A Closet Worth Staying In

America is obsessed with being organized.  We want a place for everything and everything in its place.  So it’s no wonder that closet design has become a huge factor to new home buyers and those looking to renovate.

Gone are the days of those wire shelving components.  You know, the ones that eventually turn into virtual glue sticks that are impossible to clean.  And the idea of a single rod with a storage shelf above is about as current as an avocado refrigerator.

Most people are now familiar with closet systems and how to get the most use of their space.  Double hanging rods, shoe shelves,  tie racks, built-in valet bars, belt racks, laundry bins, dressing islands,  etc. have all become part of the expected closet.

Laminates are clearly the most popular choice primarily due to the cost savings.  Although somewhat limited in colors and styles, the laminate units provide a sturdy, easy to clean product that appeals to a wide variety of clients at different price points.

So where does it go from here?  Well, if the budget exists, new closets are taking it to a different level.  Custom closets start out with real wood products which give the consumer endless choices of finishes, styles and hardware.  What used to be simple square boxes has become high quality furniture.  Clothing, which used to be exposed, is being stored behind doors as a protection against dust.  And every article of clothing is given its own designated space.  From shoes to sweaters to handbags, organizing a closet makes it easy to see what you have and keeps everything in mint condition.  And the gadgets, well they just keep getting better.

Some of the newer gadgets you might find can include hidden compartments accessible only by rubbing a key across an invisible lock mechanism, hidden safes for organizing valuables and jewelry, breakfast bars (for the early morning coffee without leaving your room), automated lighting systems that turn on and off with the opening of doors, flat panel televisions, and the list goes on.

Sometimes a closet just isn’t big enough no matter what you do.  As they say, go big or go home. In some cases, clients have turned entire guest bedrooms into luxury custom closets making them a room unto themselves.

Closets have come of design age, requiring as much thought and planning as a modern day kitchen.  No longer considered just an necessity, it’s become a coveted design element of the home.

 

 

Designer or Onliner?

Giving credit where credit is due, one of my coworkers, Mary Nowak,  presented this concept to me this week.  It seems in this digital age, everyone is trying to reap the rewards of shopping online instead of enlisting the advice of a designer or a local showroom.  Apparently it’s just as easy to get a sofa online as it is a date.  But just how much are we willing to sacrifice to save money? And who really looks like their online picture.  In the past, hiring a designer was a luxury few could afford or so they thought.  Many people found it intimidating as their designers suggested items that were priced well outside their comfort zone.  It was a time when it was more about the name than the style and that usually meant a hefty price to go along with it.  High priced designers were making a killing…and it was our profession they just about buried.

Hiring a designer is no longer just for a lucky few, it’s now for the savvy.  Over the years, scores of well-established design schools and universities have churned out a sufficient number of talented individuals to make access to a designer more reasonable and in a more consumer-friendly environment than ever before.  This, in turn, has changed the way many people approach furnishing a new home. Designers have the ability to negotiate wholesale pricing and even with their fees added, the price is still less than retail.  Plus you have a designer on your side to help avoid mistakes.

But still there are those who feel compelled to shop online, forfeiting any type of personal guidance or service in hopes of saving a few dollars.  For smaller, disposable items, it can make good sense but buying an item of value online can be a little like Russian roulette.  Who cares if the sofa you ordered online doesn’t fit?  Just put it in your next garage sale. What if the fabric looks terrible in person?  If there’s a defect or damage in shipping, or if the item breaks after only a few months, you will probably wish you had someone local to call to make the problem go away.  And the only person with a vested interest in your happiness other than yourself is your local designer or showroom.  I have a feeling when you call them that your call isn’t going to get rerouted to a customer service department in a third-world country.  (Peggy, can you hear me?)

Many better quality retail stores and design firms are eager to work with clients on smaller projects.  And this isn’t just because of the economy.  It’s because we have all gotten a little smarter over time.  We realize that helping a young couple with their first home and developing a relationship with them often results in future homes down the road.   It’s become the building block for smaller firms and for designers who are in the business for the long haul.  It’s residual business.   I have personally had clients start out with just a small living room and, over time, grow into several jobs for their relatives and also larger homes for themselves as their careers have blossomed.  When it comes to clients, a good investment always grows.

Onliners pride themselves on savings but in many cases, item for item, the prices end up about the same.  And if you have a problem once you get it home, you can usually resolve it easily and quickly.  Online companies often had hidden charges such as crating, in-home delivery, etc. that add to the price.  And it’s funny how they make you pay for it in full before you even take delivery.  Hmmm.

We all use online services for something.  Electronics, games, reviews, news and yes, even dates.  But a sofa or dining room set?  What if I answered the door and the sofa didn’t look anything like it did in the picture?  Ah, the date from hell.

 

“Made In America” Means Something

Sure, it’s easy to find an item cheaper every time we want to buy something but if you’re like most, sometimes it’s that one purchase we had to pay full price for that ends up being one of our favorite items.  Why is that?  Is it some form of self-justification for paying the price or was it the act of the splurge that gives us the satisfaction…the thought of treating ourselves to something we had come to deserve?

The truth may be the hardest thing to swallow.  Could it be that after owning it a little while, we actually realized it was more than worth the price we paid for it?  While foreign markets are loading the shelves with lower priced items, they are also lowering our standards of quality.  It’s like a tsunami and the rippling effects are costing us more than the dollars we are saving.

The furniture industry is no stranger to out-sourcing production to countries where employees are paid only a few dollars a day, where there are no insurance or retirement plans, there are no unions, and for the most part, there is little concern for the materials or safety used to get the job done.  And if you need customer service, well…it’s non-existent.  As a result, some of these manufacturers have grown by leaps and bounds while terminating most of their employees and abandoning their American factories.  How would you feel if you found out that your retirement fund owned stock in an American company who eliminated any chance of retirement for hundreds, if not thousands of American families?

Make no mistake.  American-made quality is like no other.  And there’s nothing better than treating ourselves to that quality whenever possible.  Thankfully, some American furniture manufacturers have taken a strong position in preserving this quality for those who can appreciate it and understand it.

One of the foremost furniture manufacturers that comes to mind is EJVictor.  Based in Morganton, North Carolina, they represent a tradition of very high quality, hand-made casegoods and upholstery items.  After doing business with them over the past 18 years, I can honestly say that no details or materials are spared to ensure that their product is second to none.  And their customer service is not just a department…it’s their method of business.   While others are pumping out stamped carvings or turnings, EJVictor is painstakingly producing theirs the old fashioned way…one piece at a time…using the talents of many second or third  generation furniture builders who are still practicing the art of craftsmanship.  One look and feel is enough to convince you of the difference.

Pieces of furniture that are made this way are the treasures of tomorrow.   They are the pieces that last a lifetime, and then some.   And yes, they cost a little more.  But they are also better designed, of higher quality, have finer finishes, offer more flexibility and will no doubt become one of those of favorite pieces that you made a splurge on.  And yes, you probably deserve it.

You’ll also have the added pleasure of knowing every dollar you spend on it, from the manufacturer, to the trucking company to the retail dealer, will be kept here at home to benefit all of us as a whole.

It’s just one more way you can make a difference in helping our country get back on its feet and own a piece of American quality.

 

Visit EJVictor’s site by clicking here