Worth the Investment? Designer Contemporary & Modern Furniture

Carl Hansen FH419 Heritage Lounge Chair by Frits Hanningsen life 3

People need to think about whether contemporary furniture is worth the investment. If you are like most people you will have seen sofas whose price tags have caused your jaw to drop in disbelief. You may even have got an estimate for custom features in your new home that received a resounding “No”.

The Frame
The Cushion
The Fabric
Questions of Time
Time for a Change
Cost & Value

So what is a high-quality couch that’s worth the money? How should we distinguish between budget items and investment pieces?

There are some essential rules of thumb when it comes to selecting the furniture for you. When you want the expense to be justifiable think about these attributes.

Quality makes furniture worth the investment

Quality can be difficult to pin down. It’s often employed by marketers and becomes hard to define when it’s used too often.

When thinking about whether contemporary furniture is worth the investment, quality should refer to the materials used – like beech, elm, teak, oak – and the manufacture of the furniture: How it’s put together.

Let’s look at a specific example: the Fleming Armchair.


The Fleming Armchair is comfortable and modern. There is a reason why it is a popular choice.

The square modern frame is a perfect contrast with the chair’s cosy and inviting cushions. Its elegant back means there is no need to choose between a polished look and a homely feel.

The armchair looks exquisite in either plain or crushed velvet.

Customers can choose between a deep-buttoned or pulled back option.

Both would create a luxurious and dramatic feel in any home. The chair also comes in a variety of sizes.

This Fleming collection is handmade and so worth the investment. A small team of master seamstresses and upholsters apply their combined 100+ years of experience to the task.

Membership of the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers underlines the quality of their work. It indicates they meet the highest possible standards of work.

When you are looking for a sofa of quality look for three aspects. First, is the frame made of MDF, plywood or solid hardwood? Second, is the cushion likely to break down in a matter of months or last the test of time? Third, how resilient is the fabric likely to be? How thick is it and what’s the material?

The Frame

  • If the material used is Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF), it contains resin and recycled timber fibres. Inexpensive, easy to work with, but it’s lacking in strength. Low-budget couches constructed from MDF are unlikely to survive your kids’ wrestling matches.
  • Plywood is made of thin layers of wood that have been laminated together in opposite directions. The result is stable, warp-resistant with a good deal of strength. Although it can be as strong as solid wood, it’s not traditional furniture making material.
  • Kiln-dried hardwood is the top of the tree when it comes to furniture construction. Maple and oak are the most common woods for making quality furniture. If you are after quality hardwood, which has stood the test of time, deserves your investment.

The Cushion

It is such a big (and literal!) come down when you plop on a sofa expecting to sink in, but instead land with a sudden thud.

Quality in cushions is all down to the employment of which of the many foam products. When new pieces of furniture are stiff, they will no-doubt “break-in”, but they can also deteriorate and lose their shape. High-end foam is the one that is bound to maintain its shape for the longest. This sort of quality should also be comfortable from the beginning.

It’s the warp where things can start to become very pricey. The majority of sofas have inexpensive polyester wrapped around their cushions.

It is the high-end options, where upholsterers use feather down. This is comfortable but there is also controversy. There has unfortunately been a history of unethical practices.

Synthetic down may be the better option when considering whether contemporary furniture is worth the investment. It is cheaper than real feather down but provides comparable comfort and quality. It is also washable.

The Fabric

Fabrics have what the furniture trade calls rub count (or even “double rub count”). The least you should expect for a sofa fabric is 15,000 double rubs.

The rub count indicates the durability and expense of the fabric. After rub count come details like pattern, thickness, piping and embroidery. An average sofa needs 20 yards of fabric which can make a piece of furniture very pricey.

Cheap and Reproduction Furniture

How often have you built some flat-pack furniture? You follow the detailed instructions to the letter, but then find it creaks and wobbles and even catches in all the wrong places.

People report similar experiences with repop furniture.

Too often, those small details that define the quality of mid-century or Scandinavian furniture are missing. There is no finesse to the feel of the handle or the curve of the armrest. They are, more often than not, missing.

It may be down to the foam used. It may be because of the form chosen or the lack of feel but something is wrong and it’s noticeable.

Questions of Time

How long should furniture last? Is it acceptable for a sideboard, for instance, to last 18 months?

No should be the answer if you are considering whether contemporary furniture is worth the investment. Measuring the lifetime of furniture should be in generations. With the correct care and attention, quality furniture should last a very long time indeed.

Dividing the price by the number of years’ use you get out of a piece of furniture should lead to a pleasant surprise.

Time for a Change

Carl Hansen CH22 Lounge Chair by Hans Wegner life 6

Carl Hansen CH22 Lounge Chair by Hans Wegner life 6

There are times when we may want to change our interior themes to follow trends or because we fancy a change. This is acceptable even if it calls for a lower price point per item.

We are also aware of how big a difference re-upholstery can make. By replacing old upholstery with the correct material can make something old look modern.

Does reupholstering a sofa every few years work out cheaper than buying new ones, whatever their price, along the way?

And even if it works out more expensive isn’t 20 years of hassle-free comfort worth a little bit extra?

Cost & Value

Thoughts of cost bring up what could be the most compelling argument, which concerns value.

An “affordable” sofa these days could cost £500 and it probably wouldn’t fetch a fraction in five years’ time. But, buy a re-finished, re-upholstered original for a few hundred more and you could sell it for even more in the same period.

It could be the best aspect of the furniture we sell. It’s not seen as expensive but as an investment. Thanks to a rise in the popularity of Scandinavian simplicity coupled with a desire for minimalism and slow lifestyles consumers are changing their behaviour. As a result, there is increasing awareness of the value in purchasing high-quality pieces that are designed to be timeless. Homes are benefiting from this trend too.

There are good reasons to ditch the flat-pack furniture and begin thinking about investing in some standout, quality designer furniture instead.

Quality is the single biggest difference between ready-to-buy furniture and modern classic contemporary furniture. Manufacturers like those stocked by Olson + Baker have been spending time perfecting their craft, innovating their manufacturing processes to make sure they achieve the highest quality.  When you study the furniture we offer you will be able to clearly see the level of craftsmanship and detail that goes into creating the frames, the joints and ending with a flawless finish.

As with all things of high quality the tendency is to put the effort in and take extra care of these modern classics. These are pieces of furniture that are bound to stand the test of time.

Mid-century modern pieces achieved that title due to the fact the mid-century designs retain a modern appeal. With many of these classic pieces having a resurgence in our homes, it’s becoming clear that these pieces will retain their relevance no matter what happens to future trends.

Many of these classic design pieces will increase in value.  So one glaringly obvious reason – that has too often been overlooked – for buying contemporary designer furniture is the designs themselves.

Of course, all furniture has to be functional to do its job, those pieces that offer a striking form, as well as function, are going to add an extra piece of joy to your life. The hours that the designers and manufacturers spend planning and seeking out the materials, applying the angles and fixing the fixings to contemporary furniture are what set it apart from all the alternatives that you can find on the market.

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