8 Reasons Your Favorite Decor Items Cost More—and Why They're Worth It
Over the past few years, shopping trends centering around sustainability have been on the rise. As such, people everywhere—especially all over TikTok—are touting the benefits of ditching fast fashion, prioritizing consciously made clothing, investing in statement pieces, and building capsule wardrobes that will serve a purpose for years to come. The general thought process here is that when you shop more consciously, you lessen your impact on the Earth while also undeniably upgrading the quality of your closet. As much as we love that folks are focusing on their global impact via their wardrobes, we’re here to point out that the same is true of shopping intentionally for furniture.
As simple (and even tempting) as it is to head to your local Target or Home Goods to scoop up new seasonal furniture and décor items, New Moon Rugs COO and lead designer, Erika Kurtz, suggests investing in your space instead. “Buying great foundational pieces that can be reimagined multiple times in new ways and in new spaces is the same as buying that perfect little black dress and re-accessorizing it for years to come,” she says. “Great design never goes out of style.”
Of course, in order to fill your home with the very best designs, you’ll have to get behind the price tags. Something that will likely help is to know why the most beloved furniture costs the most—because, believe it or not, it’s not solely about looks. That said, we chatted with a handful of designers and tastemakers to unveil what goes into determining the price of expensive furniture—and why it’s absolutely worth the splurge.
8 Reasons the Best Furniture Costs More
1. It’s made by hand—sometimes even with handmade or proprietary tools.
Just as handmade jewelry and hand-painted hair coloring services cost significantly more, the same is true of furniture and home goods. “Creating a piece by hand requires a high level of skill and attention to detail, which can translate to a [higher price and] longer production time,” says L. Vogtle Interiors lead designer Laura Vogtle, who is the owner of Design Supply and founder of Odette Furniture.
While all handmade furniture takes a great deal of attention to create, some brands—like Alfonso Marina & Co—craft their goods with handmade hardware and tools, too. “We produce our own tools and hardware, which allows us to design freely to the highest level of detail,” explains Alfonso Marina & Co.'s Creative Director, Isabel Marina. “To achieve furniture of excellence, it is important to rescue techniques and styles of the past that have often been forgotten, due to their materials and the complexity of the manufacturing time of each piece. That’s what makes us unique.”
Of course, furniture isn’t the only home good that’s made by hand. Rugs and wallpaper are two other categories that see higher prices as a result of the utmost attention to detail during the manufacturing process.
“Handmade rugs are extremely labor intensive, often taking up to eight or nine months to weave,” says Boston-based interior designer Nina Farmer, who is debuting her first design book, Timeless by Design: Designing Rooms with Comfort, Style, and a Sense of History, this September. “Although the price is significantly more expensive, the look and quality can not be replicated using machines. Each rug invokes a sense of history through technique and represents the unique communities around the world that have been weaving for generations.”
Meanwhile, with wallpaper on the rise once more, it’s easy to find affordable rolls. However, if your goal is to completely transform your space—and to do so for a long period of time—you’ll want to invest in your wallcoverings. “Most low- to mid-range wallpapers are printed and made by a machine—while beautiful rooms have been created with them, nothing compares to the depth and texture that a hand-painted wallpaper made custom for your room adds to the experience of the space,” says designer and Errez Design co-founder Katie Gutierrez. “It’s like the difference between sucking on a peach-flavored candy vs. the juice that drips down your chin when you bite into a tree-ripened peach.”
2. It’s made by workers who are paid a fair living wage.
The sad reality is that most low- or mid-range furniture is produced in factories with poor working conditions by laborers who aren’t paid a fair living wage. While these items may cause less strain on your wallet, it’s important to also consider how their creation affects the lives of others.
“We highly prioritize furniture that is not only sustainable for the environment but also for the people who are involved in its creation,” says designer and shop owner Laura Hodges. “Valuing the people who make the goods we purchase means that they must be paid a fair wage and work in clean and safe conditions. These parameters trickle down into the cost of the goods, as well, since not looking after your employees is less expensive than paying them fairly and providing health insurance, paid time off, etc.”
While many brands don’t have the conscience to care about such factors of the manufacturing process, Hodges can’t imagine not doing so. “As a designer, I feel that it’s my responsibility to make sure the pieces we are designing and specifying for a project are responsibly made,” she says.
3. It’s made with high-quality materials.
There’s a reason why these mass-produced furniture so often falls apart after just a couple years of use—the materials they’re made with are subpar in the grand scheme of things (think: particle board instead of real wood).
