Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Discount Oak Furniture: The Hidden Risks

MiscellaneousFebruary 23, 2017

The discount oak furniture you just spotted online looks great. It seems to be the real deal… attractive, made from genuine wood and it’s available at a bargain price.

Is it too good to be true?

Of course most of us are on a budget and everyone wants to get the most for their money. But, is discount wooden furniture really the solution to your home décor needs?

As with many home décor and furniture products, cheapest is not necessarily best. While it makes sense to look for value, some deals really are too good to be true.

When you are designing or redecorating your home, you deserve furniture and accessories that make a big impact and helps you create the stylish, welcoming home of your dreams. However, discount oak furniture cuts many corners in terms of production, materials, sustainability, and service, leading to big disappointment.

Let’s take a closer look at discount oak furniture to uncover the hidden risks, the disadvantages, and the inconveniences that often come with the small price tag.

Cheaper Materials Equals Inferior Materials

Is it really oak? Can you be sure?

The reason the furniture may be so cheap is because it is actually manufactured from a cheaper material and made to look like it is oak, or is oak in colour only.

There are stringent quality standards involved in advertising wood furniture so look carefully at how things are described.

The American Hardwood Information Center says, “Be aware that terms can be deceiving. For instance, a coffee table may look like cherry and may say “cherry finish,” but that does not necessarily mean it’s real cherry hardwood. The term “cherry finish” may simply refer to the color.”

Also, some discount companies use the term “hardwood” as a selling point so you automatically assume you are getting a good quality, sturdy wood. In fact, the definitions hardwood and softwood have little to do with quality or strength, but simply state that a hardwood comes from a deciduous tree while a softwood comes from a conifer tree.

Don’t be fooled by the terms. To avoid disappointment, ask the company about the construction and the quality of the wood rather than the label hardwood or softwood.

Are Veneers All Bad?

You might assume that higher quality furniture means completely solid wood with no veneers.

We talked about solid wood versus veneers in a recent blog post here. It is not necessarily true that high quality furniture is veneer-free, and the use of veneers is not a bad thing.

The selective and strategic use of veneers has long become an effective and elegant way to maintain the style, quality and characteristics of solid wood, while enhancing the durability of your furniture.  When applied by an expert craftsman during the manufacturing process, it can actually enhance the value of the piece.

Image courtesy of Janus Home

Veneers have their place. But so too does solid wood – and discount furniture may not make the best use of solid wood.

Solid wood is essential when constructing certain aspects of wood furniture, including supporting posts and legs, or for frames and for carved sections. You need to know that veneers are openly used to enhance the furniture, and not to hide a problem like MDF or other substandard materials.

Buyer Beware: Lower-Quality Craftsmanship

One of the other key negative issues associated with discount wood furniture is the quality of the craftsmanship and manufacture.

Discount furniture is made using cheaper methods – obviously to cut the cost to the consumer. Methods that include gluing small pieces together, using nails, and cheap fixings.

High quality furniture is structurally well made to last a lifetime using traditional methods such as dovetail and tongue and groove.

“A great indicator of solid wood is dovetail construction. Your furniture may still have veneer fronts, but it’s most likely constructed of solid wood if you see that tongue and groove construction where the drawer connects to the drawer front,” says interior designer Erin Spain.

Dovetail Joint Photo via Eric Spain

The way a piece of furniture is fit together naturally makes a difference in how long it lasts and how good it looks. You quickly get problems with furniture that is fastened with glue – the parts warp and the glue flakes off. The drawers come off their runners. The back splits away from the console cabinet.

Not what you were expecting, right?

Damaged During Delivery

Of course, there is a difference between the “distressed look” and an actual distressed piece of furniture – something that looks battered and “used” as soon as it comes out of the box.

One of the big problems associated with discount oak furniture is the packaging for delivery is poor quality. The items may also be shipped over a long distance.

The result?

The likelihood of your furniture arriving damaged, chipped, marked, or stained, is high.

On the other hand, higher quality furniture is not just made with care but packaged with care. You can expect delivery of the items to be careful and safe. Once you unwrap your furniture you’ll get excited by how it looks in your living room or dining room – not dismayed when you see one of the drawers is broken.

