Midcentury Furniture: Useful, Beautiful or Both?

My Heywood-Wakefield kitchen table
I just had a most interesting talk with my friends about home decor. We were at someone's house, and she had just remodeled. Another friend is about to remodel and was admiring a table. Turns out it was from a very high-end store with a corresponding price tag, which sparked a very interesting conversation.

When we bought our first house we got a lot of advice. But like all advice, some of it was bad, some good and some just sounded good. Many people told us to buy the most expensive furniture we could afford because we were going to have it forever. Turns out my friends had heard this as well.

The table in my hard to find eat-in kitchen
Our first house was in Tucson, where land was cheap, the soil was sandy and heat was the enemy. Many of the houses were sprawling ranches with no basements or second stories. Our family room seemed as large as a football field so we bought large furniture to fill up the space. We had the coolest couch: a wavy-backed, super-long sofa from the '50s. I loved that couch and knew I'd keep it forever.

A few years and a new job later, we moved to a different state with a much higher cost of living where ranch style houses were very rare. Guess what? Most of the furniture didn't fit in our tiny home that was all we could afford! We literally couldn't fit pieces up or down the stairs and the couch was longer than the living room -- we could either block the fireplace or the front door!

I really mourned the loss of that midcentury sofa. Still do. But I wasn't willing to rent a storage shed for furniture I couldn't use. And, it turns out, the fortune I spent recover that couch? It would be dated by now anyway and would have cost me another fortune.

I've seen this chair referred to as wishbone,
dog bone  and dog biscuit
On the other hand, I bought my dining room table when I was in college. I seriously don't know what I was thinking collecting '50s furniture while I was at college out of state. I found it at an estate sale and fell in love. And the price was unbelievable -- six chairs, table and pads for $250. When I finally got it into my rental it turned out to be a T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings for Widdicomb and had a hidden leaf. I was beyond excited! Still am. I have lugged that table with me through moves to five states.

And when we bought our last house it actually influenced which house we bought! The new style here was houses with no formal dining rooms and kitchens with islands to eat at. I actually picked an older home so I could have a dining room and an eat-in kitchen because I wouldn't give up my great dining room table or my Heywood-Wakefield kitchen table. But that's just me.

It's hard to predict the future. Will you move or stay? Will your home decor be in style in 10 years? 20? Do you care? One the one hand, now we have Ikea, other cheap furniture stores with many stylish options, and thrift stores, and garage and estate sales. On the other, so many people today designing high-end, eco-friendly furniture that will become the antiques of tomorrow. It's hard to know where to put your money.

The best advice? "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." -- William Morris


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