Today I’m excited to welcome Meg Touborg of Rose Tarlow Melrose House as our guest here on Tobi’s Blog. She’s got some great information on investing in fine furniture! Thank you Meg for this valuable information. And don’t forget to register for the giveaway at the end of this post! – Tobi
Investing in fine furniture: What to consider?
“A thing of Beauty is a Joy forever
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness…”
- John Keats
I was thrilled when Tobi asked me to compose some thoughts regarding the selection process of a fine piece of furniture for your life today and tomorrow. I can offer you my perspectives, but ultimately, you will need to use both your head and your heart in this selection process. Fine furniture can contribute great beauty and functionality not only in the daily routines of waking, eating, sitting, entertaining and sleeping but for years, and even generations, to come.
The value of objects depends on the tangible materials and skills in construction, mixed with the intangibles of how you personally live, and how you personally respond to the appearance and specific characteristics of a piece. So, just like discovering and investing in couture fashion, fine jewelry or even gourmet restaurants, you should educate your innate taste and evaluate your true needs before opening your pocketbook for a significant investment in fine furniture.
It is crucial, especially if you are not accompanied on this pursuit by an interior designer, to approach furniture acquisition armed with a combination of knowledge of your own personal aesthetic and awareness of options in the design market. Ultimately, of course, your goal is to fall in love with a specific piece for which you understand the dollars represent exactly what you desire: unique design, superior craftsmanship and comfortable usage. Please expect that it will be an exciting, and an exacting, process, to search out a special piece of furniture to transform a room, adding both figurative and literal value to the way you live. Make the results of your shopping journeys as individual as you are— seek to acquire a piece of singular style, to bring character and pride to you, its owner.
Many stages of craftsmanship set this category of handmade furniture apart are simply from mass-engineered home furnishings, produced and sold in quantity. The creative integrity of the original designer is complimented by the highly experienced skill of master craftsman to bring such investment pieces to life, through a sequence of considered decisions such as the initial wood species selection, hand-carving, precise joinery and layers of finishing technique, including final steps of waxing and polishing. True sculptural effect of unique proportions, even with modern aesthetics, can be achieved through these artisanal and labor-intensive techniques.
Master craftsman turn out impeccable quality through the application of their skills acquired over their life times, and are able to produce truly premium quality products with such individual control. As you shop and learn, you will appreciate the differences in production details from one design company to another, and your sophistication about the quality and enduring value of fine furniture will expand until you feel completely comfortable spending on the actual investment required in your coveted piece.
Before and during your shopping excursions, do your research. While the internet offers endless sources of information, I also recommend you also include “ real” books in your education process, to see the photographs and illustration of various historical references, craftsman techniques and room settings to inform and inspire you.
Allow enough time in furniture stores to engage with the knowledgeable associates and really understand the piece you are considering. Ask questions about the type of wood used, the provenance of the design and construction of the details; study the proportions and look at the scale with regard not only to your intended environment today, but to whether or not you find the whole composition pleasing in its proportion. A cabinet you invest in today may well sit in your home office in the future; a console for your foyer today may migrate to a future living room. See how the piece looks from different angles, and ensure the back or sides are as perfectly composed as its front. Be sure to open and close drawers and cabinets; the experience needs to be smooth and satisfying as you will repeat it for many years.
If you are considering a piece of upholstery, be sure to sit in the chair or sofa and ensure total comfort and functionality. Think of yourself reading in the chair and ottoman, hosting meals from the armed dining chair, enjoying cocktails and conversation from the sofa. Does the desk height and width suit your frame and the type of work you do? If available, ask for a wood sample of the same finish color and bring it to your house to see how you feel about it with your already favorite pieces. (Buyer Beware: just like a beautiful dress will make you “need” new shoes, you may find you “need” to upgrade your whole room when you see the majesty of your new piece among your mortal furnishings!)
And finally, be really practical: measure all dimensions, and ensure the piece will literally fit into your space and will accommodate whatever use you intend for it. Know what dimensions your storage needs consume if you are contemplating a cabinet; how many dinner guests for a dinner table, workstation needs for a desk. A floor plan drawn to scale that you, a designer or an online 3D design tool have created is also really helpful. (Don’t forget to measure the entrances of your house for a get-it-in the doorway plan).
Happy shopping for, learning about and investing in fine furniture !
I’m happy to announce a book giveaway here on Tobi’s Blog this week! We’ve got a copy of The Private House by Rose Tarlow up for grabs. Here’s a bit of info about Rose Tarlow:
One of the most influential designers working in America today, Rose Tarlow knows that creating a truly beautiful room is as much an emotional matter as it is one of color, light, fabric, and furniture. As an internationally-renowned furniture and fabric artisan, interior designer, antiquarian and author, her creations have enchanted the design community for over thirty years. Her life and work have been covered by the New Yorker, the New York Times, Architectural Digest, Town and Country, House Beautiful, Elle Décor, and Veranda. A member of the Interior Design Hall of Fame since 1995, Rose is continuously profiled as one of Architectural Digest’s AD100 honoring the world’s most influential architects and designers. She has taught several master classes in design at UCLA and her book The Private House (2002) is in its third printing.
Thanks to the wonderful team at Rose Tarlow Melrose House for this fabulous book giveaway! To be entered to win, simply leave a comment below. I’ll be drawing a winner this Friday, September 2nd, at noon CST. Good luck!