Look for These "Stories" When You Buy Fine Furniture

Irwin Weiner ASID - I'm going to use a single chair, the Lucien Arm Chair from Ebanista, to make a few points about how quality furniture should tell a story that's appropriate for your specific decorating project. Use each story as an indicator of "appropriateness" when purchasing any item.

  1.  Mood. I like furnishings that evoke a distinct mood.  The item must evoke a feeling! This chair has a strong balance between masculine (the leather, the nailheads) and the feminine (the light cream finish, the sensuous curves), and overall this evokes an Old World European flair kind of feel. Is this mood appropriate for the room you're furnishing? Go for a unified mood theme for any room you're decorating and select appropriate decor accordingly. Is your mood lush and romantic, European and courtly, traditional and luxurious? Then the Lucien Arm Chair would be 
  2. Pedigree. The Lucien has traditional roots, evoking the lines of the Gustavian Klismos chair. The light painted cream finish is so Scandinavian, but the dramatic curves strike strong Mediterranean notes. Furniture styles are distinct periods of furniture making that your designer can draw upon in selecting pieces that work well together. Disparate periods can be combined if they share some design lines in common. Example: I have a Klismos chair in my bedroom that works harmoniously with a Danish modern slat bench at the foot of the bed; the straight lines, without a single flair, work well together.
  3. Quality Details. Little touches about this chair, like the antique nailheads used lavishly throughout the piece for trim or the beautiful hand carving of the legs, tell a story of fine craftsmanship. That merits our attention far more than a mass-produced item that just "sits there," mute and uninteresting.
  4. The Twist. What do I see that's quirky and different about this piece? In the Lucien Arm Chair, I see lots of clever "negative space" that hugely adds to its overall design impact. The space between the curved arm supports, the hollow top rail, and the four open quadrants around the circular splat allow us to look beyond the chair and (as in the top photo), see artwork or wall color or other room details becoming part of the chair design itself. The chair's openness adds beauty and delicacy to what could have been a too-massive or masculine design.
  5. Construction. By all means look at the overall construction of a piece to determine its suitability. First, make sure the construction is solid and sturdy. How does the chair sit? Does it feel sturdy, or does it feel flimsy? Then note overall construction details. For example, this chair does not have stretchers. For clients who have a wider girth or might sit more heavily in a chair, plopping down roughly, I might shy away from this type of item, sans stretchers (which would add welcome support and strength to the legs). The absence of stretchers in no way indicates inferior quality construction, of course, but it's a construction detail that should be taken into consideration when determining a piece's suitability.