I make visiting Goodwill, thrift shops and estate sales part of my weekly routine so I have learned that life will go on just fine if I walk out of the shop with nothing since saying "no" to the wrong piece of furniture is just as important as saying "yes" to the right one. I know that sooner or later I will find something decent...or something glorious.
Glorious, like this sweet piece of heavenly carpentry.
My heart did that little fluttey-skip-a-beat thing that lets me know I may have stumbled upon something great and I headed over to see if I really saw what I think I saw...a quality mid century piece.
How did I know from a quick glance amd look over that it may be quality?
In a quick look over, I noticed:
1. Stature. This piece just looks like a sturdy chunk. Not always, but often, visual weight translates to a weightier (i.e., more durable) piece.
2. Detail. This dresser has clean details, but details nonetheless. Look at the sweet vetical curved pieces, which are actually the pulls. Notice the feet that are a curvy, angled structure. Extra attention to desiagn features shows the manufacturer took more time in the development process.
3. Curves. I adore me some clean lines, but curvy pieces make me feel pretty confident. I can't speak for modern furniture development, but you can be sure that older carved or curvy pieces are real wood and not partical board. Curves need to be routered; partical board will splinter if you do this. I do my fair share of dressers made of partical board and laminate, but wood is more expensive (for the piece's original production) and tells me it is higher quality. As a bonus, it's easier to sand out water marks and such if need be.
4. Dovetailing. Look at the joints of a drawer. If there are little V-ish shaped parts that join together the front and sides, you've found dovetailing. If they are equipped with this, it is an idicator in older pieces that human hands spent a significant amount of time on it. Bonus if they dovetailed the back piece as well.
5. Brand. A stamp or signature let's me know there is a design house that is proud enough of their work on this furniture to risk their reputation by putting a name on it. I do mostly older pieces, and names I love are Bassett, Broyhill, Lane, and Dixie. Now, again, I will do a piece with no name, but I will take into consideration that it may mean more hidden issues because of construction quality. I know a name brand was built with intergrity. In fact, I once had a Bassett dresser fall out of a moving truck (a lesson for another time!) and it came out with only surface scratches and having the drawers bust at the joints but with the dovetails still there so I could hammer them back together! It is now proudly in my room...I used the fall as an excuse to not sell a compromised piece and keep one of my dressers for once!
Once you find quality, know that it will benefit you in many ways. Refinishing will often be more straightforward, you can charge more, and you can worry less that your customers will have issues down the road. You may have to pay more upfront, but you generally recoup the cost in resale value.
Or, you could be doing the happy dance all night because you scored a $25 Dixie dresser that you can turn into a luxe piece of art like this:
Are there any tips I'm missing? What are your favorite brands? Share your wisdom with the One Vintage House family below!