investment pieces for the fickle

Marian ParsonsDecorating, Tips and Tricks23 Comments

Thanks so much for all of your prayers and well-wishes as I heal from having my wisdom teeth removed.  I am just now starting to feel a bit more like myself.  The surgery went well, but my two bottom teeth were impacted and, apparently, a little difficult to remove.  I was on a bunch of medication for pain, swelling and to prevent infection, so I spent several days teetering between sleeping and binge-watching shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime.  I’m still having trouble with chewing, speaking and smiling and I’m pretty sore as well, but I’m making slow improvements.

I can type, though!

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A few days ago, I received an e-mail from one my readers and I decided I would answer the question in a post.   Debbie asked, “How do you decide what to spend $$ on and pieces to invest in if there is the possibility your beloved hunting scene chair 10 years later you hate? I have a hard time letting go if I put a lot of loot into a piece hence the giant dresser hiding out in the closet that goes with nothing. Love your decorating, your rooms look wonderful.”

I love the comment about the dresser in the closet.  How many of us have shoved an unwanted dresser in a closet, so it can remain functional, but we don’t have to look at it!

So, I’m not going to claim to be the authority on investment pieces for the home, but I understand Debbie’s hesitation to spend good money on something she might dislike in a few years.  I am notoriously fickle when it comes to the choices for my home, so I thought I would share how I approach purchasing large-ticket items.  And, on the flip side, how I deal with nice pieces that are no longer my taste.

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I think, as a general rule, investment pieces should be those that anchor a room…staples that the accessories and small furnishings work around and play a supporting role to.  Those would be sofas, bed frames, rugs, nice curtains, maybe a pair of upholstered chairs, a dining set, a piece of original art, a fine antique buffet or cabinet, etc.  Those don’t have to be investment pieces, but they often are.  

So, what should you look for in an investment piece?

First of all, you have to love it.  Not just like it or think your affection will grow for it or that you can maybe make it work.  You have to over-the-moon love it.  It should make you giddy and quicken the pace of your heart. If it doesn’t do those things, put the checkbook away and wait for something that does.

It shouldn’t be a passing fancy.  If you have recently found that you’re all about shabby, romantic French decor right on the heels of your mid-century mod love affair that happened a year after everything hunter green with cabriole legs floated your boat, you might want to take a deep breath and not invest in a piece until you settle on the style you love.  Look at the things you have loved for years and years and follow that style.

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It should be classic.  That doesn’t mean it has to be traditional or classic in style, but something that has stood and can stand the test of time. Think of this piece as the white button-up shirt and blue blazer in your closet.  I like to look at dated decorating books on occasion to see what would still look nice today.  That’s a good cue for what pieces are timeless.  

It should be quality.  My in-laws have a sampler on their wall that reads, “Things of quality have no fear of time.”  That’s so true when it comes to furnishings.  Think wool rugs, solid wood furniture with dovetail joints, solid brass fixtures, sterling silver, woven linens.  You want to buy quality, not only so it lasts, but so it will hold it’s value.

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And that last point brings us to what to do when you have fallen out of love with an investment piece or maybe you just don’t have the perfect space for it.  All may not be lost.  Can you reinvent the piece?  Maybe the chairs can be slipcovered or reupholstered or the piece can be refinished or painted.  Find a new use for a piece that isn’t functional for its intended purpose, but could be very functional for another purpose.  (Like turning a vanity into a desk or a dowry chest into a coffee table.)

 If it’s just not going to work, you should never feel obligated to keep something in your home that you don’t use and/or love.  It doesn’t matter who gave it to you or how much money you spent on it or how “good” it still is.  Your home shouldn’t be a storage unit or museum.  I think there can be a few exceptions here, but if there’s something that isn’t functional and/or you don’t love it, why keep it?  Why not sell it and replace it with something you do love that will be functional?  If the thing you want to replace is something of quality, you should be able to sell it on consignment, at auction, on Craig’s List or eBay, etc. and recoup most of your investment.  You may even make a profit!

I think you’ll find there is a real freedom in letting go of things you felt obligated to keep just because of their initial cost.

