March 7, 2023

The Hidden Price To Pay For Low-Cost Furniture

The Hidden Price To Pay For Low-Cost Furniture

Founding father and renowned penny-pincher Ben knew what was up 250 years ago when he said: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Interior designer Tiffany Cassidy updates that axiom for anyone buying furniture in the 21st Century like so: “The thing about fast furniture is you get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

Caveat emptor — let the buyer beware — was coined for products exactly like fast furniture. There is a hidden price to pay for lower-cost flash, especially when we’re talking about items you live with, interact with and rely on every day. 

Keith Bolles, owner and president of Saybrook Home in Connecticut, has an analogy to hammer home the point: “I’m engaged and recently we were with the jeweler looking at wedding rings. He was showing us all ‘the hottest designs.’ And I’m thinking, ‘I don’t want something hot that I’ll hate in five years. I want something I will still cherish 40 years down the road.’ ”

With Yale and its hospital nearby and NYC commutable, Bolles’ store has attracted higher-end traffic since its founding in the 1970s. “This area is also popular as a second-home destination,” he said. “So, historically, our customer has skewed older, the fifty-to-seventy range.”

Recently, however, Bolles has begun to see younger couples moving from the city for a quieter life. Additionally, the children of long-time customers are beginning to buy homes and start families. “They grew up living on the furniture their parents bought from us. These younger customers recognize the value of well-made furniture and want that for their homes. Gat Creek falls right in the comfort zone for these customers.”

Bolles cites Gat Creek’s choices of solid wood, craftsmanship, finishes, available options and the ability to customize as invaluable attributes alternative choices — and particularly fast furniture — can’t match. He likes seeing the reactions when customers conditioned to paying for limited options and lesser quality realize they don’t have to settle. 

“Honestly, we don’t like it when a customer feels good about a purchase and then a year or two later she comes in and says ‘I don’t love it as much as I thought I would.’ We want to make sure they get exactly what they want.”

Call it the economics of deep satisfaction. But even then, people change, they grow, evolve, develop new tastes. Still, Gat Creek stands up. 

“With Gat Creek,” Bolles said, “their designs are so clean, the silhouettes so timeless, that even if the customer ordered something like, say, an orange paint, and five years later she has a change of heart or redoes the room, that piece can be easily stripped, refinished, repainted.”

For Tiffany Cassidy, whose Lagnappe Custom Interiors is situated on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, the sticker price vs. long-term value argument is open-and-shut. 

“I always point out to my clients, many of whom are furnishing their luxury rentals, that it takes no time to amortize (the higher price),” she said. “When you’re replacing something every few years, in addition to the shipping and taxes and so forth, investing in Gat Creek quality is unquestionably the better deal.”

Somewhere Ben Franklin is applauding.