Painted Hall Table Hanging curio cabinet Victorian Rocker

We spend a lot of time in antique and thrift stores, trying to see the real bones of furniture through the godawful walnut stain and pink oak pickle. We look for furniture with architecture, furniture with grace of line, tough furniture which stood fast against the worst that little billy could do. This is the furniture that we spend weeks refinishing into some strange table creature, half alive, ready to gallop into the kitchen.

And we love lightweight, shipped-unassembled furniture. We think Target sells a lot of great furniture. (we draw the line at Walmart, but that’s a union thing) We love Ikea.

We’re not so fond of “Fine Hardwood Furniture”, as offered by most american furniture stores. It’s often of incredibly poor quality, though expensive. If it is made of hardwoods and not MDF and veneer, it’s actually a bad thing since veneers are much easier on the forests than hardwood planking.

So how do these positions all fit together?

A lot of it is about value. We just don’t see spending a lot of time or money on stuff which is only good enough. Being frugal also means never throwing anything away until you’ve absolutely used it up, can’t be fixed, and you’ve scavenged it for parts. We’d rather spend love on an old piece than money on a new one. When we’re done we’ll have something that’s unique and special, exactly right.

Some of it is ecologic. If you must make new furniture, it’s much better to make it out of leftover sawdust than fresh cut rainforest. There’s the valid question of whether the binders and glues used in fiberboard and MDF are too poisonous, perhaps we shouldn’t allow new furniture to outgas near our children. But it’s almost impossible to buy new furniture at any price that won’t be oozing mysterious organics into the environment for a few years.

We like lightweight furniture when we can get it, because it meets both of the criterion above. Lower material costs, lower shipping costs, easy to move, store and re-purpose. This is Ikea’s whole design philosophy, furniture that has minimal economic and ecologic impact.

So our homes are these strange mixtures of ultramodern and ancient. The Pergo floor under a victorian rocker. The Arne Jacobsen chair next to an Art-Deco buffet.