How to buy quality furniture

Here at the Koke-Long house we're in the market for some furniture. Our living room is currently semi-furnished with a comfortable but deteriorating Ikea couch and some leftover dining chairs; we'd like a nice armchair or two and some tables.

I've mostly gone for Ikea 'cheap and new' furniture in the past, but I've been disappointed by its (understatement alert!) lack of durability. This time I'd like to try buying used but higher-quality. As I began to look around, though, I realized that I knew very little about what makes for a strong, long-lasting piece of furniture.

Anyone can identify a rip, scratch, or stain, or decide whether they like a certain color, without special knowledge. But judging whether a piece is likely to last two years or twenty — just by looking at it — is harder stuff. Time to research! Here's an overview of what I learned, with a checklist at the end.

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More about...Home & Garden

Furniture shopping secrets: How to tell superior from shoddy

Here at the Koke-Long house we're in the market for some furniture. Our living room is currently semi-furnished with a comfortable but deteriorating Ikea couch and some leftover dining chairs; we'd like a nice armchair or two and some tables.

I've mostly gone for Ikea 'cheap and new' furniture in the past, but I've been disappointed by its (understatement alert!) lack of durability. This time I'd like to try buying used but higher-quality. As I began to look around, though, I realized that I knew very little about what makes for a strong, long-lasting piece of furniture.

Anyone can identify a rip, scratch, or stain, or decide whether they like a certain color, without special knowledge. But judging whether a piece is likely to last two years or twenty — just by looking at it — is harder stuff. Time to research! Here's an overview of what I learned, with a checklist at the end.

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More about...Home & Garden

Discovering (and Challenging) Your Financial Values

My parents taught me nothing about money management. My dad opened a checking account for me in high school and showed me how to use the checkbook register. Beyond that, I was on my own. I never had any clue how much money my parents made, and very little sense of how much most things cost. Taxes and loans and bills and credit were all vague mysteries. Mortgages and retirement accounts weren't even on my radar. My family simply never talked about money at all.

My parents might not have taught me anything, but I learned things from them all the same:

    • I learned that when you moved into a new, larger, nicer house, you also bought a full suite of brand new furniture for every room in it.

 

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More about...Psychology

A visit to the island of misfit foods

About a mile from my house there's a slightly shabby strip mall housing a Dollar Store, a Ross Dress for Less, and something called a 'Grocery Outlet'. For two years I've driven past that sign — on my way to Costco, Fred Meyer, and Trader Joe's — without ever giving it a second thought. I'll pick through thrift-store racks for clothes, sure, but I'm a snob about food, and 'Grocery Outlet' smacked of discards and dregs.

After six months of only part-time employment and a pared-down budget, though, I start eyeing the sign more speculatively. One day I gather up my cloth bags and my determination and head over to expand my grocery comfort zone.

Inside the Grocery Outlet

The building is old, with scuffed tile floors and aged metal shelves. The shopping carts are battered cast-offs from other stores. But the lighting is bright and everything is clean. The warehouse-style setup, stacked cardboard boxes cut open for access to the cans and boxes inside, is familiar to anyone who shops in a club like Costco or Sam's. My fellow shoppers are a cross-section of ages, races, and economic classes; the only thing I don't see is someone in a business suit. That's typical of Seattle, though — not even Whole Foods gets customers in suits.

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More about...Food, Frugality