The Art of Things Chosen Well (rather than often)

As a designer, part of my mission is to educate you about making the right choices when selecting products, materials, furniture & furnishings and décor for your spaces.  We live in a world of endless choices and never-ending ways to procure those choices, while likely knowing very little about the quality of the products, and mostly judging them by their price.  I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking it is overwhelming to deal with all of those choices.   I trust I can provide you with some thoughts on mastering the Art of Things Chosen Well - rather than often.

 

I know we all in live in the fast lane, want instant gratification of a quick sale or want to snag a deal usually made in China.  I have to say, I’m not immune to it either.  But that begs the question, did we lose over time a sense for valuing quality, craftsmanship, products made slowly and meticulously?  It does seem that way, but choice is still yours to make.

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Here are the questions I ask my clients to get to the core values they seek in selecting their products:

1) What Quality level do you want and how long do you want it to last?

2) What is your Comfort and Stability level desired for the furniture?

3) What is the level of Care & Upkeep you want for furniture to last?

These are my categories of Furniture Quality levels :

1) GOOD furniture - readily available and good enough for the present.

2) BETTER furniture - readily available, some customization, lasts abt 4-6 yrs.

3) VERY GOOD furniture - semi-custom to custom, lifespan of 10 to 15 years.

4) EXCELLENT furniture - completely custom, heirloom quality, built-to-last with originality & superior craftsmanship and it will be kept for generations.

To guide you further on path of selecting products: The description of the GOOD furniture category are products that are typically mass made, with good mass appeal but lack substance, real style or lasting quality.  It certainly fits in many budgets, and will satisfy your ‘instant gratification’, but don’t count on them being in good shape after 3-4 yrs of normal use.

The products in the BETTER category are also mass market made, have a more refined look and feel, give you some more choices in selecting colors, textures, fabrics and quality is middle-of-the-road with a potential to last up to 5-6 yrs with proper care & upkeep.

What furniture is right for you to fit your taste, budget and lifestyle – choice is yours?  And to make you think further – “Are you rich enough to buy cheap?”

Finally, let’s talk about the art of choosing Very Good and Excellent quality furniture.  I know you all have splurged, at least once, to experience how it feels to be wearing that perfect fit dress or tailored pants or to eat that tantalizing meal at an upscale restaurant.  Those experiences teach us to recognize what quality means regardless of the price tag or brand label attached to it.  What makes those high quality “Very Good and Excellent” products special is the craftsmanship, time & skill invested, attention to detail, design and materials used which provide superior comfort and satisfaction.    The best part about those products it that are tailored to your needs, fit your lifestyle and space with unparalleled beauty and functionality, and will have a lasting usability.  Yes, those products do tend to be more expensive, and may give you a sticker shock, but let me give you this example, and you can decide what is better - “price or a deal”:

 

If you buy a jacket for $300, and let’s assume you though it was a deal but as you wear it you realized that it is not that great of a piece, either because of style or craftsmanship, so it will serve your  need right now and lasts for two years. The cost of the coat is $150 per year viewed as the cost amortized over the lifetime of its use.

If you extrapolate this to more expensive products; say a $1200 jacket, that fits you very well, made of quality materials, is luxurious and you keep it for 8 to 10 years, then the cost of that item is $150–$120per year, respectively.  So, you have the same or a lower cost than the cheaper jacket plus a major added benefit—lasting investment, the pride of ownership that comes with having a perfect fit luxurious product you can enjoy for many years to come.

 

As always, we have many options when buying, but making the right choices may not always be easy to make.  Thus, having a trusted interior designer to consult with, or even better, create together that custom fit furniture for your space - that will give you the ultimate satisfaction and best value we all seek.  At the upcoming seminar there will be my custom dining table on display and you can learn more how I collaborated with an exceptional carpenter and metal worker to design and develop this one-of-a-kind handcrafted live edge table.

 

You will have an opportunity to touch and feel an array of quality furniture pieces, handcrafted materials; from dining table, wallpaper to rugs, and more.  See you at the artVIA Design Seminar.

                                      Ariana presenting at artVIA Seminar, Houston, 2013

                                     Ariana presenting at artVIA Seminar, Houston, 2013

Every designer should begin with the wants and needs of the client, what they prize or what they need to reuse – and then we create within that framework. But what underlies the design is very important to me. I look for quality first; beginning with sourcing suppliers whose craftsmanship is impeccable. Nothing gets presented strictly on the basis of aesthetics. I don't just design a home I strive to build a long-term relationship between the client and their furnishings.

Here are few tips to detect shoddy workmanship and steer towards quality:

•             Pick the piece up; if it's light, be wary. Well-made furniture feels substantial. Turn chairs over and inspect the joints. Seat frames, at each corner, should be reinforced with wooden blocks. Look for dowels, not glue.

•             Look for good carpentry: tongue-and-groove joints, pegged drawers, dovetailed drawer fronts.

•             Beware staples and gauze on the bottom of chairs. Staples can be hiding a disaster.

•             Bounce on sofa cushions. If they don't move, the cushion is solid foam and may settle over time. If there's a slight give, there is supportive webbing that will increase sofa life. When you sit, make sure you can't feel the hard frame edge on the bottom of your thigh.

•             Check the seams on the upholstery. The stitching should be straight and there should be no puckering on the fabric. Is the fabric patter matching throughout the piece or is it placed randomly? Are the corners executed finely?

•             Inspect the bottoms and legs of all furniture to be sure that adjustable glides are present. Adjustable glides will help you level furniture. Frames may warp over time if furniture isn't level.

•             Run your hand over the length of any exposed wood. Check for smoothness and look for even finishes. Roughness and changes in color indicate shoddy work.