Sainted and Tainted: Furniture Stores

Sainted: Occasionally Yours – The store front sign says it best; “Our store is full of charming, unusual items that can’t be found in big retail stores.”  But that does not really capture the coolness of this store, they have artists and restoration experts who take beautifully designed, high-quality, sturdy and durable furniture that could last a lifetime, and re-purpose it in a fun and creative way so that it could be handed down to your children or passed on for generations to come.  Pictures and their story are on their website as well as their Facebook site.  It is one of those stores that you could literally spend hours in and leave knowing you likely only saw 75% of the items, not because of the size of the store but because of the overwhelming quantity of creative and unique items.  My wife and I had been looking for a bench at big box and furniture stores on and off for a few months and found one that was of incredible quality and construction for much less money than we had found elsewhere.  While the Mall of America might be a big draw for some, this store which is 10 miles south is worth the trip and there are few things more sustainable than giving new life to something old that was built with quality.

Tainted: IKEA – As most people know IKEA builds relatively easy to transport flat-pack particle-board furniture, usually very cleverly designed and often with some sort of cool product name.  The first core issue with the IKEA approach is that they embrace the discount culture of repetitive consumption; making items of the cheapest construction for the briefest interval the buying public will tolerate.  Even their marketing confirms this with commercials about how furniture does not have feelings and can and should be replaced at any time.  Despite being founded in 1943, when is the last time anyone passed something purchased from IKEA down to a next generation?  This mentality and the acceptance of that approach by our culture has led to the second core issue; IKEA is the third largest consumer of wood in the world.  They harvest the majority of it from Eastern Europe and Russian Siberia, where according to World Bank, half of the logging is illegal.  IKEA’s wholly owned Swedish subsidiary Swedwood has been condemned by multiple organizations for clear-cutting 1,400 acres a year of 200- to 600-year-old forest near the Finnish border.  The IKEA issues along with other consequences of the discount culture are outlined in the Ellen Ruppell Sheel book entitled Cheap.  IKEA has begun to create a plan for being a better steward of the environment but to date most of it appears more for marketing themselves to be a more sustainable company.

The takeaway here is quite simple.  When you are in the market for something new, see if it can be provided by something old or repurposed.  Before throwing something out think if it could have life as something else or to someone else.  It never ceases to amaze me the things other people are willing to take off of your hands.  This holiday season I plan to try and give gifts that are all used or repurposed which I hope will make the shopping season more interesting and make the gifts more personal in nature.

One thought on “Sainted and Tainted: Furniture Stores

  1. […] 2013 I blogged about (and tainted) Ikea for their lack of environmental sustainability. They recently joined a growing list of […]

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