I hope my thoughts were helpful to you, Debbie!

investment pieces for the fickle

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23 Comments on “investment pieces for the fickle”

  1. Such great advice! How do you feel about family pieces that no longer fit into your decorating plan?

    1. I offer mine to family members first and if no one wants it I take a picture of it and then sell it.

    2. This is exactly my question. I have a lovely Grandmother’s clock that my grandfather brought with him from Sweden to America. It was cut in half and put in chests when he traveled to America on a ship. I grew up with this clock in my childhood home, and now it is in my entry. I love it dearly, would NEVER part with it, but would also love to paint it with milk paint! It is a true antique, with so much history for me. But as it stands, it’s not my favorite ‘look’. Can you honestly get away with painting such a treasured antique? Or am I over thinking this, and it really is okay?

      1. Of course you can paint it! It’s your piece and you shouldn’t feel bad about making it your taste. You’re not detracting from the history of the piece…you’re just adding to it. 🙂

        1. thank you! that is exactly what I wanted to hear. I am so in love with schloss – I know it would look amazing!

  2. This is so me! I love to redecorate all the time so I spent BIG dollars on main furniture pieces such as our leather sectional and TV stand and chairs and then I buy and sell little accent décor pieces on Facebook and Craigslist so that I don’t have to feel guilty when I change my mind! You are so awesome and I LOVE your home!

  3. Boy, you really hit home with this post about classic pieces we love and stay in love with (sorry for ending with preposition). About 12 years ago I bought two dark brown, classically-styled leather sofas (very similar to your PB one). I didn’t buy a set of sofa, loveseat, chair combo, I went against MOST advice and bought two sofas (It actually was the same price as the set). I still love these pieces and have used them in multiple locations in our home. I cannot say the same about a lot of other furnishings I’ve bought … but mostly the other “stuff” has been thrifted, fixed up and used and then re-homed, not actually purchased at a STORE (albeit on sale). Thanks again for all the inspiration.

  4. Thank you for addressing this topic. I have a pie safe in a closet now. 😉 I can relate to “loving” a piece of furniture. We had been casually looking for a sideboard to go in our dining room. We visited a furniture store just killing time while in another town attending a sporting event for our nephew. Well, we saw a hunt board we loved! They had bought it with a whole set at market and would not split the set up. So, we found out the name of the company. I called (this was before the Internet 😉 ) and found the nearest store that sold that brand. It was 2 1/2 hours away. They were able to order the piece for me. I paid by credit card. And four months later I paid $150 for them to deliver it!! It is by far my best piece of furniture and I still love it!! Thank goodness when my taste evolved though I was able to paint it from the barn red color it originally was to a white. 🙂 Now it sits in my entry but is still close enough to use to use as a side board when we have family gatherings. 🙂 As always Marian, great advice!! Hope you continue to heal too!! 🙂

  5. I always think about a ‘sunk cost’. You’re not going to re-coop your money by holding on to something that cost x amount of dollars or so and so gave it to you, it’s just taking up valuable real estate in your home. By nature, I am not a minimalist, but when I’m going through my home, I think if I don’t love it, and I can replace it in 20 minutes for less than $20, it goes. I have also found, sometimes I prevent myself from buying something I love, like a chair, because I’m like ‘I already have a chair, I hate it, but it’s a chair’. Hang in there, and quick recovery.

  6. Such timely advice. It is so liberating to get rid of something that you have been holding on to for one reason or another but don’t really love. I also agree that really knowing your style is important, especially with the amount of space-sharing that happens online. Loving something you see and loving it enough to want bring it into your home are two different things! I have also always admired your approach to purchasing these investment pieces, through saving and shopping around. I think that is so important, too!

  7. I love the line, “you should never feel obligated to keep something in your home that you don’t use and/or love”. It is so true! My husband and I sold 90% of what we owned last year and traveled around Europe with our toddler. We’re back in the states now and slowing buying pieces we love as we create our new home. It can be frustrating to not have everything set up perfectly at the moment, but now everything has special meaning (or is extremely functional). I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  8. Glad you are feeling better.

    Great advice…very freeing. Now I have another question…maybe you and Kriste can hash this one out….what if one likes a lot of different decorating styles and furniture?

    I love Mid Century Modern but I also love how you decorate and Shaker and Farmhouse and Flea market……..I can go on and on!:)

    What does an Eclectic person do?:) Where to start. I think you will say a sofa!:)

  9. I have a dresser in a closet upstairs right now!
    What great advice. I know a lot of people who hold on to big dark pieces of furniture that have been handed down to them, so they feel obligated to keep them. I have felt the same way myself about certain things too. I love the way you put it into perspective though… It’s very freeing to let go of stuff that you don’t love and bring in things that are more a reflection of who you are.

