Quality vs. Quantity

One of the first things that I learned when I started my career in the home furnishings industry is not all home furnishings “are created equal.” Different quality levels range from expensive to inexpensive, and in the industry, we call these categories “high end,” “middle end,” and “low end.”  The good news for you is that when you purchase vintage home furnishings, you have an opportunity to purchase higher quality furnishings for very reasonable prices.


What is “High End?” It is simply the best-made most expensive products in home furnishings. Some of the names of furniture companies that come to my mind are Baker, John Widdicomb, Biggs,  Henkel Harris, Henredon, Kendall, and Heritage to name a few. These corporations were created after the industrial revolution and made some of the finest furniture ever made. During the “American manufacturing era” from 1880 to around 1990, they used modern technology mixed with old world craftsmanship that came together as beautiful pieces of furniture.

Middle End” is another group of furniture that weighs quality and price, especially during their American made era. Some of the furniture companies that come to my mind in this category are Bernhardt, Thomasville, Drexel Heritage, Century, Lexington, and Hickory White. These companies and many others like them were filling the need for higher quality goods for the middle class who could not afford to spend an unlimited amount of money to furnish their homes.

 No company likes to be known as a “Low End” company because this is the largest spectrum of quality in any category. It goes from down and dirty cheap to very decent quality with good styling. At the “very low end,” the industry calls this type of furniture “Borax Furniture.” This term originated because in years past there was a company called Borax Cleaning Powders which would send you a piece of furniture if you purchased enough of their product and mailed in proof of your purchase, and it was a very cheap piece of furniture! But in the higher price points of low-end furniture, you can find great values. Some of the companies that made the highest quality low-end furniture in the past would be Bassett and Broyhill who today would be more middle-end furniture lines.  These businesses in their day were the two largest furniture companies in the world of mass-produced furniture! They used the most up to date manufacturing procedures and found ways to cut cost in their products so that they could appeal to the largest amount of people.


I think that you should buy the best quality that you can afford whether it is vintage or new. When purchasing home furnishings here are a few questions to ask yourself.


  • Is this the best quality that I can afford?
  • Does the item feel like it is stable and not like it is about to fall apart?
  • Does the item have a beautiful appearance?
  • Does the item fit your design goals for your room?
  • Does it fit in the space where you need it? Being honest about this question is important because just like the story of the three bears there is a size that is just right and others that are wrong!


The last thing that I would like for you to consider is when you are looking for an item to be a unique piece in a room or a focal point. Consider finding something very high end or a mid to late 19th century American antique to add character to your room or to fill the focal point of a room. These are items that you can be very proud of because they are well made! When you are considering a 19th-century American furnishings, remember that they are completely handmade, one of a kind, made of beautiful materials, and are readily available at antique stores and antique markets. But you need to know that in many cases, these pieces will need a little TLC because they are so old! They may lean more towards an eclectic look than a look of modern perfection. 

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