Eco-quandary: New furniture

We’re in the market for some new furniture.

Mostly, I’m looking into bedroom furniture that goes together. Our current “bedroom suite” consists of an iron bed given to us by friends seven years ago (with a frame that puts the mattress uncomfortably high in the air, and a headboard that flops and bangs and rattles with the slightest snore); a reddish-stained chest of drawers that belonged to my father as a child; a dark mahogany dresser that we bought for $70 from one of Mr. Cheap’s co-workers about six years ago; and two nightstands I bought at Cost Plus about four years ago. The room is painted purple, and we’re repainting next weekend to eliminate the “black hole” feeling that brings us down. Coordinated furniture will help bring a sense of peace to the room.

So. New furniture. I have the money – but not too much of it. I have the determination. We even kind of know our style: Modern, but not too contemporary; transitional, with not-too-dark wood; something that will go with our Asian, African and contemporary art.

I don’t think this is brain surgery. Then I threw in the element of “can we get something eco-friendly?” and it became very tricky.

IKEA sells some eco-friendly furniture. I don’t like the look of most of it, and most of it is pine. We wear things out. We need hardwood.

Scandinavian Designs sells some styles we like, but I don’t know about their eco-friendliness.

Some online sites say they are “eco-friendly,” but they back it up with … nothing.

Others really are. $2,400 dining room chairs (that’s per chair), anyone?

We have found a couple of local – or at least U.S.-based – furniture builders, but nothing with a style that we want.

As I look around our house, we have a few new items of furniture. We have many recycled and used items. After hours of shopping and Web surfing and looking for good choices, I think we’re going to carefully choose what we want and buy it. I’m going to keep searching on Craigslist until we do – in hopes that we’ll find a good used option.

But barring used, our priority will be to find something not too expensive, but sturdy enough that we can count on it to last the years. (After all, the better the quality, the fewer times we’ll replace it in our lifetimes – thus minimizing our impact at least somewhat.) And we’ll pass our current furniture on to someone else.

How do you solve the shopping quandary?


5 thoughts on “Eco-quandary: New furniture

  1. Shelly says:

    I sympathize with your quandary. I have a house with mostly cheap fiberboard furniture and things we have gotten free from other people. I really would like to get new furniture but it seems wasteful because the stuff I have is functional (even if it is ugly). I deal with it by saying that I will get new furniture when I move and take none of this with us. The problem is my husband and I have been looking for a new house off and on for ten years and haven’t found the one that seemed right for us. At some point, I think I will just have to decide what we want and buy it. Of course by Murphy’s Law that will be the point we actually find the house we want to move to and the new furniture we have won’t fit. I have rejected a couple houses because one of the few nice pieces of furniture I have (oak china cabinet made by my father) do not go in the house. The bonus though is that not buying furniture for ten years has allowed us to save a lot of money.

  2. Jenna says:

    This January when I got married and we bought a house I found myself in a very similar situation to the one you are now in (and now that FINALLY we’re all moved in, we’re back to shopping. Finally at a point where we can leave “Post College Dorm” design behind us.).

    Two options come to mind. We have had good luck with both.

    First? I’m not sure were exactly you are but most places have resale shops somewhere nearby. That and fleamarkets are a great place to start the hunt. We found a lovely hardwood dining set (table & 6 chairs) for 300.00 this spring. You have to seperate the wheat from the chaff… but there are good deals to be had. And while some would wonder about the sustainable aspect of it… you would be staying in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle frame of mind. As long as you’re not buying exotic hardwood you can feel pretty comfortable buying these type of items secondhand. (The set we bought? 50 years old… and with a little beeswax and lemon oil it will still be going strong in another 50.)

    The 2nd option might make you go further afield. Start looking around for craftsmen nearby. Craft shows (try to avoid the Artsy ones… those places cost a FORTUNE!) in the country can help you find woodworkers. Do a little research, find out what kind of wood grows in your state… then start looking around for people who work woth it. Often times you’ll find furniture made by people who also planted the tree AND cut it down. Its not as easy as buying it out of a catalog… but it is a little easier on the conscious. Added benefits? One, frankly it can be fun to go on a treasure hunt, and two… you’ll have a family story to pass down on where you got that bedframe, chest of drawers, etc.

    Hope this helps. Sorry to ramble…. I’m putting off working on my own writing this morning!

  3. cheaplikeme says:

    Great points. I do plan to check out a few furniture resale shops near us — and have been scanning Craigslist daily — especially for dining room furniture.

    I know there must be craftsmen nearby, but so far (online) I’m finding super-schmancy or, alas, “Colorado-style log furniture,” and though we are Colorado natives, log furniture is not our style. At least not until we move to a log cabin.

  4. alottaerrata says:

    Furniture poses one of the bigger problems for people who are trying to be both economical and sustainable. If money is no object, green options abound. If you’re trying to live within your means and are of modest means, however, it’s not so easy. I feel for you! We ran into this problem when it came time to buy a kitchen set. We had previously been using a borrowed set but the chairs were so broken down I was afraid to have guests sit in them. Our budget was small, so my first stop was craigslist and local consignment stores, but nothing fit my tastes and many sets were too large for our small space. Finally I ended up ordering online from a conventional retailer. My only solace is that the table and chairs are made from rubberwood, which is relatively sustainable as compared to other wood varieties

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