    Cindy

  10. Such great advice! You can’t go wrong with a classic!

    Sorry, it is taking longer than you want to heal. I had 4 impacted wisdom teeth removed at once, so I can sympathize.

    I craved to eat popcorn and crunchy salads, but tapioca and oatmeal were my friends. 🙂

    Hang in there. This too will pass…

  11. I totally get this…we sold our house and nearly all the furniture to the sellers. There was just one thing that I really didn’t want to sell to them which was my old oak 1930’s kitchen table…we bought it at auction for £40.00! It had really large bulbous round legs and was one of those tables you could extend out…it needed a lot of TLC and so I stripped it down, sanded it and painted the legs and base in the same colour as the cabinets in our kitchen and waxed the top…I loved that table..so anyway the buyers asked if we would sell it and i was really loathed to sell it because by this time i was getting a little peed off with these buyers, they wanted everything in the house…even the towels in the bathrooms, bedding, curtains and cushions on the sofas. So my husband said tell them a really ridiculous price and see what they say…so i told them i would sell it to them for £400.00 and they said yes…i was so cross with myself and i was totally gutted when i left it behind,..we moved out of the house leaving things i would have like to take, but we were starting a new life down in Portugal and didn’t think for one minute that we would need furniture as we were moving into a 2 bedroom apartment…we lived there for a year and then bought 13 bedroom boutique hotel for a song, that we are restoring…now we are starting all over again looking for furniture that will suit this place (by the way the hotel is now a home and has only 8 bedrooms). Sometimes its not easy to let things go but you just never know what is around the corner. Marion I hope your mouth feels better soon and that you will soon be on the mend! xx

  12. Such timely advice! I’m prepping for estate sale so i can “rightsize” (one step ahead of the casket size— LOL)

    Going to be easier to let things go now that you have agreed with my friends who gave me the same advice yesterday.

    Diane has touched my weak spot. But I’m the one who KNOWS that if i get rid of it this year I’ll regret it next year because I’m sure to need it again.

    As my friends said, “You can always replace it with something better and even cheaper, since most people now want (a not to be mentioned ” put it together yourself” chain store).

    Don’t know if that works in Portugal, and wish I were young enough to find out!, but it’ll work in the US, too, I’m sure.

    Thanks for the wise words, Marian, and know that in a month all your misery will be but a memory– and one to forget……..
    MJ

    PS, I can only wish for a buyer who wants all the extras…LOL

  13. Great advice and tips! I especially agree with your advice on buying quality, timeless pieces. Vintage furniture made from the 30’s-50’s by quality manufacturers such as Ethan Allen, PA House and Kindel to name a few are still very much in demand and hold their value very well.

    The craftsmanship during this time period is no comparison to todays cheaper made furniture.

  14. Hope you are feeling better. Been there. Back in 1961 my sister and I shared an apartment in NYC and thought we were really cool. Everything we bought for furniture was good (Drexel) and
    we thought was wonderful. Moving on to 2015 my son ended up with a large piece of that furniture in Danish modern. Boy is it ever ugly and I can’t believe that something that I thought was so wonderful today it is ugly. He likes it and that is all that counts.

  15. Thank You MMS!! I loved your post and what it taught me is to listen to my inner voice and not be as impatient. I can look at a chest and desk in my home and think if I had waited another 6-12 months I could have bought what I REALLY wanted. I will listen to that innner voice more. Also, I have put probably 3,000 dollars ( a lot for me) over the years in folk art prints by a popular artist that no longer fit my neutral style. I have decided from this post that I will try to selll some and some I will put away for a year and see if I miss them and then keep or sell. As for the chest in the closet, maybe I will paint it in MMMS paint when I move and bring it out of hiding:)Feel better soon! The siliver lining is you can watch an entire series on Netflix while resting…

    Thank You!!
    Debbie

  16. I hope you feel better soon. I just totally agree with your post. I have just a few lil reminders of my dad around the house and it forces me to remember him, the fun dad, more than things he owned. I have sold inherited pieces that were not our style to pay the movers or to redo a room in a new home and that is what I will want my kids to do if that is what is best for their family. Be happy and make your home your own. And, I wish I had learned earlier to buy ONLY what you totally love.

  17. It’s so freeing to let go of what doesn’t work anymore. I’ve used the resources you named and it eases any guilt over money spent on pieces or holding onto pieces that worked in my parents home but won’t work in mine.

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