Items Are Actually Smaller Than They Seem

What’s worse than opening the box to find a damaged drawer?

Finding a tiny cabinet when you were expecting a grand chest of drawers.

Items on discount sites are often made to a smaller spec. Although they may look the same in an image they are actually much smaller when you get them delivered.

Discount stores may not make dimensions easily available for the products, either, so you get an unwelcome surprise when you unpack your furniture and find it is quite a lot smaller than you wanted.

Ready to Assemble?

Do you feel like you need an advanced engineering degree to understand flat pack furniture assembly instructions?

Want to set up your new room as soon as your furniture is delivered? Forget about it.

Photo from Neumann & Rodtmann/Corbis at the Daily Mail

Higher quality furniture is less stressful. There are no flat packs to leave you scratching your head and despairing over the drill and nails. Where items need to be fitted together there is minimal effort involved, and clear instructions given.

Going Green with Oak Furniture

With cheap wood furniture you may be saving a little, but at what cost to the planet?

Discount furniture unlikely to be manufactured from ethically sound sources.

Jacob Gordon at the treehugger blog says: “Whether a piece of furniture is made from wood, cloth, metal, plastic, or whatever else, there are earth-friendly options…There are sustainable ways to harvest wood… Wood from sustainably harvested forests, sustainably harvested tree farms, and reclaimed wood are the main sources.”

Discount furniture is not usually made from sustainable wood. Look for the furniture made from wood that comes from sustainable sources, or furniture that is made with reclaimed wood – or both. This helps to sustain the planet’s wellbeing for future generations.

Questionable Production Ethics

Do you really know how your discount furniture was made? Can you be sure it was manufactured without using exploitative practices like child labour, poorly paid overseas labour, or illegal practices like unauthorised logging which kills protected forests?

When it comes to heavily discounted furniture products, child labour may be used to keep production costs down.

For a clearer conscience, look for quality furniture that has been manufactured in certified factories using no child labour. If it doesn’t say so, you can easily ask.

Look at the Lifespan

If you are concerned about sustainability and ethical standards, you can also consider higher quality furniture a “win” as it is more durable and long-lasting. These furniture pieces will be used for longer, and will not end up in landfill after a couple of years (or even months, in the case of some discount furniture).

When you buy high quality oak furniture you can enjoy it for a lifetime – and even pass it onto your family.

However, if your tastes or living situation changes and you want to switch your table or your bed, Jacob Gordon at treehugger reminds us that “a good strong table will almost always be appealing to someone else, while a broken (and unfixable) one probably won’t.”

The problem is, discount furniture often looks just fine to begin with.

But, think about it.

Are you really, truly satisfied with the lifespan of cheap furniture pieces you bought in the past? Or are you disappointed that your bedside cabinet drawers warp after a few months, and the shelves of your cheap bookcase split and break?

In furniture, you do get what you pay for. If you’re looking for long-lasting furniture that you can still enjoy in decades’ time, you need to skip the discount aisles.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you must pay a fortune to get furniture that lasts. Far from it. Shopping around, you’ll find a wide variety of attractive, well-made oak furniture that doesn’t break the bank.

Potentially Hazardous Paints and Solvents

Often a new piece of discount furniture is complete with its own distinctive “new furniture” smell. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

What you smell isn’t always the freshness of the paint or wood, but the “slow release of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) from the products used to create and finish your new furnishing.

Furniture is a particularly common culprit because so many materials, from coatings and glues to particle board and upholstery, can contain VOCs. Some of these pollutants can be toxic or irritating to people with respiratory diseases or chemical sensitivities,” says Buildings blog.

Look for furniture that is manufactured using low- or non-VOC paints and varnishes. This is a more expensive process, and therefore is often one of the corners that gets cut when manufacturing discount furniture.

Lack of Customer Service

Asking these questions can make it obvious whether you are buying furniture from a reputable furniture retailer.

You should expect to reach someone by phone during regular business hours and prompt responses to emails.

Sure, it may be simple to buy on a discount site but what happens if you encounter a problem? Need to change your order? Want to know more about whether a specific piece of furniture will fit in your living room?

Forget it.

Furniture from established, higher quality retailers often (though not always) comes with higher quality, more knowledgeable customer service.

