On the Fringe

Our living room is one of my favorite rooms in the house and I really do wish I could just invest in some custom pieces as I have an image in my head of just how this room should look and function.

It would probably be a little of this  . . .

and a lot of this . . .

Sarah Bartholomew Designs

We had originally intended to start renovation work this past fall but decided to hold off which meant the temporary setup in our living room is feeling more like a permanent one.  Not good!

I decided to start hunting for inexpensive, yet high-end furniture to tie us over and so happy I did as some of my favorite pieces in my house were amazing finds at estate sales, floor sales and Craigslist.  I try to stick with the more reputable furniture makers:  Baker, Henredon, Hickory Chair, Sherrill, Kindel as I know the quality will be there in case I decide to reupholster going forward.  So far, so good.

The couch on the right, draped in a throw blanket to hide stains, is now in our basement.  Thank you, God!  The couch never meant to function as our main couch – ever.  It was bought at the Pottery Barn outlet in 2012 to stage an office as a family room two houses ago.  The cleaner white couch is now on the porch and already a welcome addition to the space.


So this weekend, we moved the beastly couch (above right) into the basement for the kids to further destroy and had two love seats delivered.  They are from an estate sale and brand new -upholstery and all.  I didn’t go see them in person which is risky but getting measurements and good pictures really only left the color and comfort as variables.  Um, kind of important but I figured at the price I got them, they had to work.  Retail I would have paid well over $2700 for each sofa.  I got the pair for far less than the price of one.  IMG_2578

Let’s talk about that bullion fringe!!!  I probably would have chosen a taped trim if I had my druthers but the fringe is sort of awesome.  It’s a pretty custom touch and picks up just the right color in the rug.

Here are some other fringed sofas.  Difficult to pick a favorite!

Meg Braff
Meg Braff

Miles Redd
Miles Redd

And, last but not least – Tory.  Tory has fringed sofas in her office, house and flagship stores.  One prettier than the next.


Brown Furniture

Awhile back I read a piece written by a man, a furniture collector and dealer, who made the journey to Ikea with his daughter to look for her first apartment furnishings.  The daughter didn’t like her father’s ‘brown furniture’ and preferred the white, clean lines and mid-century modern sensibilities that you can get from Ikea on the cheap.  Of course, her father was horrified that she was choosing furniture that came flat in a box over his fine antiques.

French Louis XVI in Walnut with Marble Top Chest of Drawers, 1800s via 1stdibs.com

I have no idea where I read this but the story stuck with me as partly it is a coming-of-age story, but it is also a story about how antiques or ‘brown furniture’ have largely fallen out of favor with the younger generations.  Granted, some of Grandmother’s furniture was just plain ugly but some of it was very beautiful and artfully crafted in a way that furniture is not today.

A Federal Serpentine Mahogany Inlaid Bureau Circa 1800 via 1stdibs.com

Antique furniture prices are far lower than they were 15-20 years ago. The recession certainly did not help matters but changing tastes in buyers has greatly affected the market as well. People hiring interior designers are more often asking for clean sweeps.  The importance of using a family heirloom is no longer paramount.  And, buying pieces for restoration is out of the question, the antiques shown at market need to be in pristine, ready-to-use condition. And, prices need to align with what is selling for new in department stores.  All of this is hurting the industry and with the flood of inventory from baby boomers downsizing, prices have dropped.  Not to mention, investing in antiques is no longer what it was.  These days you could very well be holding onto a piece that will diminish in value; whereas in the 1980s and 1990s antiques, collectibles and fine art purchases were considered a smart and safe investment.

German Secretary Early 19th century via 1stdibs.com


I happened to be a big fan of that old, brown furniture eschewed by many of us born in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.  Here is a round up of some of the prettier selections on Craigslist right now.

I love this silver chest. They are asking $800 for it and I spotted the same one in great condition in a resale shop for $550, so the price is probably a tad bit high.  This picture caught my eye as this listing is an old Wilmington house and that floor and brick looks nearly identical to our sunporch’s.  We are just missing those cool built-ins!

A Henkel Harris silver chest $800

I am carefully watching this one!  I would love a secretary for our living room or dining room but they are a dime a dozen and it has to be just the right one.

Maddox Tables of Jamestown Secretary $400
A Cherry Queen Anne style writing desk $299

Here is a pretty, simple pine dresser that would work wonderfully in a hallway, entryway or bedroom.  I would switch out the pulls.

Pine chest of drawers $169

And, another chest of drawers, this one more rustic but beautiful and I can see it paired with a much more formal mirror above.

An antique dresser $30
Solid Tiger Oak Library Table $425
Triple dresser in banded mahogany $200
Eldredge Wheeler Tiger Maple Highboy $5500

Educate yourself using 1stdibs.com.  Find out what era, style or makers you are partial to and then look on eBay, Craigslist and in local consignment or antique shops.  1stdibs is a wonderful resource but their prices reflect the fact that many of their sellers are brick and mortar shop owners in high-rent areas.