Monday, September 25, 2006
The October issue of Smart Money magazine offers an article on the deconstruction of some "modern American" furniture from "upscale lifestyle retailers" Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, and Crate and Barrel. The magazine bought several pieces and shipped them to a Maine furniture shop for disassembly. The magazine credits the approachability of the designs at all three stores and the cunning marketing talents of each corporation for being able to cause someone who enters the store looking for placemats to leave with a $2200 armoire. Then the article goes on to shred the construction of the so-called "classic" pieces. Many pieces are made of particle board and plywood with 1/40th-inch wood veneers. One chair's back support consists of a single large webbing strap, lots of polyester down fluff, and a canvas slipcover. Sure, there's a spring-filled cushion (on the bottom half only!). Rustic-appearing pieces use a species of Indonesian wood more commonly used for fabricating shipping crates than for quality furniture. Drawers are stapled and glued rather than joined with dovetails. Dark "espresso" and "mink" finishes hide problems with grain or tone between component pieces. To think that pieces of this quality approach the cost of the low-end pricy stuff! If image and simplicity of acquisition count, these stores are fine for it, but this article demonstrates more reasons for buyers to be wary of what lurks beneath the surface.
The article text does not seem to be online, which is a shame, but a few other bloggers have commented (here) on the article's findings as well.