Here’s Why and What You Can Do About It:
The question I hear most frequently is: “Why does my furniture always fall apart?”
My answers include psychology and economics as well as technical considerations. The psychology relates to the type of furniture you own and how your family cares for it. The economics is determined by the globalization of the furniture market. This article also includes a review of one of our repair projects and will address a possibly surprising explanation on the difference between owning cheap vs. expensive furniture.
The Psychology of Furniture:
Furniture reflects your tastes and standards. For those smart and/or fortunate enough to have bought or inherited good vintage or antique furniture, you probably try harder to take care of it. Everyone knows Israeli kids are less respectful (toward furniture, of course) than kids raised abroad. Additionally, few homes in Israel have separate dining rooms. So furniture here in Israel generally takes more abuse than it did in the old country. I still stress that parents should tell their kids not to rock back on two legs of a chair or play on the sofa like in a gymboree.
If you want your upholstery to last and your dining set to fit a growing family, you must expect more maintenance and repairs. Rather than buy a new set, you can extend the dining table up to five meters long with new slides or reupholster the sofa. Neither is cheap, but quality restorers generally provide better work and materials, hence more value than you get from new furniture.
If, however, you bought cheap furniture, that furniture was made to be disposable. Most of it is made from materials which cannot be restored. Some people like the idea of renewing their furniture every few years — no matter how much more it really costs (and how much it pollutes the environment.)
Economics of Furniture:
Globalization has ruined American furniture manufacturing because the factories have been transferred to places like Vietnam. For a comprehensive analysis on why it’s becoming harder to find well-made furniture for reasonable prices, read Joshua Kennon’s brief article on how globalization has inflicted the hour-glass effect on the furniture industry. Compare the amortized cost of a cheap chair to an expensive one: A 500 NIS chair may last three to ten years before it needs to be trashed. A 1,700 NIS chair should last over 50 years. The cheap chair thus costs you 27 agurot/day, while the expensive chair costs 8 agurot/day! If you add in reupholster and refinishing costs, the expensive one will still be cheaper (and more comfortable and more elegant and worth passing on to the kids)! Smart new couples will not rush out to furnish their new home with cheap furnishings but rather invest in quality furnishings over time that will not lose their appeal and which may appreciate in value.
Israel, like many countries, still produces some good quality, reasonably priced furniture. The biggest problem, however, is not the quality of the parts produced by high-tech machinery under exacting quality control. I often see great quality furniture that has been assembled as if the maker wants it to fall apart! Cheap or too little glue and the use of nails are the signs of future construction failure. The only solution to this problem is to have your good quality furniture repaired by a company which gives long-term warranties on its repairs.
“So why did my expensive furniture fall apart?”
A case study of a mid-range dining set that we saved from the garbage and upgraded for a large-family:
This beautiful Canadian maple chair belongs to a mid-range quality dining set. It has nice, clean lines and color that can blend into both modern and traditional décor. The Israeli family brought it on their lift, expecting it to last a generation before needing repair.
The factory, however, prioritized only getting it off the showroom floor. Due to its cheap glue, it fell apart in a few years but the nails prevented us from disassembly without splintering the joints and ruining the chairs. Even many experienced restorers would give up (or beat them up).
However we turned one of their weaknesses into a point of strength by replacing the hidden screws with wooden dowels which were held by special glue. The glue blocks at the joints reinforced our repair to the point that we could warranty our work for many years of carefree use. The owners were so happy that they refinished the table with the hardest acrylic lacquer and replaced the short, wooden slides with metal ones, adding eight more places! Not everyone is this lucky. But, because they invested wisely, we were able to make their investment give many years of returns.