So you can ask whether a certain range would go with your yellow bedroom. Or whether a console table is big and sturdy enough for placing a TV. Or find out about the delivery terms and returns without stress.

Service goes a long way to a more pleasurable and satisfying buying experience, particularly when you are investing money in something like oak furniture.

So, in Conclusion…

Don’t assume you’re getting a great deal when you pay much less – looking at all the different factors associated with oak furniture makes it clear that price is not the only point you need to consider.

Look for quality, value and design. Oak furniture you will be proud to enjoy and show off and will last for many years to come.

When you purchase from Oak Furniture Company, you can rest assured that we use only the highest grade, sustainable wood. Our expert craftsmen use superior construction techniques including solid wood in all structural areas and non-VOC paints and varnishes.

When you purchase from Oak Furniture Company, every product is carefully prepared for delivery and never flat-packed. Our customer service specialists are standing by to assist you with any questions. Plus, every item comes with free delivery, a 30 day money back guarantee, and even free returns. We stand behind our products and look forward to serving you!

Introducing the New, Redesigned!

We’ve Done Some Interior Decorating

For the last several months, our team has been working on a brand new website, determined to give you the furniture shopping experience you crave. Adding features like improved visual navigation, wish lists, better product photo viewing, an easier checkout and much more, all packed into a new design that we hope feels as elegant as our oak furniture pieces.

Some of what you’ll find at the new

  • Completely redesigned from the ground-up with a more eye-pleasing, intuitive layout
  • All-new navigation menu for fun & easy browsing of our huge oak furniture selection
  • Search filters to easily narrow down your options to find exactly what you’re looking for
  • Create your own wish list to save for later
  • Easily compare products side by side
  • Better product photo views
  • Faster, simplified checkout
  • Mobile friendly – easily browse or buy on your tablet or phone

Of course, you’ll continue to get our exceptional service – fast, free shipping, a dedicated customer care team and much more.

We would truly love to hear what you think of the new site. Leave a comment below and let us know!

Sitting on a good idea

MiscellaneousFebruary 1, 2014

We thought it wouldn’t be too long till someone thought of using the concept of 3D printing for creating pieces of furniture. So here they are — the stools of the future. They certainly look futuristic which is not surprising considering that they borrow from techniques used to create complicated three-dimensional characters for computer games and movies.

Daniel Widrig, an architect and designer based in London, came up with the idea but was somewhat thwarted by the high cost of conventional 3D printing, where an industrial stereolithography printing process is used. Daniel decided on a mixture of sugar, plaster and Japanese rice wine instead, which he claims does the job just as well but works out considerably cheaper. He said, “The recipe we used is based on existing research but we developed it further, because the original recipes usually result in parts that are too rough and fragile for high resolution prints. To our knowledge it is the first time a 1:1 working product of that scale has been printed this way.”

The shape of the stool was initially conceived, using 3D tiling software, and then removing the material where it wasn’t needed for structural rigidity. Overall size was dictated by the existing printer in Daniel’s studio, so constituent parts had to be joined together to make the final functional shape. He admits that more research is needed before an affordable binding material is found that is cheaper than the existing expensive systems. You never know, maybe one day he’ll be able to afford four legs on his stool, rather than just the three.

Lego fan turns to flat-pack building

MiscellaneousJanuary 28, 2014

Let’s admit it, none of us really enjoys putting together flat pack furniture. However good the multi-lingual diagrammatic instructions appear to be, there’s always something you don’t quite understand. With bigger items like bookcases, sideboards and wardrobes, there’s never enough space to lay it all out either, so what seemed to be a simple task at first can turn into a mind-numbing nightmare. But not for an ambitious 24-year-old Canadian man called Brad Fremmerlid.

He suffers from autism. He is unable to speak or read, and he can only communicate using hand gestures. He’s always loved building Lego kits, so his father had the bright idea for him to use his skills in a more positive way so that he could earn a living. Because he is so good at following pictorial instructions, as well as having a good eye for detail, he now offers his services as a constructor of flat-pack furniture. He will visit your house and efficiently knock up a piece for the very reasonable sum of $20.

