Designer Furniture – Too Expensive?

The old adage is, “You get what you pay for.”  As consumer products go, this is generally a good rule to follow, and one that most of us probably abide by, with regard to meaningful purchases.  This raises the question, however, of where is that imaginary line or threshold when spending more money won’t give you any additional quality.  SPOILER ALERT!!!  You won’t find a magical formula or equation anywhere in this blog post, so if you’re looking for one here, stop reading!

Now, let the rant continue.

Some of the more well known and / or popular modern & contemporary furniture companies like Knoll, Design Within Reach, & West Elm, to name a few, have wonderful product lines for the creatively minded individual’s stylistic appetite, but affordability almost has to be a non-issue when considering purchasing from these companies. To poke at one of these companies, Design Within Reach has an extensive product offering, and the quality seems to be superb, but at what cost?  I mean, really?  Within reach? I officially dub the company “Design Out of the Reach of Most”, as this is a more appropriate namesake.

Does this mean just the financially “comfortable” or wealthy should be the only people allowed to have access to designer goods?  This is a topic of heated debate in the design world. On the one hand, great design does take time to compose, and time is money.  These costs do get passed down to the consumer, but just how much is enough?  On the other hand, how much is enough with regard to profit?

Creative thought as expressed through design doesn’t have to be expensive, and in fact, creativity can manifest itself even more sometimes, when budget is of a primary concern.  Instead of manufacturing from raw materials, reusing or repurposing existing manufactured items can render amazing results in creativity. Take, for instance, a company like Relique. They have made it their business to repurpose and recycle manufactured items to fit within the context of a contemporary, or my personal favorite, an eclectic home decor.

On the higher end of the “bargain priced modern” spectrum would be a company like CB2, Crate & Barrel’s modern subsidiary. Better still, Lexington Modern‘s furniture deals seem to be very affordable (I guess that’s relative) to the common man.

Really, it all boils down to this. I’m just bitter. Bitter because I would love to get my hands on some of the more famous contemporary furniture designs, that aren’t knock-offs or cheap imitations.  I guess what I’m trying to say is even though your resources may be limited, with a little research and sometimes a lot of creativity, you can “have your cake and eat it too”, with relation to “designer” furniture. You just have to do your homework.

Saratoga Creek House by WA Design | HomeDSGN, a daily source for inspiration and fresh ideas on interior design and home decoration.

Here’s an impressive image gallery of the Saratoga Creek House by WA Design.

Saratoga Creek House by WA Design | HomeDSGN, a daily source for inspiration and fresh ideas on interior design and home decoration..

Sustainable Regional Architecture

In our technology driven society today, we are constantly bombarded with various forms of media, whether it be social, news, advertising, etc. Our world has become so much larger (or smaller, depending on how you look at it) with relation to the time before the internet.

For architecture, and our built environment, in general, this allows us to build with an endless network of building products is at our disposal.  As designers, it is our responsibility to cull through this information and set standards for our individual practices as to what’s really important and relevant for our clients.  They are looking to us for guidance, as we are seen as experts in the field of building.  It is our responsibility, then, to use our influence in a positive light, to recommend products and materials that are socially and environmentally responsible for the life-cycle of the material. (Lifecycle building is the design of building materials, components, information systems, and management practices to create buildings that facilitate and anticipate future changes to and eventual adaptation or dismantling for recovery of all systems, components, and materials. http://www.lifecyclebuilding.org/). Material recyclability plays an important role in the life-cycle of a material, as an example.

Palmyra House

Palmyra House - Mumbai, India

Locally sourced building materials and products is another tried and true method to building responsibly, as transportation costs & fuel consumption can sometimes be a big factor in the selection of a material, with regard to total cost.  Local building practices can sometimes stray from the traditional ideals of regional building, so perhaps historic building precedents can be a good source to examine construction materials, methods, techniques, etc., with regard to local sourcing. Here’s a good example of a project in Mumbai that takes advantage of local site materials on inhabit.com’s website.  I understand locally sourced projects are not always feasible, or easily accomplished.  In the United States, local sourcing becomes increasingly more difficult due to bureaucratic building construction regulation’s effects on standardizing materials.

Aillet House, ca. 1830 - Louisiana

Don’t misunderstand me, though.  I am not opposed to using building technology and advanced building materials. As a designer, I feel we must, however, use these new and innovative materials for the right reasons, asking “How will this material better the project?” or “Is this material the best choice for this application?”.  In my experience, the most successful projects are those that marry a host of materials and technologies, old and new, complimenting each other throughout the project. So much more than those projects that are pigeon-holed into the boundaries of a certain “material palette”, these “gumbo projects” can exude greater character, leading to a much more successful composition and, as a result, a satisfied client!

Ames Cottage - San Francisco, CA (Boor Bridges Architects)