Ask Kate #3 – Buying Generic And Matching Furniture

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE

We are probably guilty about this at some point of our lives. Living in rental or being a student can mean we don’t really get to choose what furniture we want (ahem, budget constraint). Or maybe it’s that salesperson or the word “sale” having its charm. They are mass produced, they are cheap and they seem to work well with your decor. But once you know it’s bad, you don’t go back. 

The term generic here means they appeal to the masses because they’re widely mass produced and readily available with a budget friendly price tag. They’re also often marketed as the “go to” product. Meaning, everyone has been persuaded at least once in our lives to put our trust in them because everyone buys them and we were told being part of the majority is good. Remember; that’s what the sales people wants you to believe. I have listed three generic furniture types. First, let’s take a look at the most commonly made mistake—the espresso finish furniture. (If you have them don’t panic, read on)

// ESPRESSO FINISH FURNITURE //

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_IKEA PINE ESPRESSO VS. ASH STAINED

Source: IKEA

I was lucky to find two bedside drawers from IKEA that has the same price but has different finishes. So let’s compare the two. The one on the left is from their Hemnes series that I believe it’s one of their bestseller mainly cos’ it’s made of “solid pine wood” (how much solid wood this I can’t vouch). On your right, the Oppland drawers in comparison is newer; stained ash veneer. Pine is softwood and Ash is hardwood. Hardwoods are generally stronger than softwoods. Pine is often inexpensive and can be easily stained dark to appeal to consumers (like you and me).

Because without the dark stain, cheap and generic wood just doesn’t hold up. Just so you know, no real wood is naturally espresso tone. We love wood because of their beautiful grains. You don’t cover up natural beauty, you just don’t. That is precisely the opposite of what espresso finish furniture is trying to do. They are flawed so they hide behind this dark stain and sells you these five reasons (culprits) that you should go “espresso” –

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_ESPRESSO FINISH_AFFORDABILITY

For that budget of yours, you can easily buy a set to furnish your entire room. Need a TV console? Top up a bit more and get two shelves flanking your TV, even though you might not even have stuff to display or that wasn’t even your original intention. See how the power of “just a bit more and you get more?”. That’s what we thought. But the truth is, you could have bought a simple bed frame and buy a nightstand that you really really love instead of a set of espresso furniture that you don’t feel much for.

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_ESPRESSO FINISH_AVAILABILITY

They are available at all major retailers (and even small furniture shops carry them), there is no waiting time. Need to quickly furnish that home office or dining space of yours? Here’s a set of espresso furniture that is guaranteed to work. Oh, except you wouldn’t buy an obviously fake knockoff bag just because you have no time to shop for an authentic one. I was told good things are worth the wait. Buy something because you really like/want it. There are those that are real, non-branded and functional.

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_ESPRESSO FINISH_CONTEMPORARY

Don’t let the TV shows or magazines fool you into thinking that buying espresso furniture means you’re making your space updated, current, Contemporary. Furnishing your space with all espresso furniture is taking a step back not a step forward. Now that you know.

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_ESPRESSO FINISH_MASCULINITY

Because espresso finish furniture are dark, men tends to gravitate towards buying/ having/using them. When present with a lighter toned wood and espresso furniture, they’re gonna choose the latter. Trust me, I tried with my husband. Despite I told him, erm no espresso wood is cheap and bad. It doesn’t seem to stick except when I told him we can do black. I am trying to work him into liking mid toned wood (walnut and such). And he’s receptive. Thank God, disaster averted.

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_ESPRESSO FINISH_LOW-MAINTENANCE

White kitchens show too much dirt, black kitchens show finger prints. Should you settle for the espresso toned cabinets? I do know mine is gonna be navy blue. Also, there is nothing wrong with painted wood furniture. As long as they aren’t trying to be something they’re not (*cough*).

The solution Espresso furniture tried but failed to be classy because it’s not and it’s time for us consumers to accept what they truly is. Now that you know you shouldn’t buy (anymore) espresso furniture, if you already have them, try to add white or other wood furniture into the mix. Black and dark grey furniture are great dark furniture options.

Ever wonder how those hotel interiors manage to rock with gorgeous dark woods? When dark wood works –

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_DARK WOOD_MAHOGANY

This is Mahogany wood, which has a warm reddish tone. The Puli Spa Hotel is a boutique hotel with oriental decor; perfect as a serene retreat in the heart of Shanghai. Real wood like this is gorgeous because their true beauty shines. Once you start appreciating real wood tones, you’ll never want espresso. Let’s move on to number two; another commonly made mistake.

