The third Tuesday in most months, I drive to Raleigh for the regular meeting of the Triangle Woodworkers Association. It’s about a forty minute drive unless you travel at rush hour. Traffic, while not Cross Bronx Expressway bad, is bad. So, I leave at around 3:30 (or earlier) for a 7:00 PM meeting.

When I do this, I need to find a way to kill time in Raleigh. I have a regular route of antiques shops. Their inventory doesn’t turn over fast enough to always justify a monthly visit. Woodcraft is good for about 10 minutes if visited regularly. The meeting is at the Klingspor  Woodworking Shop. No reason to head over there early.

At home, we just received a large, glossy brochure from the furniture company named for a great American patriot. Not Donald Trump. The other one. Trump makes his furniture in Turkey. This company makes 65 to 70% of their product here in the US of A according to the brochure. They have a store in one of the tonier sections of Raleigh and I decided to pay them a visit.

Their glossy brochure showed that they have jumped onto the Industrial/commercial steam punk trend. Steam punk used to be practiced by a few local artisans and counter-culture types. Now all the mall furniture stores stock the stuff.

First thing I saw when I walked in was this desk:


Looks not unlike a Roman workbench with less wood holding capabilities. For the low list price of $1599. But who pays list?

Some furniture is interesting. This piece isn’t:


They do weld better than I do.

I thought this might be reclaimed wood:


Not old wood but solid oak that’s been planked.

This company has a reputation for making quality furniture but the seem to have a real issue in the finishing department. Like this dresser:


If you buy it, can you use your chalk paint to spiff it up?


Someone left the dresser in the rain?

Here’s another French piece that needs help:


They need to get some more durable white paint.


They have issues with green paint as well.


Your primer is showing.

At this point, I stepped outside to make sure it wasn’t at a PTA thrift  shop.


I’m beginning to see a pattern.

Is it intentional?


Commercially made shabby chic? What do you do this your chains, rocks and sandpaper?

Such is the way of the world.


I almost liked this table.


Looks like they use white glue.

There is a reason many of us avoid furniture stores.

I was being stalked by an overly earnest salesperson. They observed me studying one of the dressers and offered to answer any questions I may have. Vaguely annoyed, I asked it was possible to order one of these pieces with the finish intact. Looking slightly stunned, they walked back to the sales desk and consulted the Big Book. Then online. It was available in either black distressed or white distressed but not undistressed. I asked if it could be pulled out of the finishing area before the distressing process. The sales people mumbled amongst themselves and decided it would complicate the workflow…

Years ago, Winterthur used to have an annual high-end crafts show. There were many makers of exceptional reproduction Windsor chairs with and without drawers and writing surfaces. All painted and all distressed. Or aged if you prefer. I asked them how much they would charge to not distress the chairs. I usually got a blank or contemptuous stare. One maker saw my point but implied I didn’t understand the market. I implied I didn’t want to.

A quick story. When we were building our house, I was assigned to visit several kitchen cabinet dealers and makers. One of the dealers excitedly showed me a line of distressed, painted cabinets. This line was great because they had the most authentically distressed cabinets. This company had done extensive research into how kitchen and bathroom cabinets were used and abused. Were they wore through the paint was where you and your family would wear through the paint given enough time. Other companies, for instance, would rub out diagonal corners of the cabinets but upper cabinet corners at seven feet shouldn’t and wouldn’t be worn.

He was right but couldn’t appreciate the irony of what he was saying.