Clinical psychologist Vicki Gibbs said, “Some people with autism have an incredible ability to focus on things they find enjoyable. There will be exceptions, but some of them can do things that perhaps would bore somebody, or that somebody else would find tedious, but they actually enjoy it and can perhaps do it for longer periods of time. Also, some people with autism have very good attention to detail.” So if you do insist on flat-pack, rather than ready-made furniture from OFCo, you know who you can turn to for some expert solutions.

Drawing on some new design ideas

MiscellaneousJanuary 25, 2014

Now here’s a novel approach for budding furniture designers. When any commercial or industrial designer comes up with a new product, it inevitably involves various protracted stages. First, the idea. Then that has to be roughly sketched out. After that a three-dimensional model is probably made. Then come the accurate technical drawings with precise measurements added, before the piece stands any chance of going into production. And then it’s probably got to be tweaked before it becomes reality.

South Korean designer Jinil Park has revolutionised this long, drawn out process. She just stops at the sketch stage and makes her furniture from there. The chair and side table examples shown here were simply made from steel wire. Jinil hammers wires of differing thicknesses, intersects and welds them to simulate the lines drawn with a pen. She says of her furniture, “The key points of my work are the moments where the lines are distorted. They express the designer’s feeling, status and emotion. Instinctively, I created the conjunction of these thin wires that eventually hold the human weight while a single wire cannot.”

That might be all well and good for a chair, but what about a dining table? Surely all the crumbs that you drop would fall through the table and land on your lap? Like they do with those horrible rigid, slatted picnic tables outside at service stations. And if she does turn her talents to a wardrobe, wouldn’t it let rather a lot of dust into it? We can’t see the ‘Jinil Park line’ being introduced to the Oak Furniture Company portfolio any time soon. Sorry Jinil, nice try.

A softer approach to upcycling

MiscellaneousJanuary 21, 2014

Picture this as a fairly typical domestic situation. You have an old mattress that you’re considering throwing out — you know, the bed is still serviceable, but the mattress has gone soft and squishy about half way down, in the place where many a posterior has rested itself over the years. It’s probably become a little faded and discoloured through time as well. You also have a wardrobe in which hang several wide belts that have never been worn because, after you bought them as an impulse purchase, you realised that you don’t possess any trousers with big enough belt loops to accommodate the belts.

Salvation is at hand. Simply re-cover the mattress with a fabric of your choice, fold it roughly in half, and then tie it together with the belt to make an impromptu sofa. A simple and effective example of upcycling in the true twenty-first century meaning of the word.

But let’s give new designer Charlotte Millet a little more credit than that. This photo of her product that she calls ‘Burst’ is from her Lottie’s Design website. In justification of her cleverness she says, “Through bending the foam, a precarious visual pressure is created, giving the impression that the sofa will, at any moment, burst at the seams.” And in fairness, it does feature a stout plywood box frame and four maple wood feet as part of its design. She’s full of good ideas for not only furniture (see her site for a clever stool idea), but also other common domestic items. As an emerging talent, let’s give her full marks for her creativity.

You can’t beat a touch of Gallic humour

MiscellaneousJanuary 18, 2014

You wouldn’t normally regard buying furniture as a rib-tickling exercise, so it’s quite refreshing when you come across something that makes you titter — like this picture of a chest of drawers that has been made in the shape of a concertina, for instance.

We just wonder what inspired the designer. So we searched for ‘concertina drawers’ and the nearest we could come up with was an interesting piece of nostalgia in the form of a 1950s G Plan sideboard with ‘three drawers and concertina cupboards’ on eBay. It boasted distinctive period, black, tapered legs (complete with brass effect feet), but after just three bids it sadly sold for the princely sum of £5.50. It was a particularly spacious piece of furniture, with wide central drawers and wide cupboards either side that presumably opened up in a zigzag, concertina fashion.

So here’s a more modern version on the concertina theme. Not very practical, admittedly, if not because of the total lack of cupboard space in the middle. But it does make you laugh, and does bring to mind the other definition of the word concertina, as a verb — ‘to collapse or fold up like the bellows of a concertina’. Now, you know the way certain members of the household have the knack of stuffing (or concertinaing) so much into a drawer that it is impossible to ether open it or close it without bits of underwear or stockings (whoops, inadvertently given away the gender of the perpetrator) sticking out? Well, that’s what you’d have to do with this. We wonder whether this eye-catching piece will sell for more than £5.50 when it finally appears on eBay?

