If you have ever spent longer than five minutes with an elderly relative, they’ve more than likely issued you a series of whimsical phrases that most often you find either amusing, outdated, or downright confusing. ‘The early bird catches the worm’, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and so on. Despite the age of some of these charming sayings, the occasional nugget of truth can still be found within. One phrase often heard repeated is, ‘they sure don’t make them like they used to.’ You’d think that with the almost supernatural pace of technological advancement coloring our modern world that things built today are not only not at all like they used to make them, but perhaps better in every single way. Homes are more energy-efficient, cars are built with safety as paramount a feature as the body and mechanics, and communication has been streamlined from a dozen industries and services into a single device that can fit in the palm of your hand.
In this Jetson-esque kind of life, what could possibly be better from a time long ago? If you need a minute to sit and think about it, do so and you might find yourself literally sitting on the answer: furniture. Furniture production, like most other products created today, has become so computerized and hyper-fabricated with lightning efficiency to the point that the items we buy are built with only a transitory lifespan in mind. That is, they are only built to survive until the next great trend comes along. But once we’ve found that great new thing, the furniture we’ve had for but a few years gets unceremoniously donated or repurposed through the recycling process, and even by that time, the expiration of quality on these pieces is evident: chipped corners, peeling fabric and wobbly legs aplenty. So what type of furniture is impervious to the fads of our time? What furnishing invokes the phrase, ‘they sure don’t make them like they used to?’
Harkening back to times spent with your elders, you may have noticed they never seemed to follow the back-and-forth, ups-and-downs of ‘fashionable’ pieces of furniture and likely have hung onto the stuff you’ve always known them to have had. That’s most likely because the quality and history behind those pieces prevented them from finding anything appealing in a showroom. It’s a combination of those elements that define what is commonly known as ‘Heirloom Furniture.’ Heirloom furniture is revered not only because of the story they tell of being passed down from generation to generation but because their build quality was set at such a high standard from the beginning to ensure that they would, in fact, be handed down for decades, perhaps even centuries later.
So what makes a piece heirloom-quality? To separate the hordes of heirloom-imitators from works of fine craftsmanship, one must become a sleuth of sorts as modern production processes have garnered manufacturers the ability to mimic heirloom types quite well, but a few keen tips will help any who may be in search of true woodworking mastery. Typically, heirloom pieces have three things in common: attention-to-detail craftsmanship, fine wood materials, and timeless, elegant design. Shelves, drawers, and joints will be both screwed and glued together; most often in a striking, ergonomic pattern like a dovetail. The wood, if original and well-kept, will be prominently displayed, seldom stained, and never painted. It will have matched grain flowing in opposite directions to give the piece stability and the power to expand and contract as the seasons change, something that was mass-produced in a factory could never achieve.
So, is heirloom quality furniture still manufactured? The answer is yes! We invite you to take a look at Stickley as a perfect example of heirloom quality furniture that can be acquired new today.
If you’re looking to begin a modern-day ‘heirloom’ journey with a new piece for you and your future kin, Ennis Fine Furniture has numerous brands that still abide by these time-tested, hand-crafted techniques and incomparable standards. Stop by and discover some of the craftsmanship your children’s children will be marveling over for years to come.