Is it furniture?

This week, my town had its semi-annual "Bulky item curbside pickup" day - affectionately known as "Big trash day". Driving through town on my way to the shop, I could not help but notice the amount of furniture put out to pasture at the curb. Dilapidated desks, battered bookshelves, treacherous tables, and splintered seating all meeting their demise at the end of so many driveways. It got me thinking about what makes furniture furniture. Why did all of these pieces meet an early end when so many antiques survive hundreds of years intact. The answer is easy: but we can look at it from a practical standpoint and a philosophical one. 

To design furniture that will last lifetimes, three things are needed: Quality materials, quality designs, and quality construction. For most "QD" or "RTA" out of the box "Furniture" that you find at the big box stores and cheap furniture stores, quality materials and quality construction are immediately thrown out the window. Built from particleboard and veneered with paper, printed to look like wood, these materials will sag under their own weight, swell up and disintegrate when wet, and crumble or break when bumped. Made from nothing more than glue, compressed sawdust and fiber, we simply refer to particleboard as "termite barf" (coined by our friend Chris Schwarz) here at QLine design - you will never find it in anything we build - ever.

I could rant for hours about this, but I will save you the boredom of reading it because you have probably experienced it already. It is unnerving to see something being sold as furniture when there is no possible way it could survive a decade, let alone a lifetime. This means that the $200 bookcase tuns into a $2000 bookcase after a few replacements, and what does the customer end up with? Still just a $200 bookcase that will end up at the curb. 

What about quality designs? There are teams of engineers and designers for these products that come up with ingenious solutions to connect this junk together in ways that look like furniture; and companies like Ikea have actually designed some beautiful objects, but they are designed with obsolescence in mind - buy it once and you are a customer for life - not because you love it, but because you will need to replace it.

 Junk on the curb

Junk on the curb

 Junk at the core - affectionately referred to around our shop as "Termite Barf", particle board and fiberboard have no place in fine furniture.

Junk at the core - affectionately referred to around our shop as "Termite Barf", particle board and fiberboard have no place in fine furniture.

"What about the bedroom set that I bought for $999 at the discount furniture store? It is made from real wood"

So what happens if you have quality materials but not quality construction or quality design? Check again - a real furnituremaker can show you that the cost of quality materials alone on that same set will exceed what you paid. Likely the drawers are stapled together, the backs are made from fiberboard, and the rest of the hardware will fail. Much of the furniture that is sold at discount stores is actually assembled or partially assembled on site at the store. Many tables are shipped with the legs separate, and bolted on afterward resulting in a table that wobbles over time - this is done because it is cheaper to ship a "Flat pack" table than one that is built correctly. Again - you have experienced it before, so I won't go on and on.

"Styles change and my tastes change, so it's OK to replace my furniture again and again" I answer this with another question:  Why is "Espresso" such a popular stain color nowadays? Because the big furniture companies want it to be. This allows them to use any type of wood, slap it together , and spray on a dark finish to hide everything. Many styles that we we see in the stores are not styles created by artistic designers, but rather by furniture mass producers - they are the style of speed of production with no real understanding of design aesthetics, proportion, material selection, or quality.  

Real furniture is built to last lifetimes. Real furnituremakers have an understanding of all three concepts that are required to do this - material selection, design - both aesthetics and function, and build quality. If furniture isn't designed to last a lifetime or longer, then it is not really furniture -it simply looks like furniture. It is just a temporary decoration in the form of a table or a chair, ultimately not serving the purpose for which it was initially intended.

At QLine Design, we want customers for life - not because they will ever have to replace anything we make, but because eventually they will replace everything they already own with pieces we make. We use only the highest quality materials - hand selected  for that perfect match. We use time tested practices - tables are built with mortise and tennon joinery - not because we have a longing for the past, but because there is no better joint for a leg to apron connection - tables built 500 years ago are still intact because of quality joinery and material selection. We use modern methods to employ old world techniques - using state of the art machinery when we can, and "Old fashioned" chisels, handplanes, and saws when they make more sense to, our artisans have a mastery of both design and build. Although our specialty niche is hidden compartment furniture, everything we make is custom, and we want to make that next perfect piece just for you. Feel free to contact us directly to discuss the differences between quality and imitation. 

It will take a Mac truck to disassemble this joint

Q