So you’re thinking about buying furniture online. You routinely purchase books and clothes online, but fine furniture is different. It’s a big investment– maybe about the same dollar value as a new computer system or perhaps much more. What if you’re not happy with it? Can you just send it back? How do you know which online furniture stores you can trust?
This is a big decision so it’s worth the time to do a little homework before buying furniture online. The good news is that there are lots of reputable furniture retailers online, offering quality products at competitive prices. A few minutes of browsing through a furniture website can usually give you a good idea of whether or not it’s honest and reputable. While you’re researching, consider these Top 5 tips for buying furniture online:
Find a Furniture Specialist
Choose a company that focuses on selling exclusively furniture. If they sell thousands or hundreds of thousands of things from pillows to pampers to produce, they’re not going to be experts in fine furniture. The point here is that customizing, shipping and delivering fine furniture are services that require specialization and a lot can go wrong without it. There’s a big difference between FedExing a pillow and delivering and setting up a bedroom set in your home. Fine furniture shipping and delivery is an exacting art and science. Don’t expect it to be done well by an online department store. Go with a furniture specialist.
The Devil is in the Details when Buying Furniture Online
Find a company that provides detailed information about their fine furniture. Who makes it? How is it made? Where is it made? What is it made of? What kind of joinery is employed? Is it solid wood or veneered? What are the directions for proper furniture care? Spend some time studying this information on the company’s website and follow up with any questions over the phone.
Get White Glove Treatment
Go for the white glove shipping and delivery. This is an important service and there are various levels offered. The best and only one I recommend is the full service option where professional furniture delivery crews bring your furniture into your home, set it up, inspect it with you and remove the packaging. Alternative services like UPS, FedEx and curbside delivery from common freight carriers leave you wide open if there should be any shipping damage or missing pieces.
Check for Hidden Fees
Make sure to take into account shipping costs, taxes, and other fees when searching for the best prices! Some online furniture stores include free shipping in their base prices, but many do not. You may be surprised to learn that shipping can add up to $1000 to an order, depending on what you’re ordering and where you live.
Get a Lifetime Guarantee
Expensive fine furniture should be backed by a lifetime guarantee. It’s an investment you should be able to hand down to your children and grandchildren. Reputable American furniture companies will back their furniture with a guarantee against defects in materials and workmanship, especially when you’re buying furniture online.
Lastly, get to know your furniture maker or online retailer before buying furniture online. If someone knowledgeable is there to work with you through the selection and ordering process, it’s more likely they’ll be there for you at delivery time, if something goes wrong. Now that you’re ready to make your move, you can do it with confidence. Let me know how your fine furniture purchase goes by commenting below or on our Facebook.
I made a visit to our local Vernon History Museum last weekend to learn more about Stonehurst, the 200 year old farmhouse property we recently purchased as the future home for our Vermont Fine Furniture Showroom. I was lucky enough to run into Peggy Frost, Nancy and Dale Gassett and a few other volunteers who were working in the museum’s gardens. Peggy knew just where the old photos of Stonehurst were stored so we went inside the museum and spent a few hours pouring through them.
The Original Stonehurst
The original Stonehurst farmhouse was built circa 1800 but I can only find photos going back to 1870 or so. Near as I can figure, the shot above would have been taken around the time that Stonehurst was sold by Noyes and Theresa Streeter to Lucretia Kendall for a sum of $2000.00. That was recorded on March 9, 1868.
Pine Top Ski Resort
Stonehurst had a very different life from the 1940s to the 1960s when it operated as a ski resort named Pine Top. You can see from the photo below that the house looked essentially the same through the ages. At some point it was painted red over the original white. And the horse barn-woodshed to the left of the house was converted to a dormitory for overnight skiers.
After talking with Barbara Moseley, our Vernon Town Historian, I learned that Pine Top was owned by Romey and Elsie Racine, a couple that moved to Vermont from New Jersey. “The Racines hosted vacationers and skiers in their welcoming lodge and operated a 3 run ski area with warming hut, equipment rentals and ski patrol. It was all staffed by local families.” Pine Top was set up to lodge up to 26 guests, often accommodating families of students from nearby boarding schools, Northfield Mount Hermon and Deerfield Academy.
Stonehurst Tomorrow: A Vermont Fine Furniture Showroom
Happily, Stonehurst looks pretty much the same today as it did 70 years ago when Pine Top was operating. The property was sold to Bill and Elaine Ellis after Pine Top closed and the Ellis’ transferred it to Vermont Woods Studios in August of this year. We’re now working with J Coleman + Company Architects and Bob Furlone of American Construction to transform the property into a Vermont Fine Furniture Showroom. The goal is to create a relaxing destination shopping experience for our customers who journey here from all around the Northeast and beyond.
Stonehurst, with it’s beautiful vistas and 100 acres of forested land provides a venue for us to convey our environmental mission and show people where sustainable, handmade furniture comes from. Stay tuned for progress reports and a grand opening for Stonehurst next Summer.
Interior design is not a new concept. For decades, people have been making a living by creating works of art with furniture and accessories as their palette and empty rooms as their canvas. It is probably not a surprise that fashioning the perfect design for the inside of your home is crucial to how you feel and react in your environment. Interior design is all about aesthetics. It’s about taking items that are visually appealing and combining them with your personality to create something unique and personal to you.
Since forest conservation is a big part of my mission at Vermont Woods Studios, it’s been a little heart-breaking for me to see some of the 100 year old trees at Stonehurst being taken down. There were a handful that were leaning over the house and garage and Ken insisted that they were a hazard and had to go.
But lucky for me, Vince Johnson of Johnson Custom Milling in Vernon, VT came to the rescue. Vince is milling the trees so we can use them for future phases of construction at Stonehurst, our fine furniture showroom. Here’s a video of his portable sawmill in operation.
And Dennis has plans to siphon off some of the wood to build bluebird houses, owl boxes and such. It’s turning out to be a fun project after all. Let us know on our Facebook if you have any thoughts or advice for us as we go down this road of renovation at Stonehurst, our future fine furniture showroom. We’ll be posting photos of the transformation and announcing details of our open house as we get closer to completion.
The weather isn’t looking so great for leaf peeping in Vermont this weekend. So if you’re traveling around the Green Mountain State and looking for indoor activities, try heading to Woodstock, VT for the Ninth Annual Vermont Fine Furniture and Woodworking Festival.
This year’s theme is “From Forest to Furniture: Take Home a Piece of Vermont”. It dovetails with our plans at Vermont Woods Studios for a showroom at Stonehurst in that the focus is to raise awareness about where your furniture comes from.
Much like the organic food movement, the organic furniture movement is catching on. Customers are realizing both the economic and health benefits to buying locally crafted furniture, handmade from real, solid, sustainably harvested wood.
Come visit with some of the regions (and world’s) most respected fine furniture makers in Woodstock this weekend. You’ll be able to see and feel their furniture creations and also learn about the well-managed forests where their wood is harvested. Free tours are available of the nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Here customers can experience the forest and learn about each of the many links in the chain from forest to trees to furniture.
Shown above: Brent Karner of ClearLake Furniture in Ludlow VT won first place for production furniture in the 2011 Vermont Fine Furniture Festival. Who is going to win this year?