Top Quality Wood Furniture: A Buyers Guide

Top Quality Wood Furniture This high quality Vermont Shaker Moon Bedroom furniture set is handcrafted with premium cherry wood and finished with hand-rubbed linseed oil.

Shopping online for high quality wood furniture requires some research.  After all, fine furniture is a big investment-- one you'll want to own and enjoy for a lifetime.  Vermont furniture makers have a rich history of crafting quality hardwood furniture for over 200 years. They are considered America's fine furniture authority so we've rounded up a bit of their wisdom to share with you.

Tips and Advice On Buying High Quality Wood Furniture

  • Understanding pricing of top quality wood furniture:  A number of factors including origin, color, grade & width of the boards, type of joinery, expertise & reputation of the furniture maker and overall level of craftsmanship go into pricing fine furniture.
  • Look for real American made furniture: Why? Most so called "American made" furniture sold in the USA is imported from China, Vietnam, Indonesia and other developing countries. The quality is just not as high as you will want to see if you are searching for genuine, handcrafted real wood furniture. In an effort to cut costs, major American furniture companies such as Ethan Allen, Drexel, Lane, Thomasville, Basset, and LazyBoy move their operations around overseas as global economies change. Quality has plummeted since production left the USA. To find true quality that is backed by a lifetime guarantee seek out small local American furniture companies that craft honest furniture out of responsibly harvested, local hardwoods.  Read: 100% Made in America.

Nina took this photo of our Shaker furniture. Shaker coffee, end & sofa tables are a staple in New England living rooms.
  • Choosing a wood species: American Black Cherry is perhaps the most popular hardwood in today's market, but there are many other beautiful, sustainable and durable furniture woods including maple, walnut & oak. These premium hardwoods typically price out at about the same with the exception of walnut which carries a premium (often 25- 35%). Each hardwood varies in color, grain, hardness and durability.  Some woods (for example cherry) even change color over the life of the furniture. Ask your furniture maker what types of wood he/she works with. Most will offer several choices. More on wood selection here.

  • Choosing solid wood or veneer: Both solid wood and veneered furniture have their advantages and disadvantages. To learn more about comparing them in terms of cost, ability to be re-finished, stability, design, esthetic and durability read: Fine Furniture Characteristics: Solid Wood versus Veneer.

This high quality dining table is made with reclaimed chestnut wood.
  • Choosing a design style: Are you seeking modern wood furniture with clean, simple lines? Traditional Shaker furniture? Craftsman style furniture?  Mission style furniture? Rustic distressed furniture?  Or something in between? Furniture makers will typically specialize in one style or another. You will get the best quality and price if you purchase from a craftsman who specializes in the style you're looking for.

  • Selecting a furniture finish:  Do you have young children or rambunctious pets? If so, consider opting for a poly or lacquer finish, especially if you're buying a kitchen or dining room table. That's because these finishes are easy to clean with a damp cloth. If you're in love with the natural feel of wood though, you'll probably want to select a linseed oil finish. With oil finishes, plan on re-oiling your furniture periodically to maintain a patina. Read: Furniture Finishes and Care & Maintenance of Wood Furniture Finishes.

This Shaker hunt board is handcrafted with top quality cherry wood and finished with a durable, low maintenance lacquer.
  • Understanding joinery & construction methods. Look for robust construction and pay particular attention to joinery methods used to make drawers, corners and attach legs. High quality drawers normally feature dovetail joinery, while table aprons are usually attached to table legs with mortise and tenon joints.

  • Understanding lead time for crafting, shipping & delivery. High quality custom handcrafted furniture takes time to design and build. Lead time for crafting is typically 6-12 weeks, depending on what's currently in the craftsman's queue. If your furniture will be shipped, you may need to allot an additional 1-6 weeks for transit and delivery.

Our solid cherry Woodland table and Modern Mission dining chairs are handcrafted in northern Vermont.
  • Insist on white glove shipping and delivery. Perhaps the biggest complaint from furniture buyers is about shipping and delivery. Find out before your purchase, how your furniture will be shipped. If it's traveling any distance, insist on a professionally trained furniture delivery crew that will bring your furniture into your home, set it up in your room and thoroughly inspect it for shipping damage.

  • Get a lifetime guaranteeMost quality wood furniture makers will be happy to back their work with a lifetime guarantee. If yours is uncomfortable with this ask why. You may want to move on if there is no room for negotiation on the guarantee.