I’ve been married for more than 15 years so I’m accustomed to being told I’m wrong. I used to think that maybe I was occasionally right, but now I know even that was a mistake. And as a note to my wife, honey, if I really was right, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be. Like most folks, I’ve even been wrong about furniture. In this article, we’ll tackle a few myths about furniture that I used to cherish.
Furniture made long ago was built better than today’s furniture. Yes, the quality of the wood was probably better because first growth forests were plentiful with tighter grains and there were some cuts of wood (like quarter sawn oak) and kinds of wood (like Cuban mahogany) available that are not available anymore but the tools of today’s trade allow for accuracy in cutting and joinery that were impossible a hundred years ago. In addition, most furniture is glued and the glues of today are much better than the old hide glues especially the polymer glues like Gorilla Glue. Finishes of today are also much more resistant to wear and tear than was the shellac of yesteryear.
Wood finish needs to be fed. As we talked some months ago, there’s nothing you can add to a finish (unless it is more finish) that it can absorb or bond to. The only thing a finish needs is a good waxing with a paste wax once a year and that’s just to put a protective layer between you and the finish.
Wood is alive and needs to breathe. Sorry, once the tree was cut down, the wood died. In fact, there’s some reason not to expose wood to the air since that makes it more likely it will absorb (and give off) moisture, making the wood move and causing cracks and loosening joints.
Wood veneer is bad. Plywood, with its grain running in alternating direction with each leaf is actually more stable and harder to break than straight lumber. What we’ve sadly become accustomed to is cheap pressboard furniture where the veneer is just painted paper that can peel off. Real wood veneer is an opportunity to have visible wood grains that would be impossible to purchase if the entire piece were made of them. And the choice of veneer can be one of style. I’ve seen solid oak furniture from the 1940’s with a walnut veneer because oak was not a popular “look”.
All the wood in a set will exactly match. Even if all the wood came from the same tree, there will significant differences in the grain between areas of the tree. As the saying goes, wood is a natural product…some variation is to be expected.
The most expensive fabric is the most durable. Silks and damasks can be gorgeous looking fabrics (and quite expensive) but they won’t hold up like some of the new nylon and olefin materials. If you really like the look of silk, consider a blend.
You can’t clean leather or keep it looking clean. Leather does change with time as the oils and dyes in the leather shift but this can be as much an affect of the type of dye as it is the leather. Pigmented leather will change color less than aniline dyes. Most of the places you can buy leather furniture will come with recommendations for how to clean it.
Fabric on the bottom of leather cushion is a cheap shortcut. When you sit on the cushion, air escapes. The fabric helps the air to get out of the cushion quickly. Otherwise a leather sofa would feel like sitting on blown up furniture.
Box springs don’t need to be replaced as often as mattresses. Sometimes the sag can be the box springs and not the mattress. Most manufactures design box springs and mattresses to work together, when it’s time for one to go, they both should.
That said, I still prefer real wood to veneer, older furniture to newer and organic fabrics to synthetic. What the heck, I may be wrong but at least I’ve got my opinions.