// FAUX ANTIQUE, DISTRESSED FURNITURE //

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_FAUX DISTRESSED FURNITURE

First of all, antiques/vintage furniture are beautiful. Compare these two, the one used in the bathroom is faux distressed furniture. It’s like taking shortcut except you don’t get what you get with real vintage. Because patina don’t form in days, they’re beautiful because it’s accumulated over time. See actual vintage furniture on your right, the chair shows different colors due to age and exposure (naturally). They are one of a kind and are treasured for their uniqueness.

Folks who has real vintage furniture collect them over time, some are hand-me-down (family heirlooms) or hunting at the flea markets diligently. Vintage furniture each has a story to tell, which is why it’s so interesting and alluring. When you do something a lot, you tend to develop an eye for it, vintage collectors know a treasure when they sees one which explains why they seem to have all the good stuff. The faux ones just look one dimensional, I see two colors; brown and green (image left). Not to nitpick but I also noticed the faucet was mounted too high. 

Real vintage furniture – beautiful patinas, unique, sentimental, valuable, mostly made of sturdy materials to withstand the test of time.

Faux antiqued/distressed furniture – one dimensional, made of cheap materials, might not be one of a kind, you can easily tell that it’s fake/faux.

The solution While real vintage furniture or antiques are often expensive, see how a vintage dresser scored on ebay restored. They don’t always have to look aged or distressed. You don’t need faux rustic furniture to make for a cottage chic style. New sofas or chairs work just fine, you don’t need the faux vintage look if you do not have vintage furniture.

// ROOM WITH MATCHING FURNITURE //

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_IKEA GENERIC

I started my post using IKEA as example, I might as well conclude with IKEA. Visualize this; you’re looking at a furniture catalog and you see pictures like this that inspires you. 

Why this room works? Like I’ve always said, a well designed room is a combined effort of all the small things coming together to form the grand picture. There are about 50 other items in this room that helped ties everything. I don’t think you’re gonna paint your walls this exact shade. You also shouldn’t replicate the exact look because there will be zero personality in it. No actual human being actually lives inside the above studio set.

Why it won’t work in your space? 1. A designer/stylist is behind this making sure that everything works together to highlight IKEA’s products at its best. He/she knows how to work with the space and soft furnishing. It was not designed and styled in one day and gotten extra help. 2. Good photography/ lighting can trick you into thinking the room is 10x better. 3. You most likely only buy that sofa and coffee table which makes for a generic look, that you know it’s what this post is trying to advise against because you deserve better than that .

Once again, I’m going to show you when matching furniture works –

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_ARMANI HOTEL DUBAI

It’s not about branded, expensive or cheap (read on to see why it doesn’t matter). This is the Armani Hotel Dubai which obviously has all Armani furniture (this is part of the appeal of the hotel). They use matching furniture that are designed (and designed specifically for the hotel), made of genuine materials, coordinate with the rest of the room that are also designed for hotel guests. A hotel need no personality to convey who lives here because guests come and go, they need to appeal to everyone (business hotels need to appeal to business travelers). With that said, the furnishing in the rooms from Armani hotels is not my personal style, their bathrooms are OK. It doesn’t matter if they’re branded or not, I won’t make my home look like this because it’s not me.

Why is matching furniture bad? A room with matching furniture and no styling has no personality, zero. A home needs to do more than a hotel because we spend more time at home doing things and any thing (you should feel right at home). Make your home look exactly like an hotel and you’ll find yourself constantly wanting to leave home. While matching furniture in commercial spaces look good, it’s the opposite for residential. Only have matching furniture if you really really do not have time to buy what you really love. 

ASK KATE 3 - BUYING GENERIC AND MATCHING FURNITURE KATE DWELL IN STYLE_IKEA CATALOG 2016

The Solution Even IKEA is telling you to buy three different seating instead of matching everything. If you ever bought matching furniture, stop now (note the word matching not identical). Buying two identical nightstands or bookcases are fine. This also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy from the same store, you can! But don’t buy everything from the SAME LINE/SERIES. The key is mix and match. The more you do it, the better you’ll become doing it, trust me. Don’t buy the sofa with matching coffee table with matching side table and matching armchair. If you already have a matching set and you’re not ready to replace them, move one or two of the matching ones to another room. Use a throw over your sofa/armchair to break away from everything looking like one set. Style the surfaces; your coffee/side tables. Use tray (preferably a good size) so they look more layered. Slowly replace your matching furniture with those that you really love, it might take some time and it’s perfectly alright.

Want to see more of commonly asked design questions answered? Choosing The Right Sofa // When White Walls Don’t Work

All words by me, images from Googles and credited links.

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