“High-quality items use high-quality materials—and the higher end the material is, often, the healthier the material is,” Gutierrez explains. “For example, synthetic materials (less expensive) can ‘leak’ fumes into the air or have chemicals that can irritate your skin. Something like real silk, which is more expensive, is healthier, doesn’t have fumes, isn’t made from chemicals, and is more sustainable. That’s definitely worth investing in.”
Take Fortuny, for example. For over a century, the brand has printed the most stunning, most coveted small-batch fabric designs—and it comes with a price that many designers are more than willing to pay for. The reason? The quality is unmatched.
“Fortuny printed fabrics are all made in the very same factory founded by Mariano Fortuny in 1922 on the island of Giudecca, Venice,” a Fortuny representative shares. “Mariano designed the factory as one big machine and the process for turning simple cotton fabric of the highest quality into the magical iridescent material Fortuny is famous for is a trade secret.”
4. It’s an original design.
Mass-produced furniture and décor may be more affordable but, in addition to being made with lower-quality materials and potentially poorer working conditions, it’s also more generic looking. The reason? According to Gutierrez, mass-produced (ie: more affordable) home goods are meant to appeal to the masses. “When purchasing pricier pieces, you’re often working with smaller brands or custom [or original] pieces which allow for more self-expression, uniqueness, and fascination,” she says.
When it comes to original designs—such as those crafted by Charles Edwards and Janus et Cie—Vogtle points out just how much time and effort goes into the creation process, both of which play into the final price of the pieces. “Custom or original furniture and home décor pieces that are designed by highly skilled artists, craftspeople, or designers will often come at a higher cost due to a greater investment in time, materials, and skill,” she explains. “These designs can involve extensive research, sketches and prototypes, and a refining process to meet exact specifications. The designer may also need to work with specialized craftsmen or manufacturers to produce the piece, which can add to the overall cost.”
5. It can be customized.
Customization is different from original designs. Where original designs are generally based on the stylistic preferences of the brand or designer, customized pieces are typically influenced by the buyer’s preferences. According to Masucco Warner co-founder and principal designer, Julie Kleiner, opting for brands that offer full-scale customization—such as Oomph—might be an instant price upgrade but it’s also a surefire way to ensure your home is filled with the absolute highest quality furniture and décor.
6. It's made in the U.S.
According to Kleiner, furniture and décor that's made in the U.S.—such as Hickory Chair and Hellman-Chang—also tend to be more expensive due to proximity to production. “There is a level of quality control and ease that comes with having pieces made right here in the U.S., and (in some instances) talking to the owner about any issues that might arise is very comforting,” she explains, pointing out that that’s not the case when shopping from large-scale, imported furniture companies.
Another reason why domestically made items tend to be more expensive is that, as Laura Kirar Studio founder Laura Kirar points out, U.S. brands prioritize living wages. "The cost of living is high [in the U.S.] and in this era, the remaining skilled craftspeople are often in demand and at a higher salary level," she explains.
7. It’s from a heritage brand.
Heritage furniture brands—such as Alfonso Marina and Knoll International—are rooted in history; they’re brands that have stood the test of time. “Heritage brands typically have a history of innovation and expertise, and may have contributed to the development of the industry or a specific product category,” Vogtle says. “These brands are known for their signature designs or unique production techniques, setting them apart from competitors.” While some heritage pieces may be more expensive than others, Vogtle says that “you’re paying for the assurance of superior craftsmanship, extreme attention to detail, and usually the highest quality of materials that will stand the test of time.”
In order for a brand to be considered heritage, Gutierrez says that reputation is everything. “High-end home décor often has to do with the legacy of the brand and the generations of manufacturing skills cultivated over, sometimes, hundreds of years,” she explains. “When you’re buying into a high-end piece, you’re often buying into a quality level or craftsmanship that can’t be replicated.”
8. It’s vintage or an antique.
Since heritage brands have been around for a long time, earlier vintage pieces from the brands are worth even more. That said, a vintage or antique item doesn’t necessarily have to be designed by a prominent brand in order to have a high value. One of the biggest factors in the price—and popularity—of vintage and antique furniture is the quality of materials used. Once upon a time, solid wood and chemically untreated fabrics were the pinnacles of luxury furniture. Nowadays, that’s not always the case.
“We often purchase vintage and antique pieces because the materials used just aren’t as common in today's market due to their higher cost,” Hodges shares. “I actually think that the cost is a lot higher now because the cost of inferior materials is so low. Those inferior materials can be fabricated into very similar looking pieces at a fraction of the cost but, of course, they won’t last as long or likely be as comfortable.”
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