Reasons Why it's Worth Paying More for our Furniture than for Typical Furniture
It's partly because of the long-term savings that will result from the fact that this furniture will far outlast ordinary furniture, with only relatively low costs for new covers or cushions over several decades. (More on this in following paragraphs.) For some people, it's worth paying extra to get the customization, special features and/or unusual designs that we offer; the big, mechanized manufacturers (who make the furniture you see at local stores) don't provide these because they aren 't compatible with low-cost mass production.
Not "engineered wood": According to Upholstery Design and Management magazine (Sept., 2004), over 70% of American upholstered furniture manufacturers (under price pressure from imports) are now making their frames from "engineered wood" (plywood). Ethan Allen now makes almost all of their upholstered frames from plywood, thereby gaining savings in "...time, money and man hours far beyond what was originally believed possible" (UDM, July, 2004, p. 4). In a four-page article on Ethan Allen's conversion to plywood, no mention was made of any testing for durability. (Note: We use large plywood panels in the frames of our FineFit model, but there is always solid oak at every structurally-important location; we also use plywood as a supplement to the solid oak in our other frames, but never as a basic part of the structure.)
Not stapled together: Describing the joinery methods used by companies that have won design competitions in the industry (UDM, Sept. 2004, pp. 19 & 21), the magazine points out that those companies use staples as structural fasteners: "Staples are less labor intensive and help avoid potential problems with screws, which can separate plywood plies...." If plywood starts coming apart just from driving screws into it, think what a few years of hard use in your household could do to it, especially at the stapled-together joints. Our frames and suspensions are nearly indestructible, incorporating the expenses of large amounts of high-quality solid oak and heavy-duty joinery (for details, see the separate page on this subject); on our FineFit model, there is less solid oak, but nevertheless all the joinery is by means of screws and glue, with solid oak at every joint. On our exposed-wood models, much labor time is also required for carefully selecting and sanding the wood, precise machining, and hand finishing orders individually in a variety stains.
Not shabby or saggy soon: Our sofas and chairs stay good-looking much longer than normal furniture because of our excellent selection of durable fabrics, the reversibility of all of our cushions, the high quality of our cushion filling, and the fact that our seating often has well-finished solid oak at places where fabric typically wears out first. And when new fabric eventually is needed, replacement covers (or eventually new cushions) are convenient and relatively inexpensive to order and apply. Our extra-sturdy suspensions and high-quality cushion filling mean that you'll continue having good support and getting up easily from our furniture for decades after many sofas would have become saggy. (If getting up easily from furniture isn't a concern for you now, just ask some older people whether it will matter some day.)
Not Disposable: According to a national home-decorating magazine (Country Living), April , 2003 ), having a normal sofa reupholstered or custom slip-covered costs $1000 to $2000 plus the price of the fabric. So it isn't surprising that most sofas are instead merely discarded, often after a short life. For one of our sofas, the labor cost for new, neatly-fitting covers for six cushions is $168; add $35 for labor for a pair of arm covers or side covers if you need those; and add the cost of much less fabric than would be needed for a typical sofa. If you want to re-cover a fabric-covered back, allow an hour or so of time (yours or possibly ours) to detach the back and staple on new fabric there. Complete new cushion filling (with our standard filling), usually not needed until after 15 years or so, would add about $325 (at current costs) plus $0 to $60 for shipping, depending on where you live.
(At right, a sofa and loveseat after 25 years with kids growing up plus cats, with replacement covers purchased after 16 years, in a picture kindly sent by customers in Arlington, Massachusetts.)
At least one of our major competitors effectively acknowledges that their sofas are disposable. They prominently tell about providing a "lifetime warranty" on their sofas, and later mention that the sofa's "lifetime" is defined as the life of the original covers. So they are essentially admitting that they consider the lifetime of their sofa to be the lifetime of the original cover fabric.
So the long -term savings resulting from owning furniture from us should usually far outweigh the initial price difference in relation to ordinary furniture. And the landfills will be less burdened, as a result of your having invested in furniture that isn 't throw-away.
Our cost disadvantages -- but quality advantages: There are good reasons why most consumer goods are mass produced: Labor costs are low, because (1) the constantly-repeated motions on assembly lines are fast and usually require little skill, and (2) high volume justifies advanced automation. And stapled-together plywood for frames makes things still faster and cheaper. But mass production, automation and cheap construction are not options for our customized, extra-durable, non-mass-market products. Other low manufacturing costs that help our Asian competitors (very low wages and few if any standards for toxicity of materials or for effects on worker health and on the environment) are also not part of our picture. Small-scale, high-quality custom work is slow and expensive, with high selling costs also. But the resulting customer satisfaction is also high, especially after our furniture has outlasted several normal pieces of furniture.
Our wood finishes (water-based) are over twice as expensive as typical finishes, as well as much more protective, environmentally responsible, pleasant and safe to work with, and varied to satisfy customer preferences. Our standard cushion filling is costly, providing comfortable, lasting support; for some of our customers, this kind of filling has lasted through well over 20 years of heavy use. Our hand fabric cutting, with a huge array of different materials, requires an unusual amount of time and skill because of widely varying individual fabric characteristics that require special attention. And fabric bought in cut yardage for our customers' very individual orders is over twice as expensive as buying it in bulk (we seldom sell the same fabric twice).
For some of our customers, it's worth paying extra for a product that will curtail the sending of worn-out, disposable furniture to landfills from their households, reducing the unnecessary making of replacement furniture, with all the accompanying carbon emissions and global warming that result from the extraction of new materials, more manufacturing processes, and more shipping, often from the other side of the world. For others, it's desirable to have furniture that they will never need to replace, furniture that their heirs will be glad to inherit.
Distinctive products, carefully hand-made and customized in a low-speed, low-volume process at suburban U.S. labor costs, heavy-duty construction and materials, unlimited fabric selection, and features that save money and resources in the long run ---- these things raise our costs but in many cases they make sense to pay extra for. In the case of our furniture, there is truth to the old saying, "You get what you pay for."
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