unreliable), sofas (particle board and soft wood frames, and thin, fade-prone upholstery are no match for a high traffic living room)


Window treatments and window hardware- their panels and shades are often of comparable quality to the bigger name chains but at a fraction of the cost. That being said, don't expect luxe materials, but do expect good prices for a decent product.

So there's our shortlist. What would you add?

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