Looking to charity shops for a bargain

MiscellaneousJanuary 15, 2014

Many of us turned to charity shops last month to buy our Christmas cards. It gives us a nice warm feeling to know that this is one aspect of our Christmas excesses that will be usefully channeled into charitable activity. But if many of us are feeling a bit strapped for cash in January, why not turn to a charity shop for a good bargain in second-hand furniture?

Everything you see on the OFCo site is of course brand new and very desirable. But not everyone can afford even our competitive prices, especially at this time of the year when resources are limited as we all recover from Christmas. Britain’s charity shops are all aware of this, and more of them than ever before are including furniture in their offerings. The British Heart Foundation in particular has taken the route of ever-larger stores that sell furniture and electrical goods to try and increase their profits.

Much of the furniture you’ll see does have a distinctly secondhand look to it. A dining table may have suffered from years of wear, but the legs are probably still good, so a swift rub down and re-varnish of the table surface could make it look as good as new. The hinges on sideboards and cupboards could be a bit dodgy through constant use, but some new ones and a quick refurb of sideboard tops could again give them a new lease of life.

If you are in the fortunate position of investing in some oak furniture from OFCo, just remember that when it’s ‘had its day’, the chances are that it will still be a very serviceable piece of furniture. So why not chuck it in the boot and head for the charity shop, for the benefit of someone less fortunate than you?

Meet the expert in fake antiques

MiscellaneousJanuary 14, 2014

Lots of furniture lovers tend to prefer the antique look — William and Mary styling, Queen Anne dining tables, Chippendale dining chairs and the like. But as any auctioneer will tell you, these original products can command a small fortune in the salerooms. On the other side of the pond there’s an experienced cabinetmaker who is adept at copying any of these styles, but he doesn’t have the audacity to actually try and pass them off as originals.

Chris Robertson is a traditional cabinetmaker who conducts his craft from a two-car garage at his home in Parkton. He claims to solve the problem for people who love antiques but get fed up with ‘creaky hinges and sticky drawers that inevitably come with something that’s been around for 100-plus years. He likes to use wood that was favoured in early American furniture — quality timber such as cherry, mahogany, maple and walnut. He says that much of the reproduction furniture that is manufactured for the mass market lacks the attention to detail that he can offer. He’ll also make sure that he uses timber that has been cut sequentially from a single tree, to make sure that he always gets matching grain for door panels for cupboards for instance.

Chris says, “If a customer came to me and said ‘I saw this piece in Winterthur that I love’, I could recreate it. More typically, they have a general idea of the function of the piece, and from there I show them pictures of styles and elements from which I create a drawing.” He says that his business is growing fast, so he’s looking for an apprentice. It’s nice to know that the art of craftsmanship is still alive and in demand.

School’s out – and off to Africa

MiscellaneousJanuary 10, 2014

Christmas is of course, a time for giving. It’s also a period noted for charitable actions between men and their fellow men. In December a truly unique event took place that combined all of these philanthropic qualities, when the complete contents of a Yorkshire school were donated to a needy cause in Africa.

The Wiltshire-based charity, Action Through Enterprise (ATE), got to learn that an independent prep school in Yorkshire had closed down in the summer. The school wants to remain anonymous but, via another charity, Physionet in North Yorkshire, the decision was made to donate everything to a new kindergarten school that was being built in Lawra, Ghana.

Sarah Gardner, who set up ATE, runs numerous schemes in the rural areas of the upper west region of Ghana, including free meals at one school to try and increase attendance. She said of the Physionet offer, “I found out a few weeks ago and was absolutely overjoyed. I’ve never seen anything like it. We’ve been given everything — furnishings, desks, chairs, a full library with boxes and boxes of books. The school has nothing, so everything will be used.” Volunteers at Physionet collected up everything, even including the school piano and its playground equipment, and loaded it into ‘three very big lorries’ for its journey to Ghana.

Perhaps with all those books to find a home for, someone might be able to source some unwanted bookcases to give to ATE for the next needy shipment? But please don’t leave it till next Christmas.