The title is a bit harsh. Maybe I could call it Purgatory for the Ordinary.
Buying furniture is not always easy. There is the furniture we want, the furniture we can afford and the furniture we end up settling for. Some of us have the skill and resources to build our own furniture. Sometimes it is the necessity of building our own furniture as in the (in)famous pilfered cinder blocks and 2 by 12 book shelves/media center.
Living in North Carolina there is no shortage of places to buy furniture. Between Hickory and High Point we have several million square feet of ugly/overpriced furniture (my opinion). And fortunately for the economy people buy lots of it. And don’t get me started on mall furniture. I am working on my magnum opus Why I Hate Mall Furniture. One of my favorite pieces at West Pottery Restoration and Barrel was a $1600 imitation antique workbench with non-functioning vises. Highland Woodworking sells a real one for around $1300. I imagine Highland has lower overhead.
Much of this furniture will find a new home by the end of the decade. Styles change, life situations change, people change. Believe it or not some retailers encourage people to replace their furniture regularly. Lots of magazines and cable shows plant all sorts dangerous notions in their followers. All this displaced furniture has to go somewhere. Consignment shops are popular for the first few rounds of replacement. Then Habitat ReStore shops. Then thrift shops. At some point the stuff gets too rough for thrift shops. Then where does it go?
There is a shop in Raleigh I have visited for years. It is filled with freshly painted vintage furniture with a smattering of antiques. I got talking with the owner about his inventory. I asked him about his restoration practices. He agreed that in an ideal world he would restore and not paint. The reality as he sees it is that his inventory isn’t worth restoring. It was never great furniture and restoring it would cost more than he could ever recover. No one would pay the price he would have to charge. It’s just not worth it. What he does is take some of the better stuff, tastefully paint and distress it and sell it to the young trendies and others who don’t necessarily don’t love IKEA.
There is an large selection of stuff. The main showroom has the painted furniture ready to go. The really interesting stuff is in the warehouse, the real raw and unpainted pieces. Each piece has two prices, one price is the as is price and the other is the painted price. Much of the furniture is just tired. There are some pieces that were built for reasons that no longer exist. As in this piece:
And a few improvised pieces:
There is a lot of other purpose built furniture without a purpose. Storage cabinets for warehouses that have been redeveloped. Display cases for retailers that no longer exist. Workbenches for long gone craftsmen. Chairs and benches that only hold other chairs and benches. Very patient homeless furniture.