The Curse of the Brown Furniture


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Some furniture just isn’t selling well right now, especially what is being called “brown furniture”, such as mahogany china hutches, oak dressers, maple coffee tables and the like (read this article about why it isn’t). Or if it is selling, it is going a rock bottom prices.  This can be a big disappointment to estate sale companies who need to sell it to make a profit, and an even bigger disappointment to their clients who had long believed that they harbored treasures in their homes only to discover that nobody really wants them–not their children, not their friends and sometimes not even the buyers who “settle” for something they don’t love just because it fits their small budget.  Don’t panic: there is hope yet!  Here are some ideas that might help change your customers’ minds (or your own!) about buying:

  1. Give them some ideas about how to make an out-of-date or ragged piece into something more contemporary and fun!   Post photos of something similar that has been transformed by paint, updated upholstery, new hardware, or perhaps a totally new shape and function. (Here are some before and after ideas in this article by Better Homes and Gardens)
    Before

    Before

    After

    After

  2. Make it a gift idea.  Everyone knows someone who is just starting out.  Maybe it’s a newlywed, or a college student, or your brother who has been living in your parents’ basement but is finally venturing out into the world.  With usable older furniture prices at an all time low, here is your chance to help out for very little.  Encourage your customers to buy for someone with a limited budget that could use a desk or a much needed storage item.
  3. Educate your customers about the value of older, better made furniture.  It’s still around in abundance for a reason!  It was made to last for generations.  Too often today’s furniture, especially the stuff bought from big retail stores known for cranking out cheap and momentarily attractive pieces, are made with built-in obsolescence in mind.
  4. Encourage green living.  Buying used furniture means saving our natural resources, and it also assures that the furniture that isn’t purchased doesn’t find it’s way into a (gasp!) landfill.
  5. Suggest that buying might be an investment for the future. Antiques are cheap NOW, but they probably won’t always be so.  Trends are cyclical, and what is out of fashion now may be all the rage next year.  For instance, Victorian furniture (previously so popular and expensive) is out, while mid-century modern furniture (once the bane of younger boomers maybe because it reeked of the boring bourgeoisie world of their parents) is still highly sought after several years of booming sales. But MCM furniture sales are slowly waning in popularity.  What will be the next trend?  Maybe, just maybe, it will be all those Victorian pieces full of frills and curlicues that someone was smart enough to buy a lot of while the prices where low!

All that you need are some helpful ways to help customers recognize the benefits of buying the furniture that you know is still fantastic and useful.  They want it, they just don’t know it right now.

If you want more ideas about buying, read 18 Tips on Shopping at Estate Sales.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Curse of the Brown Furniture

  1. Our house is decorated like a mix of old attic and leftover vintage – and we love it. We have a mix of antiques, several very beautiful, and more modern, including Danish and Craftsman. Reconsidered furniture is definitely a great way to enjoy something old and out of date but probably well built. One of our favorite pieces is an antique loveseat that had originally been covered in gaudy brocade. Now it sits in splendor in a modern fabric across from a rattan sofa. Next time it will be done in soft leather. It’s amazing what a new wood finish and fresh fabric will do to update an old piece. One great vintage piece in a roomful of much more contemporary furniture makes a room look original. Lots of great ideas in this post.

    • You are right, Sharon. A vintage piece can give depth and character to an otherwise ordinary room. And I love what some people can do when remaking an ugly old piece into something that shines. Sometimes I want to cry, though, when they have ruined forever a lovely old antique with gaudy new paint. I can only condone it when it is a piece I hate in its original form either because it is in poor condition or because some pieces don’t appeal to me esthetically (like the two pieces at the top of this page).

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